Universal Music Group — the biggest of the three major music-label conglomerates — went public at a valuation close to $53 billion. The IPO was a powerful demonstration of the benefits music-biz giants have reaped from the streaming era. But for artists, the picture is a lot murkier. According to Audius — a blockchain-based streaming platform backed by Pusha T, Katy Perry, Nas, and other stars — just 12% of the $43 billion in revenue generated by the music industry in 2017 went to artists. Audius and a crop of other crypto music platforms aim to change that paradigm. Here’s how:
Audius is a free, decentralized streaming service and one of the most popular non-finance blockchain applications, with around six million users. The platform uses a token called AUDIO for a variety of purposes, from staking to rewarding artists based on the engagement of their fans. Holders can also get access to exclusive content and vote on protocol upgrades. Eventually, 90% of AUDIO tokens will be distributed to artists.
Audius recently made a deal with TikTok, allowing its roughly 100,000 artists to upload music to the social network with one click — popular Audius acts include Disclosure, Skrillex, and Steve Aoki. The vast majority of TikTok’s billion users say the video platform is the primary way they discover new music, which explains its ability to vault previously unknown artists like Lil Nas X into viral mega-fame.
Audius isn’t the only decentralized music app gaining traction. Catalog, which bills itself as a blockchain-based version of Bandcamp, has paid out $213,234 to around 100 acts, as of last month. And Songcamp, an experimental blockchain-based “songwriting camp,” allows for collective online collaboration, including tools to help acts fund their projects and distribute them across the internet.
Why it matters… Many of crypto’s most popular evolutions, like DeFi, have related directly to finance. But Audius users don’t even need to know what crypto is to use the app (which is available via Apple’s App Store and Google Play) — pointing to the potential for crypto-powered, community-governed protocols to transform the entertainment industry by giving both artists and fans a stake.