Fans will be able to buy Björk’s new album ‘Utopia’ using cryptocurrencies, while pre-ordering it directly from the star or her label will earn them crypto rewards too.

The musician has teamed up with British blockchain startup Blockpool, which is working with label One Little Indian on a ‘crypto-checkout plugin’ for the online store. It will process ‘Utopia’ pre-orders using credit/debit cards and PayPal, but also the Bitcoin, AudioCoin, Litecoin and Dashcoin cryptocurrencies.

However they choose to pay, each fan will receive 100 AudioCoins – together worth just under $0.19 at the time of writing – as a reward for pre-ordering the album, deposited into an e-wallet created for them by Blockpool.

Fans will be able to exchange the coins for other cryptocurrencies, keep them as an investment, or convert them back into ‘fiat’ currency like pounds or dollars. Over the next two years, they will also be able to earn more AudioCoins by interacting with Björk’s music, live events and digital activities.

It’s one of the most ambitious steps by a musician into the world of cryptocurrency since Imogen Heap’s ‘Tiny Human’ single in 2015, which fans could pay for using the Ether cryptocurrency. The blockchain startup that worked with Heap on that project, Ujo Music, also helped dance artist RAC take payments for his ‘EGO’ album in Ether earlier this year.

Blockpool CEO Kevin Bacon – a well-known musician and producer in his own right, as well as the founder of music-tech companies AWAL and BuzzDeck – has explained the bigger picture behind Björk’s entrance into the crypto/blockchain world, which joins her previous exploration of technologies including apps and virtual reality.

People have done things with crypto and artists before, but this is the first time a global artist has done anything like this. While it will be interesting to see how the crypto community responds to this, Utopia is also a gateway for people to go into crypto for the first time. Björk is the best artist in the world we could imagine doing this,” said Bacon.

“This isn’t about jumping on a bandwagon or trying to get rich quick. It’s about doing things where you use blockchain and the crypto benefits in ways that people haven’t thought of yet. And in this case, very much led by Björk and her team’s creative vision for what this technology can do.”

Bacon said that Blockpool has worked hard to make the signup and wallet-claiming process as accessible as possible for Björk’s fans, particularly those who don’t already own cryptocurrency.

“We’ll be providing information for people who don’t know anything about crypto or who want to find out more. But they can keep those coins in that wallet, they can also take them out and put them into any third-party wallet or exchange that they want to,” he said.

“They could take them out and trade them back into Bitcoin or any other currency, or take them back into cash if they want. To cash it back out would be a wasted opportunity, I think. Some people will just keep it as Audiocoin for a while, and some people will add it to their portfolio of currencies.”

Bacon added that Björk and her team will be deciding how to reward fans with more Audiocoin over the course of the next two years, rather than Blockpool deciding how the campaign should be run.

“We’re not going to give her a list of 20 things she should do. We’ll show her the kind of thing that could be done, and then she’ll take that and run with it,” he said.

Examples of the kind of thing that can be done include rewarding fans for sharing links to Utopia’s music, its tour, to merchandise and other content on social networks. Blockpool also has the technology to deliver rewards to fans in a specific location at a certain time – gig venues for example.

“You could create blockchain-enabled digital treasure hunts, although what we don’t want to do is turn this into Pokémon Go! But why not reward your fans for engaging with what you do, and reward them in a meaningful way?” said Bacon.

“For an artist like Björk who’s embraced VR more than any other artist, I can see fantastic opportunities: you could embed this in the VR world as well, with rewards for people who interact with her virtual world.”

2017 has been a year of excitable talk about blockchain technology – not just in music but in other industries too – and the emergence of the initial coin offering (ICO) as a way to raise often-huge sums of money for often-unproven business plans.

Bacon is famously a sceptic about some of the blockchain hype as it relates to music, but his overall feelings about the future of this technology are optimistic.

“There’s a lot of talk about whether crypto and blockchain is a bubble. I don’t see it as a bubble: I see it as a burst of energy. I think you’ll see a lot of activity, a lot of things will disappear or get left to rot, but the important things will stay and grow,” he said.

“I think blockchain and crypto will be like the dotcom boom and bust in the late 1990s. We’ll see enormous adoption over the next couple of years, then some kind of bubble burst, but then a long-term change.”

“In the short term, we may see people overcooking it: there’s a danger we’ll see a lot of artists doing coins, a lot of bad marketing ideas and a lot of people using it as a mechanism to make money,” admitted Bacon.

“But some people will do good stuff, and it’s those people, who use the technology to its best, who’ll come out the other side. I think Björk’s a leader, and I think she’ll be the person that defines how other people go.”

You can read the full Q&A with Kevin Bacon here, or bone up on blockchain music with our recent themed issue on the topic.

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