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eMusic sees blockchain technology as its next big move


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Digital music service eMusic has been doing some soul-searching about the future of its business. “eMusic is at a crossroads. Do we stay the course and focus on a shrinking digital downloads market? Do we enter into losing streaming agreements that conflict with the company’s ethos of championing the indie artist?” asks a ‘light paper’ published by the company.

“Or, do we double down on our beliefs and make a move towards fixing what we see as a flawed system?” Take a guess which option it’s plumping for. “eMusic is embracing Blockchain and its ability to correct an imbalanced industry,” claims the paper, which sketches out some of the company’s plans.

It’s creating a blockchain-based platform that will offer music distribution “from the unencumbered artist to a major label with 1,000s of artists on its roster”, as well as “a frictionless method for existing retailers and streaming services to enter profitable content agreements, while offering the same music to their users”. The platform will also include tools for managing royalties, and a “seamlessly integrated system for music fans who don’t have to change their listening habits or their players/apps of choice”, with crowdfunding features thrown in to the mix as well.

It’s a utopia! One which handily puts eMusic at the centre of things again, long after its original service’s heyday was derailed. And also one which increases the cut taken by retailers and streaming services to 50%, while promising that “efficiencies” will also see artists and rightsholders “retain more of the royalties” – a bold pair of claims indeed, accompanied by the obligatory blockchain-fuelled promise of tech that “cuts out the bloated intermediaries”.

All this is hosted on token.emusic.com, which suggests plans for an initial coin offering (ICO) / token sale may be part of the plans too. If you’ve been following the wider world of blockchain startups, you’ll know that anyone can promise anything in a white paper, and in some cases raise tens of millions of dollars (crypto equivalent) before proving whether they can deliver it. At least eMusic is an established company in the digital music space rather than an unknown entity.

Sceptics may write this off as a desperate hail-mary pass from a company whose relevance has diminished in the streaming age, but as eMusic’s blockchain plans take shape, they may – like those of other startups in the space – pose some more interesting questions about how this technology could play a role in the music-industry ecosystem in the future.

Stuart Dredge

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