Music is back on the blockchain.
Audius, a streaming service which connects music lovers right with artists, has increased $3.1 million at a tactical round co-led from Multicoin Capital and Blockchange Ventures, with participation from Pantera Capital and Coinbase Ventures.
Audius has raised a total amount of $8.6 million since the stage prepares for consecutive time, having increased in less than a year to over 250,000 monthly customers and 40,000 musicians. EDM artists appear to be the site’s burgeoning specialty with notables such as RAC, deadmau5, Lido, 3LAU, Zeds Dead, Mr. Carmack and REZZ all signed on.
The blockchain use case for songs is a familiar one: their inequity and tardiness of the earnings model of streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify.
“It shouldn’t take a year and a half to get paid, and it’s just crazy that the people creating the music only take 12%,” Audius CEO Roneil Rumburg said in a meeting. “After this extreme time delay, the artist just gets this check, so they don’t actually see who’s listening to them. There is no visibility because the artist doesn’t own their own data or their audience.”
The Audius P2P network makes it possible for artists to be compensated in full by their own lovers, right and immediately to get each flow with the capacity to cash out hourly or daily if they need, Rumburg added.
‘Fair trade’ however for songs
Ethereum-based Audius picks up the mantle taken by ConsenSys-backed Ujo Music and revolutionary projects like Imogen Heap’s Mycelia, which the artist explained as “fair trade” music.
Truly, people like Jesse Grushack, co-founder and CEO of their now-shuttered Ujo Music, have aided and informed Audius, since has Ujo’s former artist-in-residence, André Allen Anjos, better known by his stage name RAC, also a Grammy Award winner that has remixed the likes of New Order, Lady Gaga along with the Kings of Leon.
Anjos, that worked with Ujo for more than a year and released a record on Ethereum, stated that the problem was the sophistication of users that were senile.
“We used to kind of joke that it could take like 36 steps to get ether into MetaMask,” Anjos stated in a meeting. “Just to interact with these systems you needed to go through this crazy setup, and I think Ujo kind of suffered from that. But today, if you go to Audius it’s a pretty similar experience to any other platform, arguably better. That initial barrier to entry is not a problem anymore.”
Audius, that was set in 2018 by Stanford buddies Rumburg and chief product officer Forrest Browning, has benefitted from “a kind of diaspora of talent that had already been working on this problem,” said Rumburg.
“Back in 2016, when these projects came about, was just really early,” he said. “The amount of stuff that [ConsenSys founder] Joe [Lubin] had to build from scratch was just this astronomical ask.”
The Audius team may have built the music player with a user interface that looks and feels like Spotify or SoundCloud, but it couldn’t be more different under the hood.
The network consists of indexing nodes, which provide a discovery service, and content-posting or creator nodes. This intersection of fans, artists and infrastructure providers who host and index content (“stakers” blockchain parlance), uses both the Ethererum public blockchain (which is where all the staking and look-up nodes are running) and a second, permissioned network where the uploaded content lives.
“It’s fully community-operated and hosted,” stated Rumburg. “Today, if we shut down Audius, the company, all of this could keep working and keep running, as so long as the community wants to keep it up and running.”
Following on from a minimum viable product mainnet launch in the next couple of months, the next stage is to add instant payments for monetized content, which will use a system of stablecoins and be in place before the end of the year, explained Rumburg.
“Payments will be done with a kind of stablecoin mechanism. So that’s not like an Audius native token, but a basket of third-party tokens. It’ll probably be a couple of the bigger ones,” he said. “We’re looking for good fiat to crypto on-ramp options. From the user’s perspective, they don’t even know this is happening. They just put in a credit card and top up that account and see a balance.”
The user interface for artists is as simple, said Audius CPO Forrest Browning.
“As an artist, if you decide to monetize some of your content, your Audius dashboard might show you have $500 or whatever is your local currency, and with a one-click direct deposit you can pull that out, without knowing a stable token system was integrated,” Browning said.
Music distribution on the internet has moved on since the time of Napster, but when an artist is signed to a label, the label owns the rights to the artist’s master copies and gets to decide where that content is distributed. There seems to be opportunity for negotiation these days, particularly between artists and forward-thinking independent labels.
“The majority of our usage right now is coming from independent artists who are not signed,” said Rumburg. “Those that are signed to progressive labels have gone and got permission from their label. I think the mentality is, the sooner you sign up to a system like this, the more following and momentum you build, similar to early accounts on SoundCloud or anything else like that.”
RAC, who is signed to iconic UK. indie label Ninja Tune, said the conversation about him releasing an album on Ethereum back in 2017 was “very easy-going,” because the label is tech-savvy.
“The way to go is obviously to ask the label for permission, but I feel like it would be a non-issue in most cases. I think most labels would say ‘Why not?’ and just approach this as another distribution platform,” he said.
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