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Blockchain and the Arts

March 11, 2016 | Written by: Stem

On Tuesday, March 8th, Stem co-founder Tim Luckow was featured on a panel called Blockchain & The Arts in New York City.

The panel, organized by DWT, was moderated by Consensys founder and Ethereum Project co-founder, Joseph Lubin, and featured panelists Benji Rogers (founder of PledgeMusic & dotblockchain), Robert Norton (CEO and co-founder of Verisart), and Bill Wilson (VP of Digital Strategy & Business Development for the Music Business Association).

Over the course of nearly two hours, the panel touched upon topics relating to blockchain technology’s role in music and the arts, including how it can help facilitate clearer, more accessible data for artists and their teams.

In this post, we summarized points made by Tim that showcase how Stem is utilizing this technology in our product. Watch the whole panel below, and learn more about content & cryptocurrency here.

On going from building stems as a musician to building a company called Stem

I was frustrated by not getting paid what I was owed. I was delivering music to all these platforms, but I couldn’t audit my label for Spotify without having the source data, and I couldn’t easily split the payments that were coming in every month with all the people I was working with at the time.

As I started to look around at the problem, blockchain and bitcoin started to pop up at various weekend hack projects. People kept saying, “Let’s build something with this.” I think it’s a great solution and these open data initiatives are great, but I think what many of them are missing is that Apple, Google, Spotify, and SoundCloud are still going to generate a lot of the revenue for quite some time, so these companies and these ideas need to incorporate where the revenue is already being made.

At Stem, what we do is we have people upload and add collaborators with percentages. We realized that legalese, for the most part, doesn’t matter. What matters is the percentages, term length, and who owns them. With that information, we can route money as it comes in. Our idea is to give anyone who owns any stake on a piece of content direct access to the data, direct simultaneous payments, and a better experience.

On public and private data in the music industry

Anything financial should be kept private. I don’t think there’s really that much good will come out of publicly stating you made $10,000 on that track this month, I don’t think that’s a necessary part. But I do think that the creators involved with a piece of work, the date it was created and every time you deliver it to a new platform should be recorded and timestamped.

One piece that’s missing is that everyone wants to be Switzerland, but retroactively it is very difficult. The idea that all past music that has ever been made will be updated into this new format, I don’t think is real.

We are building our system in a way where everything moving forward can use it, but we’re not trying to fix the old industry. If they come to us, which some of them are, we’re helping them onboard to start using Stem.

Really, the financial information should be for the people themselves and all of their collaborators. Anyone with any percent stake should have access.

On the competitive advantage of open data, and who benefits from it

I don’t think that there’s any individual vertical in the industry that’s doing that entirely. I think there’s going to be progressive companies in every vertical that do it, and they will jump ahead of their peers, because the artist is going to sign with the company they know is going to treat them right.

I think that the days of being able to advance, and the artist being trapped forever are gone, or not gone, but going away. As the new companies like Stem and Ujo, which I kind of view as the new distributors, start to appear, there is going to be a competition for the experience and the payments are going to get faster and faster and faster, and the companies who don’t keep up will slowly start to shrink.

On using cryptocurrency and smart tokens

Stem has definitely experimented, and we definitely will continue to experiment, but so far it has not been stable enough. We’re working with bitcoin right now because it’s the most stable of the options, and as new options appear, we’ll try them too, and you know maybe we’ll throw our own into the ring, too early to tell.

On how Stem authenticates original owners and original content

It’s not all blockchain. We’ll mark when it’s been uploaded to the system and who is involved with that work, but then we go and scan it against YouTube, scan it against Gracenote, see if there’s any matches, and if there’s no matches, then we proceed to upload it and start to collect.

On how Stem authenticates User Generated Content (UGC)

We have the original creator to upload to Stem, then we scan against YouTube’s ContentID system, which is already very complex for UGC, so essentially we are utilizing the systems that already exist.

Q: Wouldn’t these services like Flickr and Google Photos have this built in?

Yes, our bet is that Google’s will be better than ours for at least couple years, and Facebook is building one. They [the platforms] are all building them, so that seems like an easier and more effective way to go for now.

From Left to Right: Benji Rogers, Tim Luckow, Robert Norton, Bill Wilson, Joseph Lubin

Here at Stem, we are consistently aiming to educate our creators on how they can benefit from blockchain technology. If you have any questions on how we utilize blockchain and bitcoin, ask them in the comments below!

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