Earlier today, Björk announced more details about her upcoming album ‘Utopia’, including plans to reward fans who pre-order the album with free AudioCoins cryptocurrency, through a partnership with British blockchain startup Blockpool.
The company’s CEO Kevin Bacon has been talking about the project in an interview published this morning. We used selected quotes from it in our story this morning, but the full Q&A is below.
So this isn’t just about buying music with cryptocurrency?
“No. The more exciting piece of this is people coming in: a gateway to come in to crypto, rather than simply getting people to part with their cryptocurrency to get an album.
This adoption story is important: getting crypto is a barrier, because generally you go through the Bitcoin gateway: you buy a Bitcoin then trade it for other currencies.
But that’s really difficult for younger people: if you’re a teenager and you’re trying to convince your parents to buy you a Bitcoin or part of a Bitcoin, that’s a difficult sell!
Björk’s core audience may not be teenagers, but it will be really interesting to see how this pans out with artists who do represent that younger demographic.
The conversation around crypto tends to be older people talking about what’s the value of Bitcoin, how can they get it and how do they convert it back into fiat currency to cash out. But the conversation with younger people is ‘how do I get crypto and start trading?’.”
How are you going to help people do that?
“For everyone that claims the reward, we’ll be putting their 100 AudioCoins into an e-wallet, which they’ll get automatically once they agree to go through this process.
What they do then is up to them, and will probably depend on their level of knowledge. 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. 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.
I’m intrigued to see what happens. For me, adoption is key to everything, especially around the younger people who really want to get in to crypto, but for whom the barriers are high.”
How will fans be able to earn more AudioCoins?
“Blockpool is a software solutions provider: we just want to give people the tools so that they can be creative. That’s why Björk is such an exciting proposition, because 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.
So, there are a number of ways an artist can create engagement and reward people. One of the mechanisms might be around people sharing links to the music, to the tour, to merchandise and other experiences on social networks.
We’ve got a piece of technology that can create geo-locations in time, so if an artist was doing a show at a venue between certain hours, we – or even a third-party brand that has a partnership with the artist – could reward fans who go to that show with more coins, as well as maybe unlocking something else: a hidden track, an exclusive video or whatever it is.
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.
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.”
Is there a risk that this could be seen as just marketing?
“This really isn’t a marketing strategy with Björk. This is a decision to be a leader. In fact, it’s just the obvious thing to do for her. If I wasn’t involved in this project, I’d expect Björk to be a leader in this area, and for her team to be doing creative things with crypto. So we’re not going to give her a menu of creative ideas.
I used to be a record producer and a studio owner, where you provided the tools for people to be creative, rather than going in there and telling them what they should be doing. This feels the same.”
Where are we heading with this?
“I said we don’t want to create Pokémon Go, but maybe if we did, we’d get massive adoption from people. Maybe that’s what young kids want to do: wander around picking up cryptocurrency like they do Pokémon.
Very very soon, and this exists already in countries like India and Japan, you’ll have young people walking around with cash in their pocket that their parents have given them, and crypto on their phone. If they do the wrong thing, they’ll spend it on weed. If they do the right thing and keep it until they’re 25, it’s probably the deposit on an apartment.
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.
People ask whether I can foresee a situation where everybody’s creating coins, so how will people decide what’s a good one or not. But that’s hardly an alien idea to the music industry: it’s used to flooding the market with multiple products knowing that most will die away, and the ones that are any good will dominate.”
So there may be failures along the way?
“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.
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.”
Could this spark more experiments in the music world?
“There’s been a lot of talk about blockchain technology and the music industry recently, and a lot of that talk has been about massive industry changes in the longer term: five or ten years away.
The rest of the world is using this technology already: the banks have been embedded in this for years, and people are already transferring money around the world and bypassing companies like Western Union. There are places where you can buy houses with Bitcoin! Just last month I was searching for bike shops that take crypto.
The music industry has taken up to now an observation mode rather than a participation mode. But we think there are already real-world blockchain applications for music: tons and tons of ways that music can benefit from the use of blockchain and crypto now.”
Read more about blockchain technology and music with our recent themed report.