Blockchain solves the mystery of missing artist royalties

By Nicolas Waddell October 11, 2017

Former Universal Music project manager Andres Martin-Lopez has launched a new blockchain platform to help artists retain their creative rights.

Blokur, founded in 2016, is a music rights management firm that employs Ethereum blockchain technology in order to eliminate the middleman from the music industry and ensure that revenue and profits go where they belong: to the artist.

Martin-Lopez’s solution to this is to use a blockchain-based platform to plug derivative rights into the licensing ecosystem so everybody gets paid fairly for their work.

Already, Blokur works with three thousand music publishers and an additional ten thousand songwriters. Its small team of just five people have collaborated with the likes of Radiohead and Imogen Heap.

Critical minds have questioned the necessity of music industry middlemen, and with advancements in technology, the market has been thoroughly disrupted and is giving consumers the opportunity and freedom to listen to what they want, as opposed to what some guy in a suit choosing what we all hear.

In the current system, artists are often the last in a chain of higher-ups to receive any money generated by their own album’s sales. Traditionally, profits pass through a system of distributors, publishers, online stores, and labels before finally reaching the artist. Each step resulting in a percentage being kept back from the artist.

Each music label in the world keeps a record of bands, people and sales. However, often this information can be incorrect, due to mis-spelt band names or other seemingly irrelevant mistakes that can cause artists to miss out on royalties.

Using machine learning software, Blokr is working to catch these discrepancies in the data before inputting the correct information into an aggregated list which is added to the blockchain. Martin-Lopez states that the system increases music rights management efficiency by 70%.

“Reconciling all these different data sources, we’re using smart algorithms to resolve inconsistencies in the data automatically, and we’re capturing the data and writing a state on the blockchain for each individual’s music rights.” Martin-Lopez said.

Blockr also tracks percentages of royalties owed to stakeholders for relevant content, and distributes the royalties accordingly with cryptocurrency.

In 2016, arts and culture were responsible for adding over $700 billion to the US economy. This has led to companies searching for ways to exploit this, such as Viberate, which focuses on live events, and recently offered 120 million Vibe tokens for its public Crowdsale.

Royalty Tracks identifies artist’s missing income due to aforementioned mistakes and anomalies. The startup strives to put things right, taking the money from the music industry’s ‘black box’, and distributing it to the creators. Founder Tom Harris believes that “The average anomaly rate is 9.12%, which equates to a worldwide problem worth $1.1 billion per annum in missing royalties.”

There is also Ojo, founded by Imogen Heap, which explores how blockchain can create a modern music supply-chain through prompt and transparent payments.

Perhaps, as is hoped for Blokr, these platforms will be instrumental in reimbursing musicians with royalties that they may not even know they are missing out on. If successful the advancements could go a long way towards erasing the stereotype of the struggling musician and instead let them prosper.