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Audius raises $5m from investors including Katy Perry and Nas

Decentralised music streaming service Audius has announced a $5m funding round that includes investment from some big names in the music world.

Katy Perry, Nas, The Chainsmokers, Jason Derulo and Pusha T are among the artists backing the blockchain startup, along with Sound Ventures (the firm co-founded by veteran manager Guy Oseary), Electric Feel Ventures and former Sony/ATV boss Martin Bandier.

The funding comes as Audius reached its latest milestone: six million monthly active users listening to its service.

The company emerged in 2018 with $5.5m of funding, and was quickly dubbed ‘SoundCloud on the blockchain’ for its focus on independent artists uploading their music to its decentralised platform.

It has since raised further funding rounds – $3.1m in August 2020 and $1.25m in October that year – and built its community of listeners and artists, while also exploring NFTs and co-launching a fund for artists with two other blockchain firms. Most recently, Audius added a feature enabling artists to share their music from its platform directly to TikTok.

What’s interesting about today’s news is that Katy Perry, The Chainsmokers, Nas and Jason Derulo aren’t DIY artists: they’re firmly rooted in the traditional system of label and publishing deals. If they want to put their music in Audius, there will be some licensing hoops to jump through.

Well, not always. The Chainsmokers are planning to dodge that headache. “We plan to upload the stuff we play live, which we wouldn’t typically share on traditional music platforms,” they said in a statement.

“It’s a purer alternative to the more polished album rollouts that we will continue to deliver. As an artist it’s empowering to share different creative choices and to test stuff out in a lower-stakes environment.”

Audius, meanwhile, clearly wants to build bridges with the traditional music industry.

“While the network has catered favourably to independent artists in the past, this news reflects Audius’ first step toward integrating with the existing industry in a cooperative and exciting way,” is how its announcement put it.

Other artists who have made strategic investments in Audius include Steve Aoki, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park and Disclosure.

The bigger picture is of artists putting some of their own money behind blockchain technology, a sector that in music saw considerable hype in 2016 and 2017 (often of the ‘sweep away the industry middlemen!’ variety) before a subsequent backlash – or as research firm Gartner would term it, a trough of disillusionment.

The situation is more interesting in 2021, with a mixture of old and new startups exploring how blockchain technology can work for artists and the music industry alike, in areas from streaming to metadata and royalty tracking.

(And, of course, in non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which appear to have accelerated through their own initial hype and backlash to reach a similar point of… engaged exploration.)

Audius is one of the companies hoping to carve out a long-term role for itself, with the help of its artist and industry investors.

“I’ve known that blockchain will change the world since I invested in Coinbase five years ago and I believe it might be the most important technology to ever hit the music industry,” said Nas in a statement today. “Everyone who uploads to Audius can be an owner, you can’t say that about any other platform.”