Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 40

Plus, most importantly, rent is paid in dollars and cents, not bitcoin or MCI. MUSICONOMI’S DAN PHIFER But what if a blockchain-based music industry didn’t have to use crypto-currencies? And remember Howard’s comment that the major labels and pub- lishers that “have the necessary rights who might be able to create that scaled marketplace are the ones who are least likely to enter into it?” What if labels, publishers, and PROs did buy into a blockchain-based solu- tion? That, too, is taking shape, but the people behind this ap- proach don’t want to disrupt the industry by casting aside these intermediaries; they want to empower them. The Dot Blockchain Media (dotBC) initiative is headed by CEO Benji Rogers, the entrepre- neur, technologist, and musician who founded PledgeMusic. With dotBC, Rogers’ team is devel- oping a new blockchain-based file format, .BC, which would replace WAV files as the indus- try’s digital standard. These .BC files would exist on a blockchain, could be uploaded to streaming services like Spotify, and work as both audio files and smart contracts with embedded infor- mation on rights holders and more. If adopted as the new standard, Rogers says dotBC MUSICONOMI’S BRIAN BYRNE 40 • C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N could solve major issues, such as broken metadata, which dam up the revenue stream, thus making royalty collection more transparent and efficient. As well, the dotBC proposal doesn’t want to convert the industry to some crypto-currency, but instead wants to use blockchain to improve the flow of dollars and cents. But maybe the most import- ant part of dotBC is the bridge it has built with the industry. dot- BC has enlisted as funding and development partners the Cana- dian collecting society SOCAN, as well as the SOCAN-owned business-to-business music technology provider MediaNet. Additionally, dotBC has part- nered with digital rights man- agement platform Songtrust, and digital distributors CD Baby and FUGA. Rogers is also having conversations with a number of labels, including the majors. He says these rights holders could see their revenues grow exponentially by converting to a more efficient blockchain-based system that doesn’t use crypto- currency. “The way I view it is, there’s a PRO that we’re in conver- sations with and they have to track over four billion lines of information and figure out which fraction of a penny goes to their artist or someone else’s artist. So can you imagine hav- ing a crypto economy in which you had to pay a mining fee to figure out four billion things a year?” offers Rogers. (A “mining fee” is charged to users for bit- coin transactions.) “Each one of those things could have 17 or 20 branches, right? So, what I think a lot of the blockchain enthusi- asts on the crypto-currency side view as the future of money, that’s all true – it could all hap- pen – but not if you can’t get the system operational in the first place because it’s too expensive to run.” The theory goes, if every- one – PROs, publishers, labels, songwriters, streaming services, music supervisors, etc. – is working from the same block- chain, the smart contracts (i.e. .BCs) would greatly improve rights attribution. Transactions, whether it’s streaming royalties or sync licences, become more reliable because everyone is working from the same updated information. The industry would no longer be relying on separate closed databases of songs and rights with conflicting and/or incorrect information. And because smart contracts allow the more accurate data to be paired with other in- formation, such as terms of use, the potential is there for things like sync licencing to become much more efficient. So Rogers envisions a searchable blockchain-based database of .BC files (i.e. songs). Every file would contain all the rights infor- mation associated with the song. Now imagine a music supervisor wants to licence “Song A” for use in a TV show. Currently, they seek out the publisher and the label and get permission from each separately. Working on the dotBC blockchain, they could instead “ping” the file with a message that says, “I want to licence ‘Song A’ for use in ‘TV Show B.’” Instantly, the necessary rights holders could grant, deny, or amend that request in the same .BC file on the blockchain. It streamlines the licencing process because permissions are han- dled in the same bundle. Remember, Rogers adds, most people who want to use music for whatever purpose don’t understand the complicated web of rights that exists. “They just say, ‘I want to give money to this,’ and the music industry makes that really hard today because there is no public place to go look for it. Now imagine if, or when, we’ve got 63 million .BCs when SOCAN, MediaNet, Songtrust, FUGA, CD Baby, and all of our other partners come together and all those songs are in .BCs. Now imagine when you’re that person wanting to licence that song, there is a little button that opens up and says, ‘In order to licence, push this button,’ and you send a message within the song – using the dotBC free software – that says, ‘Hey, I would like to do a deal with you.’ The admin to that song – whether they be the publisher admins or the recording side – can message back and can come to an agreement.” That is phase one for the dotBC project. Phase two, Rogers says, “is you can build into that song a whole bunch of pre-agreed licences. So this way, a game developer in Taipei, if she decides she wants to use your song in a game, she doesn’t have to call eight people to ask for permission. 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