The Race for Digital Music Standardization and Adoption
The music industry is at a technological crossroad. One of the biggest challenges for the music industry is accurate tracking of songs that are streamed or downloaded; streamlining the distribution of the music; and improving how musicians, writers, and owners are compensated.
One of the potential solutions can come from blockchain technology. Basically, blockchain is a distributed “ledger” that validates and can register transactions without the need for a centralized organization.
Blockchain could bring about a revolution in the music industry. The technology creates a decentralized, trusted ledger which its advocates in the music industry say could create transparency and immediate royalty payments directly from fans to music creators. Currently, there is a massive network of Performance Rights Organizations (PROs), which are responsible for collecting data about when songs are played on the radio, television, in live performances, and in other mediums, and subsequently paying the music owners for their work. There is tremendous potential to use the technology behind virtual currency Bitcoin to solve the massive complexities and delays in the collection of this data, to pay artists fairly for their work and to cut through the glitches that continue to exist in music licensing rights.
DotBC initiative, created by Benji Rogers, aims to use blockchain technology to create the ultimate open source environment for facets of the digital music age. By replacing the formats currently used for digital distribution (.mpeg, .wav) by a new one called .bc or “dot Blockchain,” a non-replicable wrapper (.bc compliant systems). This would enable a digital ledger to track ownership of the author and usage rights of the fans and outlets. It would encompass sound recordings, publishing, performance rights and manage all of this within a distributed environment. This format would contain Minimal Viable Data using the W3C Web standard JSON-LD. At the end of the day, it all comes down to transparency and getting paid. However, the success of this initiative also hinges on partnerships and Rogers has a good head start at creating a strong partnership landscape.
DDEX (Digital Data Exchange) claims it is about standardizing the digital supply chain. This is a relatively lofty goal. The broad implementation of “standards” can be incredibly difficult. Many other industries have had a hard time ensuring compliance with the implementation of standards. One thing to note however, DDEX has some very strong hitters working with it to ensure adoption. Some of these companies include Apple, Amazon, Spotify, Google and some other very large brands. Establishing a common metadata standard is all about the network and partnerships. Technology can always be designed to simplify processes and challenges, but it categorically hinges upon adoption. Currently, YouTube Amazon, Apple, Pandora, Spotify and others use a version of the DDEX Release Notification Standard for the delivery of data, so the future looks bright. It remains to be seen if any music tech startups will implement it as part of their solutions or aim to create their own.
Yes, there is yet another player entering the fray. The Open Music Initiative (OMI) is another open-source platform that tracks music creator and rights owners. It appears as if they are coming at this issue from more of a creative angle, but it will likely end up focused on the money, it always does. They have some very powerful partners in place. These partners include Sony and Warner music along with streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora. They too are currently trying to implement a standard.
Ultimately it is a bit of a race to see who will win the standardization and adoption game. Right now it appears to be highly fragmented with a number of large players betting on all the players. Will there be a few initiatives that rise to the top or will there just be one winner? It is hard to say. The only constant right now is change, and we can expect to see a few more entrants into this space within the coming year or so.