Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash
Blockchain and artists may sound like strange bedfellows at first. One is associated with Silicon Valley bottom lines and strings of utilitarian, mathematically complex code, while the other resides in the popular imagination as the “impoverished artist,” creating ambiguous and compelling work that can’t be expressed mathematically and has little to do with the technological innovations helping computer programmers and investors make their money.
But technology and art have always been closely intertwined, and blockchain is no exception.
From Mary Shelley’s meditation on the power and threat of advancing biological science in Frankenstein to Jay-Z’s lossless audio music distribution service Tidal, artists have turned to technology for both inspiration and a platform to share their work, and the tech world has turned to artists and the culture at large to understand how technology can ethically evolve to meet human needs.
CryptoHQ, a groundbreaking event hosted in Davos concurrently with the World Economic Forum earlier this year, acknowledged the essential connection between technological advancements and artists by including Swarovski artist San B, UB40 band member Brian Travers, and co-founding bass guitarist of Dire Straits John Illsely in their roster of blockchain leaders.
— Crypto HQ (@cryptohqglobal) January 25, 2018
Of course, technological change can also be a slow adoption process for artists. The internet gave rise to innumerable new forms of artistic expression and exchange, for example, but it also forced creators to reckon with piracy on a scale previously unheard of. Will blockchain hurt artists or help them? Dispatch Labs argues that blockchain will empower artists. Here’s how:
Sophisticated Distribution Platforms
The blockchain world is currently tackling a scalability crisis, as developers struggle to find protocols to handle the increasing popularity of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other blockchain platforms.
Anyone interested in creating a music distribution platform that uses blockchain to manage transactions should be invested in this scalability challenge, too.
A blockchain-based music platform similar to Spotify wouldn’t be feasible on the same network that took several hours to handle one Bitcoin transaction in late 2017.
Off-chain Artistry Data
Dispatch Labs has a solution to blockchain’s scalability issues, and that solution is particularly good for musicians (a “Peer-to-peer content marketplace” for musicians and artists is the first listed use case in their whitepaper).
Dispatch uses secure blockchain transactions to manage off-chain artifacts such as datasets or music files.
Smart contracts confer access rights and ownership as transactions proceed on secure blockchain ledgers, but these transactions can be handled far quicker than traditional Bitcoin and older generation blockchain transactions because the actual artifact being rented, exchanged, or sold is stored off-chain.
Power to Musicians
Musicians have expressed frustration for some time now with massively successful music distribution services who do little to support artists themselves.
Spotify recently went public with an IPO and saw their valuation soar to over $25 billion.
Unsurprisingly, Spotify employees earn an average salary of $170,000 a year.
Despite this financial success, artists who work with Spotify receive only about $.00397 every time one of their tracks are streamed. Listening to a beloved track two hundred times in one year still nets the artist responsible less than a dollar through Spotify.
Imogen Heap, musician and blockchain advocate, believes that musicians need to take control of their destiny:
“We could have a Napster times a thousand if we get it wrong with blockchain. If we don’t come up with solutions, somebody else will, and they won’t be on our terms.”
The DAN (Dispatch Artifact Network) could be employed by musicians to take back control of their distribution.
Spotify, Apple Music, and other streaming services are analogous to banks and other third-party institutions who have traditionally controlled financial transactions, creating fees and inefficiency.
Just as Bitcoin sidestepped traditional financial gatekeepers, Dispatch can be used by musicians to sidestep central music distributors. A blockchain-based distribution network could allow musicians to securely transfer rights to own or stream a music file without middlemen cutting into their revenues.
More Sophisticated Streaming Technology
It’s telling that vinyl stores have experienced a renaissance in music-lover circles even as musicians have entered the digital age. Many listeners prefer vinyl because streamed music is often compressed and low-quality, irritating audiophiles.
The streaming video industry experiences similar challenges – many viewers will switch off a service that becomes too blurry, lags, or otherwise can’t provide reliable video quality.
Dispatch Labs is entering a unique partnership with Utopi, a charity-driven streaming video platform, to provide a blockchain-based platform for transmitting high-quality streaming video.
Utopi is using a Go-To-Live Protocol dApp built on top of Dispatch’s blockchain ecosystem.
As the need for streaming capacity increases, the Dispatch Virtual Machine allows scalable opening of P2P streaming nodes in order to increase streaming capacity to meet demand.
Blockchain has the potential to replace cable television and streaming networks like Netflix with a higher-quality viewer experience, and Dispatch’s partnership with Utopi shows the shape a new blockchain streaming video ecosystem could take.
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