Having spent two years in development, Bluebox will launch in May and will be made freely available to Ditto's 250,000 artist users worldwide, a list that includes Chance the Rapper, Ed Sheeran and Stormzy.
Last year, Ditto paid out more than $100 million to artists. It plans to launch a publishing division alongside the rollout of Bluebox, which CEO Lee Parsons says differs from the many other blockchain-based rights databases out there by being a purpose-built solution to the music industry's well-documented data management issues.
"A lot of people in the blockchain space are trying to find a problem and then trying to come up with a solution based on that," he tells Billboard. "The main difference with Bluebox is that we have a huge database of artists that we are going to be putting straight onto the blockchain. We're not building a product and then trying to find a use for it."
Ditto says the technology has already secured the backing of Australia's MGM Distribution (Metropolitan Groove Merchants) and Sentric Music. Parsons hopes more music companies will follow when they see the benefits that blockchain technology brings.
"From this point on, every piece of music that goes through Ditto will be locked onto the blockchain and you will easily be able to see who owns the rights to that music," he says. "I know producers who have hundreds of songs out there with their beats on them and the first they hear of it is when the song is released. I want that piece of music locked in from day one and then they can track everything that piece of music ever does."
As an example of how inaccurate rights metadata can hit a company's bottom line, the CEO points to a recent example when Ditto made a royalty payment of £60,000 ($80,000) to an artist, only to later discover the metadata had been incorrectly recorded and they had paid the wrong person. Unable to get the original £60,000 back, Parsons had to make a second payment out of his own pocket, this time to the correct artist.
"These kind of things happen all the time. There are always legal disputes over who owns what," says Parsons. "What we want in a year's time is for Spotify to be able to go into the database whenever there is a disagreement and see immediately who owns what without going through legal issues, which happens every day at the moment."
The benefit for artists, he says, is greater transparency and more in-depth reporting leading to higher collection rates from digital services.
"A huge pain point for songwriters [today] is that they can't even see their own streams unless they personally upload the song," explains Parsons. "With Bluebox, it finally means that artists who don't upload that piece of music, but are included on the song credits, such as songwriters and producers, will be able to log in and check their royalties."
"There's billions of dollars of unclaimed royalties out there," he says. "The blockchain can help millions of artists claim what is rightfully theirs."