Canadian Musician - November/December 2017 - Page 41

DOT BLOCKCHAIN MEDIA’S BENJI ROGERS Though their approaches – disruption versus partnership – are at odds, Rogers and the folks at Musiconomi seem to share a genuine desire to make the industry fairer. And the one point they do agree on is that the inherent transparency and efficiency of blockchain will weed out the music industry’s least valuable actors. “Those who currently profit from a lack of transparency, slowing down, or the diminishment of payments to artists, will find that that becomes more diffi- cult,” says Rogers. “But if they add value, they will make 10 times more money from the efficiencies in the system than they will from the lags in lega- cy. One of the predictions that I made is that we can basically get to a $100 billion business in about a year if we focused and deployed this at speed.” That is one hell of a bold prediction considering the music rights industry is currently valued at $25 billion, according to the di- rector of economics at Spotify. SOCAN’S JEFF KING “He’s got it figured out I think,” says Jeff King, SOCAN’s chief operation officer, about Rogers and the dotBC proposal. “We’re involved in a couple initiatives, but Benji’s Dot Blockchain ini- tiative is the one that we put the most funds and anonymous data into. We’re working with the Open Music Ini- tiative (OMI), which is run by the Berklee School of Music [and George Howard is a part of] and we’ve been doing some work with IBM Watson on the blockchain that they’re trying to develop. But the one we really put most of our heart and soul into, and some engineering time on, has been [dotBC].” Rogers credits SOCAN as being one of the most forward-looking organizations in the music industry. The Canadian society has made great strides over the last few years to modernize all facets of its business, from digital distribution and licencing by acquiring MediaNet and Audiam, to live performance reporting in its recent part- nerships with Muzooka and Pioneer DJ. “I think some [music blockchain start-ups respect,” he makes it clear they disagree on the approach to moving blockchain forward in the industry. “For the most part, ‘partnering’ with incum- bents in the music space has not worked out well,” Howard replied in an email. He says that labels have “consistently attempted to destroy/ sandbag [new technologies], whether overtly or via ‘partnerships’ designed to imply they ‘tried’ the new tech, then sandbag it so they can say, ‘We tried…it failed,’ in order to send a signal to the market/venture funds that the new tech is untenable. This has occurred from piano rolls all the way through streaming, so why in the world would they treat blockchain, which is an existen- tial threat, differently? You don’t cut the branch of the tree off upon which you sit.” “Those who currently profit from a lack of transparency, slowing down, or the diminishment of payments to artists, will find that that becomes more difficult [with blockchain]. But if they add value, they will make 10 times more money from the efficiencies in the system than they will from the lags in legacy.” -Dot Blockchain Media’s Benji Rogers and developers] were looking to really pull out the intermediaries – the labels, publishers, the collecting societies like SOCAN... But the more you dig, the more you realize that the ability for blockchain to do that isn’t there. It’s more of an opportunity to make the pipes run better, but it is not necessarily a replacement for the pipes. That’s why we’re keenly interested in it. We see it as a way to improve the network,” says King. “But the idea of cutting out all the intermediar- ies? I don’t think that’s going to happen.” The biggest reason blockchain, and the dotBC proposal specifically, appeals to SOCAN is its po- tential to ensure all music users have the correct information about a song. “It helps with the data cleansing and really the push/pull of updating data across a broad number of databases quickly. That’s the thing that appealed to us, and when we started talking to Benji and his engineers, that’s what they were focusing on,” says King. A fter speaking with Rogers and King, Cana- dian Musician went back to Howard to see how he felt about dotBC’s more conciliatory approach with the established music industry. Though he calls Rogers “a dear friend who I love and We’re in the very early days of blockchain in the music industry. The technology still has a long way to go, and it’ll likely take even longer to get the public – including musicians, fans, and those working in the industry – to comprehend its pos- sibilities and why it’s worth adopting. And frankly, you may be left thinking, “What the hell did I just read?” Fair enough. In 1995, it wasn’t easy to explain or predict the evolution of the internet, either. But it’s the wide swath of possibilities that make blockchain both fascinating and important. In 10, 15, 20 years’ time, when maybe blockchain is widely adopted and understood across all in- dustries, what will the music industry look like? Will the great disruption have occurred, or will it be bigger and richer than ever before? Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Musician. C A N A D I A N M U S I C I A N • 41