Massive Attack test remix-rights tracking with blockchain startup Blokur


If you’ve not seen Massive Attack’s Fantom app, it’s well worth having a play with: one of the best explorations of how music can be made interactive for fans that we’ve seen.

This week, the app has been relaunched to tie in with the 20th anniversary activity around the band’s album ‘Mezzanine’, with new interactive remixes of the album’s tracks.

Fans can play with the music and make their own “sensory remixes” using the camera, touchscreen gestures and motion signals, as well as sampling sounds from the world around them and creating videos.

That’s great for fans, but there’s a very interesting partnership behind the scenes too, with blockchain startup Blokur, which is providing “rights attribution” for the Fantom Mezzanine app.

Blokur will be tracking the usage of individual stems and audio assets within the app, and producing a “dynamic rights structure” for every new piece of music that fans create using Fantom.

It’s an attempt to show how Blokur’s blockchain-based technology could be used to build an accurate picture of how songwriters’ and musicians’ work is used in remixes, mash-ups and other derivative works – and ultimately to ensure they get royalties from that activity.

Music Ally talked to Blokur CEO Phil Barry ahead of the launch, and he clarified that this isn’t what’s happening with Fantom: there aren’t any royalties to track from the fan-generated remixes at this point.

Instead, the partnership will show how the rights can be tracked, and thus make a case for this kind of technology to be used more widely to cover platforms where remixes and samples are generating royalties.

“If we want creativity to continue to flourish online, we have to ensure that creators are rewarded fairly when their work is re-used or sampled,” said Barry today.

“Blokur’s collaboration with Massive Attack shows how our technology can drive fairer, faster payments for musicians and music companies.”

Blokur’s wider mission is to build tools to help publishers and collecting societies resolve ‘data conflicts’ around rights – who owns what share of a given song – with the company claiming its technology can automatically resolve 75% of such conflicts without human intervention.

As Barry explained, the partnership with Massive Attack around Fantom will be a good way of showing Blokur’s technology in action, as well as sparking more conversation about how blockchain could be of practical use for artists and rightsholders.

In contrast to some of the startups bullishly claiming to sweep away industry middlemen – the publishers and (particularly) the collecting societies – startups like Blokur and fellow UK firm Jaak see blockchain as more more about solving rights puzzles; and helping those middlemen to put more money in the pockets of creators.

Stuart Dredge

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