The panel discussion on Sept 18 in New York’s prestigious Premier Studios in Times Square about the role of cryptocurrencies for innovative business models in the music industry was very illuminating for lots of different reasons. First of all the panelists and the moderator spoke extremely clearly and passionately about the drivers behind the adoption of these new technologies and the power that they give to artists and fans disintermediating the labels and middlemen in general. Second, with most of the audience composed of music industry and content distribution representatives of various kinds, it very clearly illustrated how much we are living in the world succinctly described by Bre Pettis where “things are changing faster then we can die”: while the audience in the room was still trying to get to grips with what is Bitcoin and what the first generation of Blockchain technologies mean, the panel was moving on to describe smart contracts, distributed applications, and how novel implementations of the Blockchain can be more flexible to solve real-world problems that artists face on a daily basis.
Tatiana Moroz eloquently described her experiments with TatianaCoin and a clear understanding of the learning process involved from all sides, her and her technology team, and also on the side of her fans. The securitization of the assets of an artist that was an extremely unexpected move by David Bowie a few years ago, is now available to anybody, so that creative people can leverage their future production promptly. It was amusing how the moderator keenly remarked every time he could that this was not an IPO because the SEC regulations would not allow it.
Phil Quartararo, who is an icon in the music industry made it clear that the power of fans and their ability to send rapid signals back up to the artists would increase radically. His exchanges with the participants were very useful because they spoke the same language, being industry insiders, but still did not bring the many skeptical participants in the audience over to the other side, embracing the exciting new possibilities that have to be experienced in order to be better understood.
Gregory Simon, CFO and Co-Founder of Ribbit.me! highlighted many of these new possibilities, especially oriented to a rapid, and viral adoption of the cryptocurrencies which in his view can be bundled in promotions that have a very low barrier to entry by consumers. Since his platform is shipping in a few months, in December, it is impossible to prove his claim today, but everybody will agree that Bitcoin and the alt coins must become radically easier to use if we want to achieve massive adoption. Ribbit.me!’s bundling approach hits the consumers in their passion at the time of purchase when their defense barriers are lowest and, if the user experience is right, could indeed facilitate large numbers of people becoming acquainted with the advantages of crypto currencies.
The moderation of the panel was conducted with light but sure touch by Rik Willard of MintCombine.
I had the chance of remarking how the music industry has been in the past very successful in moving the balance away from innovation, especially with their victory at the Supreme Court in the Grokster case that criminalized peer-to-peer technologies, shying investors away from financing anybody who would leverage them, and plunging us in an era of suboptimal use of networks which only now is being slowly corrected. The reason why songs cost an amount that never goes lower than a dollar too much is not because artists wouldn’t be happy to sell 1 million songs for $.10 each, but is due to the antiquated payment infrastructure enabled by the credit card technologies belonging to the middle of the previous century. We are mindlessly admiring Apple, Google and other tech giants when they announce their latest investment in multibillion dollar data centers. We should instead be living in a universe where as soon as we meet a group of people our phones should start synchronizing the apps and that the content on each other’s devices. Based on our respective preferences, without having to go thousands of miles across continents through vulnerable connections to spying, poaching and exploitation, this should all be conducted on ad-hoc local mesh networks.
The fact that these conversations occur, obviously is good, and one can only hope that the lawyers in the room were not there so that they could learn how to build the next line of defense or even attack in order to stop this new generation of technologies from gaining ground and giving opportunities to artists worldwide through their democratizing power.