?Blockchain is an emerging open-source, decentralized ledger technology made famous by the digital currency Bitcoin. And a handful of tech entrepreneurs are betting it will soon solve a thorny issue for the music industry: ensuring that songwriters and copyright holders don’t get stiffed on royalties because of dicey metadata embedded in songs and commercial platforms that aren’t scrupulous about paying for the music they’re playing.
The blockchain operates as a secure database that supports and connects capsules of information, called blocks, and records each alteration made by an authorized party. Applied to the music industry, one block would represent one song and contain information identifying every rights holder associated with the track. Blockchain technology essentially would prevent a platform like Spotify or YouTube from uploading a song without a complete accounting of those rights.
“If you’ve got 1,500 Pearl Jam bootlegs on your hard drive, the goal is to make it hard to put those up on YouTube or SoundCloud, where the platform will be monetizing them but Pearl Jam won’t see a penny,” says Benji Rogers, whose DotBlockChain Music project is on the forefront of that mission. (Other companies developing blockchain technology include PeerTracks and Ujo.)
The technology isn’t ready yet, but Rogers says he’s getting close. In February, DotBlockChain announced it was partnering with Canadian performing rights organization SOCAN, CD Baby, Songtrust and others to build a working model for the industry. “Hopefully by the end of this year,” adds Rogers, “we’ll have a fully functioning, scaled system.”
This article originally appeared in the March 18 issue of Billboard.