Music artists are increasingly turning to blockchain in an effort to save their industry. Grammy-award-winning artist Pitbull has just launched a blockchain coding competition to find ways to disrupt the industry. He has challenged people to use the cryptocurrency Ethereum to try to solve some of music’s biggest issues, such as artist royalty agreements.
Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap saw the potential in blockchain early on with her project Mycelia, first launched in 2015, where musicians have control of the data created by their songs, such as transactions and terms of usage, as they distribute it amongst fans and other musicians. This data can then be tracked and, with micropayments through Ethereum, the income can be split fairly between the creators.
Blockchain means artists won’t have such a need for publishers to maintain and track their earnings and ownership. This, in turn, means content is taken out of the mainstream system of walled gardens like Spotify and Facebook.
The logical end point is that content creators and content consumers are no longer reliant on a middleman to connect them and sort out payment. And if consumers are paying creators directly for content, why would they want to watch ads?
Does that mean ad agencies should be afraid that they’re about to become as useful as a dusty set of encyclopaedias? Around three quarters of people working in media are convinced that artificial intelligence is going to become mainstream within the next five years, while 60 per cent of us believe that the internet of things (IOT) is affecting our industry right now, according to a recent CBI report.
The combination of AI, IOT and blockchain is set, once again, to change media consumption and how content creators – music, film and video artists, for example – are remunerated for their work.
As the CBI’s report points out, every business has the potential to take advantage of the digital revolution and embrace the opportunities that arise from adopting new technologies. But the question for us is how?
There have been some moves in the marketing world. The Marketing Group, for example, has launched a media agency built on blockchain technology and there’s a new start-up called Ad-Hive that uses an AI-driven platform to connect brands with influencers. The jury is out on how legitimate or successful these first to market business models are, but the intention and technology is there to truly disrupt.
However, for existing agencies there’s no need to chuck the baby out with the bathwater and totally reinvent themselves just yet. Instead, brands and agencies need to find where they fit into contemporary culture and integrate themselves and their content into relevant areas to become part of those ecosystems.
This means far less serving of ads and much more celebration and creation of culture. Some brands and agency teams do this very well, such as Nike and JD Sports. These brands succeed in connecting their purpose to culture and playing a supporting and celebratory role in the ecosystem.
To achieve this, much more attention needs to be paid to culture and movements. So go all in and get political like Ben & Jerry’s which promotes progressive politics through ice cream flavours – everything from Black Lives Matter to peace building, refugee settlements, marriage equality. Yes, they get kick-back but they are the fourth largest ice cream brand in the world. As brands, we have to get used to negative commentary on social media – you don’t need everybody to like you to be successful.
We need to not only replicate what culture is doing, but help support and lead it, giving platforms and content that add value to communities.
Tom Poynter is CEO of Southpaw