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Music on the Blockchain – MusicTank

Music on the Blockchain

07 Jul 2016

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Naughton (2016) suggests that blockchain technology could be ‘the most important IT invention of our age’; Mougayar (2016) that it is ‘at the same level as the World Wide Web in terms of importance’ (pxix).

Both in the media and at industry events, there has been an explosion of interest in recent months in the potential impact of blockchain technology on the music industries, in particular those associated with recorded music.  Yet while the debate between ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps has at times seemed black and white, it is important to remember that the blockchain is a technology rather than a particular product, and its applications are already diverse. What is called for is a critical, analytical overview.

In this report, the Blockchain for Creative Industries cluster at Middlesex University highlight four areas in which blockchain technology does appear to have transformative potential for recorded music:

  1. As a networked database for music copyright information
  2. Facilitating fast, frictionless royalty payments
  3. Offering transparency through the value chain
  4. Providing access to alternative sources of capital

It also questions other claims for blockchain technology:

  • That it would give artists increased control over pricing and terms of use
  • That it would necessarily be used to create a ‘fair trade’ music ecosystem
  • That it is likely to bring about the demise of record labels and performance rights organisations

Finally, this research sets out the significant barriers to adoption:

  • Issues with cryptocurrencies
  • Impact of governance and regulation on the integrity of the data
  • Difficulty of reaching critical mass

It concludes by setting out our agenda for future research.


University of Middlesex, Publ. July 2016