Music Business

What 4 Music Startups Reveal About The Future Of Music

(1)While it may seem as though the music industry has stabilized and is now run by a choice few tech giants dominating the landscape, a new era of startups is emerging, and is set to redefine the status quo of the music industry.


Guest Post by Bas Grasmayer on Synchblog

The online music landscape may seem stale, but while the highly visible giants compete for people’s attention (and subscription money), a new generation of startups are gearing up to define a new status quo. 

Dot Blockchain Music

What they’re doing:

Founded by PledgeMusic founder Benji Rogers, Dot Blockchain Music is developing a new media format & supporting technology architecture to create a fair and transparent way for creators to express their rights. In simpler words: they’re creating a new standard for files to be linked to a globally distributed database of music rights.

Instead of transferring music files as an mp3 with some metadata and an image, the .bc format will include all media files, extensive metadata, and digital contracts which stipulate usage rules. This means that the .bc format will function as a wrapper, similar to a .zip file.

The greater trend:

Blockchain technology is receiving a lot of attention from people within the music industry, but also in finance, logistics, and many other sectors. A famous example of blockchain technology in action is the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Blockchain offers a shared ledger where any participant can see the records of the ledger and the way it works. Because it’s append-only, you can only change values in the ledger by writing new data to it. All of this is recorded, which guarantees transparency. Changes to the ledger have to be verified by the participants, so it’s a consensus based system. 

Proponents of the music business ecosystem’s adoption of blockchain hold up the promise of increased efficiency around rights and licensing, as well as greater transparency. Many of the ideas proposed are ideas that require industry-wide buy-in to work, similar to the Global Repertoire Database. While those may take years to gather enough momentum, we’re likely to see the blockchain solve smaller issues in the meantime.

Related projects: 

A few of the projects that are striving for similar goals or also make use of blockchain technology are:

  • The Open Music Initiative, which aims to assure fair compensation for creators by advancing open source standards.

  • Coala IP, which is a ‘blockchain-ready’ protocol for intellectual property sharing.

  • Ujo, which collaborated with Imogen Heap to release an EP on the Ethereum blockchain. 



What they’re doing:

Recently acquired by ReverbNation, Audiokite lets artists upload their music and survey actual music consumers. It charges a fee most musicians should be able to afford for doing market research and gives information about the type of people that liked your music, what music they associate with it, and what the strengths and weaknesses of a song are.

It keeps costs low by using Amazon Mechanical Turk, which provides an ‘on-demand scaleable workforce’. ‘Turkers’ can acquire tasks which are quick to perform and pay them some cents. For example, Audiokite’s said to pay between $0.13 and $0.50 per survey, although surveyees have been complaining that this has been getting lower.

The greater trend:

The trend enabling Audiokite is the rise of the on-demand economy, which includes companies like Uber and TaskRabbit. The greater trend Audiokite is part of is the disintegration of the music business. Services like Audiokite only used to be available for music companies with budgets for market research, but by offering it as an affordable standalone service, now even DIY artists can afford it.

Related projects: 

Two companies that also collect feedback for your music are:

  • Music Xray, which lets you collect feedback from industry professionals and fans.
  • SoundOut, which offers Audiokite-like services through ReverbNation and TuneCore.



What they’re doing:

Out of the MarathonArtists LABs accelerator in London, Stagelink lets musicians crowdsource their gigs. It lets fans from around the world indicate where they want their favourite band to come, as well as pre-finance it. This means your fans can actually invest in your tour, which hopefully means more artists can start touring.

It’s reminiscent of the now-defunct Songkick Detour, which let fans pledge to buy tickets if a band were to show up in their town.

The greater trend: 

Similar to Audiokite, this has a lot to do with disintegration of the traditional music business. More often, the term ‘disintermediation’ is used, but we’re actually seeing many more intermediaries now. What’s new is that artists no longer have to go through existing industry structures and can instead choose to spend their time doing things on their own terms, direct-to-fan.

Related projects:

Three startups offering similar services to Stagelink are:

  • MyMusicTaste, which gamifies the crowdsourcing concerts experience and seems to appeal to a younger audience.

  • WeDemand, which lets fans & artists display demand for an artist to promoters.

  • RoadNation, which is a more straight-forward crowdfunding for tours platform.



What they’re doing:

Branded as a cooperatively owned music streaming service, Resonate believes what’s needed in the current digital landscape is a service that’s owned by the people that use it. Upon launch, Tidal tried to score big PR points by pointing out that they were a service owned by artists, but in the case of Resonate, it’s not just millionaire investors – all artists who make their music available can become owners.

Instead of charging a monthly flat fee, you pay for what you stream. Listen to a song often enough and you’ll end up owning it, so you’ll no longer have to pay for streaming it.

The greater trend:

Resonate is a phenomenon of the so-called ‘sharing economy’. The phrase is often associated with segments of the on-demand economy, like Uber or Airbnb, but the sharing economy refers to collaborative consumption, production and distribution.

By letting both fans and artists own the platform and do the decision-making for it, the value generated by the platform ultimately goes back to them. The typical play for platforms is to sell the value generated by users, which means the value ends up with investors and the people who generate the value get a free product in return (eg. Facebook, Google).

There are other trends at play too: Resonate is starting its own blockchain project. Also, the stream-to-own model can be seen in a broader context where fans or users of an app are rewarded virtual goods in exchange for certain engagement levels: unlockables.

Related projects:

Not that many comparable projects. One comes to mind:

  • Voltra is one to watch, though not completely similar. It’s a crossover between a music store & streaming platform, and like Resonate, it offers an alternative vision for the future of streaming services.

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