Getting a fair return as a musician and a fan
It is notoriously difficult for aspiring artists to break into the music industry. Even if they do manage to sign a record deal, they are often the last to see profits–after advertisers, publishers, licensees, talent agencies, and many others have taken their cut.
However, just as it has enabled greater transparency for so many other industries, blockchain technology is making its mark on the entertainment world. It has allowed musicians to more easily obtain royalties from their work by providing an open record of when their songs are played.
Inmusik is one of the world’s first blockchain platforms providing fans the means to invest in their favorite artists. Artists can create investment campaigns to fund their future projects and, in exchange for the capital, provide returns to their fans through future revenues.
By putting fans in a role previously occupied by record companies, Inmusik aims to change the game for the music industry, where more control is given to listeners and artists, rather than the middlemen.
To explore the tech-empowered evolution of the music industry, Jumpstart speaks to the company’s CEO Stephen Brett, who has over 18 years of industry experience as a musician, producer, sound engineer, recording studio owner, and now the founder of a platform for fan investment.
How did you come to found Inmusik?
Back in Ireland, where I am from, I owned and ran a recording studio. The idea came late one night while working with a band. I wanted to create a way for independent artists to make a good living from their art, keep creating great new music, and at the same time reward fans for their involvement.
Anyone who creates a platform where it’s a win-win for artists and their fans will dominate the music space. This idea of ‘shared success’ is why we created a platform where fans can invest in an artist and earn a monthly payout based on the success of the artist.
The music industry is criticized for being controlled by major record labels. What factors have led the industry to this situation?
The fault was that the industry didn’t move fast enough to keep up with what was happening in streaming–a common result of disruption. Fans love streaming, as we get whatever music we want when we want it. It’s a far better place compared to the piracy years.
A few players are dominating the industry right now; the bigger ones are still investing the most into artists, taking the biggest risks, and as a result, getting the biggest returns. Right or wrong? That is a tough call. But I do think this is going to change gradually over the coming years.
What measures are needed to shift the paradigm away from their dominance and towards community platforms like Inmusik?
I think it’s important to have all pillars of the industry–fans, content creators or artists, and business people–work together to come up with a solution to grow the music economy. There is a sweet spot where these players intersect, and blockchain is the perfect technology that can account for the contributions of all of these parties. It provides a way for a fair measurement of value and the resulting reward.
While the token votes are organic, introducing mainstream artists and songs onto the platform might make it more difficult for emerging artists to be heard. What are your thoughts about this?
Every single platform has to deal with popular content versus new content. It’s incredibly challenging for new content to stand out from the crowd, as seen with YouTube or Spotify. While bringing in token votes solves this issue to some degree by introducing transparency, it still doesn’t solve the whole thing.
We have created a feature called Quick Play, where you can stream the best seven seconds of all new songs and listen to seven songs in a row. We are doing our best to allow great content to surface organically and give all new content a chance to be heard. The rest is up to the community.
With the introduction of new business models, do you think artists will actively write songs that cater to mainstream demands (similar to what the major labels encourage), to attract investments?
Yes, I think that may happen. Most artists, and I’m speaking as a musician myself, will do their best to stay true to themselves and not ‘sell out.’ Art is an expression of the creator, after all.
But it’s also smart to create a product that appeals to a large market. If the artist aims to express themselves, then they will create for the love of it. If the artist wants to find a market of fans and create music that speaks to them, the approach changes.
I think there is room for it all, and as new technologies and new business models emerge, it will be very interesting to see how the community content will adapt to take advantage of it.
What challenges do you foresee as you grow Inmusik?
The biggest challenge is to find quality partners, and figure out how we can curate them to make sure the system remains trusted, honest, and transparent.
Is it necessary for entrepreneurs to have a deep and diverse understanding of the industry they’re trying to disrupt?
While it’s not necessary, being in the music industry for 18 years has helped me to think from multiple perspectives based on my experiences. It’s important to have a deep and diverse understanding of something to prepare yourself for any challenges that come your way and to keep moving at a fast pace.
Can you share one piece of advice for an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to pursue the same path as you?
One thing that I always strive to do is to say yes to opportunities. When an opportunity comes along to do something different or is outside your comfort zone, say yes—the more uncomfortable, the better, as you only get new results when you do new things.
Doing the same thing over and over will get you more of the same. If your goal is to be massively successful, you are going to have to get used to, and even enjoy, being uncomfortable.
Kelly is Jumpstart’s Editorial Assistant.