There is clearly “something in the air” (well, on the web). Yesterday we covered Zoë Keating talking about how blockchain and Bitcoin could bring greater transparency to the digital music industry. Now Forbes has run a lengthy interview with Imogen Heap on the same thing and, more specifically, Mycelia – which she describes as “a working idea space” but not something she is “actively bringing to life just yet”. So what is Mycelia? Heap offers this explanation, “Mycelia – the system/ library/database – hosts hundreds of millions of Spores, which hold the creative content. In this case, music and its related data (but not limited to Music, as I see this as a model for all creative content and Mycelia would benefit hugely from their living together).

Upon their collective foundation, the services – that both the artists and those who engage with it so desperately need – can grow above ground. These services I refer to as ‘Mushrooms’.” She adds, “Those which are taxing, inefficient or ‘closed’, as they do in nature, are rejected, wither and die. A hashtag, linked to each Spore, tracks its movements, and keeps its trail intact on the blockchain, while the Spore itself is updated, as and when new information is added or swapped out (a better quality version for instance).”

So how do artists get paid? “Whenever the Spore is interacted with, the payment is distributed as the creator sees fit,” she explains. “The music distribution and the payment mechanism are entwined, and so whether the music is ‘on tap’ or attached to a subscription-based model, every play is accounted for and directly goes to the artist from the person listening. For example, it could either be free (for a limited time maybe, until you decided to change it) or a micro-payment could be sent directly into the creator’s digital wallet every time it’s interacted with.” But does this mean the death of the old way of doing things? Well, not entirely. “There are no businesses currently in our existing chain of music business workings that get wiped out [by Mycelia], but more the way in which they operate, and thus leaving the creative sides of the business to operate freely and without their clunky counterparts.”

It is worth reading the whole piece as there is a tremendous amount going on here – including how this can turn artists can become “like beacons or patrons” for other artists and charities, the role it could play for liner notes and deeper music discovery, where licensing could benefit, crowdsourcing gigs and how this can move beyond music.

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