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How to Build a Blockchain for the Music Industry?

The global music industry is huge. In the USA alone, live music industry revenue is expected to grow from US $ 9.28 billion in 2015 to US $ 11.99 billion in 2021, as this Statista report states.

That’s certainly a healthy growth rate, by any industry standard. On the basis of these figures, one may wonder whether the industry needs any fresh technology infusion at all. After all, we don’t “fix what ain’t broke”, do we? However, these figures don’t represent the whole picture.

The global music industry needs increased democratization so that up and coming artists can take more control over their careers. They industry could also boost the amount of artists by allowing more equitable distribution of revenue. The current business/technology landscape within the music industry doesn’t allow for this to happen.

Blockchain technology can help to play a part in significantly transforming the music industry. This technology will help the industry to be more responsive to fast changing business environments. Ironically, the biggest threat to the industry in recent times has come from the peer to peer torrent file share system that has a lot in common with blockchain.

The industry has learned a hard lesson that in order to survive, it must be ready to adapt quickly.

In this article, I will explain how to build a blockchain for the music industry. I will begin by explaining why blockchain is so important and what its potential uses are.

Contents

The problems in the music industry
Let’s talk opportunities now!
Can the music industry transform itself using the blockchain technology?
Existing music blockchain platforms
Features desired in a blockchain platform for the music industry
How to build a blockchain platform for the music industry

The problems in the music industry

There are times when a healthy growth rate can mask underlying structural problems within an industry. This is true for the music industry.

Here is one example: The top 1% of artists earn 77% of the total income generated by music artists. This means that an artist outside this top bracket won’t earn anything in the way of a significant income. In fact, with a few exceptions, most of the top 1% of artists get only a minuscule amount of the revenue as the record labels keep most of it!

Most top artists earn around 18% of the total revenue generated by their music. The remainder only earn a maximum of 6%, something that seems grossly unfair! Read more about this and other statistics in “10 jaw-dropping music industry stats”.

When you review the numbers of most of the global music industries, these figures aren’t any better. The entire industry managed to gross $43 billion in 2017, representing a healthy growth rate over previous years. However, artists only earned a meager 12% of that revenue! Even worse, artists often don’t know how their royalty payments are calculated since this industry isn’t transparent.

The simple fact is that the industry has too many middlemen – record labels, radio companies, and streaming services gobble up a significant part of the total revenue.

Artists that sell only 1 album per year make up 15% of all the artists who work in the industry. A staggering 82% of artists are not even signed up with any record labels, moreover, 33% of artists don’t sell any albums at all!

Read “The music industry is booming, but artists are losing big with just 12% of the revenue, report claims” for more detailed statistics. It’s clear that the industry is ripe for change. It needs to increase the pool of talent and start giving them fairer pay.

Let’s talk opportunities!

A defining characteristic of the free-market economy is that opportunities can be found in problems! So how does this apply to the music industry?

The present system requires artists to depend on middlemen like record labels, radio companies, and streaming services. Their success depends on how these middlemen market the artists’ work.

But what if artists could directly interact with listeners? The result would be that consumers would now get direct access to a new crop of talent and allow artists to discover whole new markets!

Direct interaction between artists and consumers would also eliminate middlemen from the revenue stream. This would improve the income of the artists, and reduce the cost for listeners to access music. A technology that puts a premium on transparency while also facilitating the ability of artists to have more control over the money they make would revolutionize the industry. Read more about this in “Blockchain could help musicians make money again“.

Can the music industry transform itself using blockchain technology?

Blockchain technology is now firmly out of the shadows thanks to the cryptocurrency boom of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and the 1,000+ other digital currencies. More and more industries, governments, and non-governmental organizations are exploring how to use blockchain solutions to enhance efficiency as well as increasing transparency.

Blockchain solutions work on a decentralized network with no one central server. This ensures every participant has equal authority on the network. Furthermore, hackers can’t alter data records by taking over the central server.

Modern cryptography protects the data, for e.g., digital signatures are protected by modern data encryption techniques. This means that hackers cant even gain access to data either.

Hackers find it practically impossible to tamper the blockchain network because of the consensus algorithm. For e.g., the ‘Proof of Work’ (POW) consensus algorithm would require a hacker to possess enormous computing power to overpower the decentralized network, something which, without a yet invented quantum computer, isn’t possible. Read “Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake comparison” to learn more.

Decentralization eliminates the need for middlemen, therefore, a blockchain music distribution platform would be able to connect artists directly with listeners. Since modern cryptography and consensus algorithms protect data, this assures that even the most basic blockchain solution will be protected against fraud.

Blockchain networks like Ethereum have introduced smart contracts, i.e., autonomous, tamper-proof solutions (once written to the network) that transfer assets automatically upon fulfillment of a set of predetermined conditions. This would allow for the automation of payments for artists and other processes. Read more about these possibilities in “What could blockchain do for music?“.

Existing music blockchain platforms

It’s time we review a few platforms that use blockchain in the music industry. This will provide those of you who are considering building a music industry blockchain solution with useful ideas.

Z-POP DREAM

Z-POP DREAM is an up and coming blockchain platform for musicians. This platform focuses on the popular Korean genre K-POP. Big names such as PSY and Girls’ Generation have already made this genre very popular all over the world. Z-POP DREAM uses its’ ZPOP crypto token.

The platform intends to create new K-POP stars by bringing artists together on one platform and leveraging the voting power of fans. Star creation, online monetization, online merchandise, online content distribution, managing tickets for concerts, etc. are key features with this platform.

VOISE

VOISE is another blockchain platform for the music industry. It is built on the Ethereum blockchain network. Artists can monetize their work on this P2P network, including setting their own prices. They can provide free samples of their tracks and seek feedback from music enthusiasts.

Artists can upload their content meaning that users on the P2P network can view/listen to the music. The platform enables artists to receive nearly all the revenue that they generate, using the VOISE crypto token.

Choon

Choon is a blockchain-powered music platform that’s currently in its beta stage. It’s a music streaming service that is combined with a digital payments ecosystem. Artists can earn NOTES crypto tokens for their work. They can upload their work to the Choon network, which allows them to access the platform’s listeners.

Features desired in a blockchain platform for the music industry

When you create a blockchain for the music industry, you need to offer the following key features in the app:

  • Artists should be able to upload their content in a secure manner.
  • Listeners/viewers should be able to view contents on the platform before they select a song.
  • The platform should offer cryptocurrency-based payments to artists.
  • Music fans should have full access to their favorite artists.
  • Upon the download of a song, smart contracts should automatically process payments.
  • The platform should use blockchain to keep transactions and accounting transparent.
  • The platform should let the artists keep most of the revenue they generate.
  • Listeners/viewers shouldn’t have to contend with ads. The platform should consider other monetization option. For e.g., artists can set up an agreement with their fans to share revenue if fans share music, helping it to reach a wider audience.
  • A simple user interface (UI) is important.

Read “Blockchain music platforms: a new paradigm” for more details on the desired features.

How to build a blockchain platform for the music industry

I will outline the Ethereum ‘Distributed App’ (DApp) approach to developing a blockchain platform for the music industry. A DApp is like a web app, except that it runs on a decentralized blockchain network. While the front-end of the app can be coded in any popular language, the backend must incorporate smart contracts. This requires a special skill set.

A DApp should also be open-source and store data in a decentralized blockchain that adheres to the required cryptographic standards. DApps must use a crypto token, however, no one entity should control the majority of tokens. All enhancements to a DApp must be based on the consensus of the user community.

Read more about DApps in “What Are Dapps? The New Decentralized Future“.

The development approach consists of the following steps:

  1. Build a capable team.
  2. Design and build a UI.
  3. Use a blockchain network like Ethereum.
  4. Code smart contracts and crypto tokens.
  5. Test and deploy smart contracts and the DApp.

A team to develop a blockchain music distribution platform

Firstly, you need to build a team consisting of business analysts, UX/UI designers, web developers, Ethereum blockchain developers, and testers. You also need a PM with knowledge of project management best practices. Our guide “Project management: 10 best practices” can help if you have no background in this.

While UX/UI designers, web developers, and testers are reletively ease to find, blockchain developers are skill is a niche skill set. Finding quality blockchain developers can be tough. Allow yourself plenty of time to do this. Also, you might find yourself even needing to train them on specific elements of blockchain development yourself. Smart contracts in particularity are very challenging.

Start with the Ethereum development tutorial. This fun, interactive DApp development training called “CryptoZombies” by the Loom Network.

Ethereum DApps will require smart contracts. Smart contracts on the Ethereum network are coded in the Ethereum proprietary language, Solidity. Your team needs this skill set. This Blockgeeks Solidity course is useful if you are looking for a place to start.

Business requirements analysis, UI design, and front-end development will be the same as when developing any other web app. Assuming you have the experience to develop these, I will now describe how you can set up the Ethereum development environment and connect your app to the Ethereum blockchain.

Create an Ethereum account:

To implement your DApp on the Ethereum blockchain and run it, you need Ethers (ETH). For this, you need an Ethereum account and a wallet address. There are two types of Ethereum accounts, i.e., ‘Externally Owned Accounts’ (EOAs) and ‘Contract Accounts’. You need an EOA.

You can easily do this using the ‘eth-lightwallet’. It’s an easy-to-use wallet. It requires you to create your private and public keys. Secure your private key. Check the eth-lightwallet documentation for instructions. You will need to buy Ether to deploy your smart contracts as the Ethereum network requires gas payments (processing charges) to be paid in Ethereum.

Install the required DApp development tools:

This project requires you to install a few important tools, as follows:

“testrpc”

“testrpc” is an easy-to-use Ethereum blockchain client, with a ‘Command Line Interface’ (CLI). Install, set a block-mining interval, and take the other configuration actions, by following their GitHub instructions.

“web3.js”

You will use “web3.js” to communicate with the Ethereum blockchain. Install it and configure the ‘aconfig.js’ file. They offer web APIs, configure these too, for ease-of-use. Check out their installation and configuration instructions here.

“Truffle”

This is a well-known tool for testing and deploying Ethereum smart contracts. The tool has different folders for your different projects, furthermore, it makes testing and deployment easy. Find their installation and configuration instructions here.

After installing these tools, open “testrpc”, and update your “config.js” file with your eth-lightwallet private and public key. This guide “Getting started as an Ethereum web developer” has the necessary instructions.

Create a crypto token for your blockchain music platform

You need a crypto token for the artists and consumers to transact. A crypto token is also a mandatory requirement of a DApp. Read “How to issue your own token on Ethereum in less than 20 minutes” to find how you can create an ERC 20 token.

You will want to be on the right side of the regulations when you market your project. In the US, the ‘Securities and Exchange Commission’ (SEC) requires that blockchain start-ups selling tokens as investment instruments register them as securities. Please consult our guide “Utility tokens vs. security tokens comparison guide“. Keep in mind that other countries may have their own regulations.

Code, test, and deploy smart contracts

You now need to code smart contracts for your blockchain music platform. Smart contracts are open-source pieces of code with “If-Then-Else” statements. They execute automatically based on triggers, and can be programmed to transfer crypto assets based on fulfillment of predetermined conditions.

Smart contracts are stored in the blockchain database, therefore, one added, they can’t be tampered with. Their execution results are also stored on the blockchain. Their execution is irreversible. Read more about smart contracts in “What is a smart contract?“.

To get ideas from other music platforms, you can review their smart contracts, as follows:

You can’t modify smart contracts after you deploy them, moreover, you can’t override their execution results. This makes it very important to test them thoroughly. You can test them in the Ropsten testnet, i.e., test network, using MetaMask and Remix ‘Integrated Development Environment’ (IDE).

You now need to use the Ether you have purchased to pay for the ‘gas price’ for deploying your smart contracts. To deploy your smart contracts onto the Ethereum mainnet, i.e., the main network, you need to use testrpc, web3.js, and Truffle. Read “How to deploy smart contract on Ethereum” to know how you can test and deploy your smart contract.

Building a scalable DApp:

You will need your DApp to scale as you transaction volume increases. While it’s known that public blockchain networks like Ethereum have scalability issues, a few remedies are available. One such remedy is to use side chains for DApps.

Loom Network offers ‘Software Development Kits’ (SDKs) to build DApps on ‘DAppChains’, i.e., side chains for individual DApps. Read more about scaling your DApp in “How to scale an Ethereum DApp“.

In conclusion, while it is not as straightforward as building a web or app solution, you can build a blockchain music platform to help transform the industry.

It’s a complex development project that you will need to manage from end to end unless you outsource the project. If you do feel that it is too complicated for your existing team, and that y therefore need to engage a development partner, consult our guide “How to find the best software development company?” for due diligence.