Blockchain technology could transform the way artists are paid.

While blockchain technology is typically associated with online banking, the buzziest concept in tech has the power to effect change across diverse and unexpected industries. Jesse Grushack of the Strategy and Product Team at Consensys is utilizing the technology’s capabilities to benefit content creators in the ever-shifting music industry. As writers and artists are increasingly disconnected from the revenue that their work generates, the cost of collecting and distributing revenue comprised of micropayments is unsustainable.

Grushack and his team are working to remedy these increasingly visible inefficiencies with Ujo, “a new shared infrastructure for the creative industries that returns more value to content creators and their customers.” The open platform “uses blockchain technology to create a transparent and decentralized database of rights and rights owners and automates royalty payments using smart contracts and cryptocurrency.”

Arthur Falls, host of The Ether Review, sat down with Grushack to discuss the project.

Arthur Falls:
Can you tell me about what you’re doing, how it relates to music, and where you see the music industry going?

Jesse Grushack:
At Consensys we focus heavily on use cases for blockchain in every industry, so Ujo is a music-specific project that looks at where blockchain fits into music. Blockchain is not a magic wand — it’s a tool, so it’s really about figuring out how that tool fits into everything. That’s how we spent the last six months or so: figuring out the exact use cases for using blockchain in music. We ask ourselves questions like, what is a musician? How do we protect what a musician is digitally?

At its very core, a musician is defined by the music they record. So Consensys manages that and the rights, royalties, and all the aspects that go along with artistic identity content management. We’re building out a platform for independent artists right now to really focus on self-sovereign identity, content management, and on helping people build musical careers.

We’re hoping to release our preview, our next platform, in September, and we should have more information coming out in the next few weeks. We’ll hopefully be moving into a private beta in the late fall.

So the question is: what is your platform Ujo doing? How is it that this platform replaces the work that a massive industry is currently engaged in performing? What is unique about the technology that allows a multi-billion dollar industry to be reduced to a single piece of software? That’s the question at the heart of all of this.

That’s a great question, Arthur. Basically, Ujo gives artists the ability to manage themselves; the ability to own what they create. And not just to own it theoretically, but to actually own where the files live on the internet. I don’t know that we’re trying to necessarily replace things that already exist. I think that it’s a little bit naive to think that the blockchain can just come in and replace entire industries with pieces of software. But it’s helping to automate a lot of that.

A huge part of the music industry are the people who manage payments and spreadsheets, and transpose those spreadsheets to files, and really it’s a lot of busy work. So if we can automate a lot of the busy work, I think we can really be a new content form. If we can make collaboration and sharing all of these unique services that encompass the music industry more accessible for independents, I think we can really create a more collaborative and open industry — as opposed to the current industry which I think is very closed, very slow and antiquated.

By using blockchain to help automate a lot of the processes in the system, we can really see a lot of new things develop. I don’t even think that we’re able to see the exact ramifications of what we’re doing yet — I don’t think that’s totally clear.

Unclear ramifications, I love it! So it seems like this has the ability to automate the administrative tasks, reduce the overhead of bringing music to market as a product, and reduce the barrier to entry for a professional artist.

Yeah, absolutely. And not just professional artists but really anyone creating music. How do we help them protect, enhance, create, and build on that? How do we create more art in the world, really.

And that is actually it, because it means that the economic work or the labor that’s being put into the industry, more of that work is directed toward the production of art rather than the administration of the industry.

Absolutely. This is not a quote from me, but it’s the idea that “the bottle is worth more than the wine.” You have these platforms like Spotify that are worth $7 billion in an industry that’s only worth $5-15 billion. So how can something be so valuable when its contents are so worthless?

Like what you read? Join L&T on September 15th for “Beyond Blockchain: The Future of the Internet,” a panel discussion moderated by Falls and featuring Grushack, along with Jock Percy, Founder and CEO of Perseus.

Author Shayna Robinson

A graduate of NYU’s Gallatin School, Shayna manages social media for clients across all industries, monitoring the effectiveness of our social campaigns, manages social strategy, and spearheads breaking news coverage and the development of original, trending story ideas. She previously worked in media production and communications at an NYC-based documentary production company. Her interests include cooking, making short films, and traveling.

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