Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spotify acquires blockchain team at Mediachain Labs | UNLIMITED | CMU


How do you convince the music industry that you’re taking the data issues that continue to hinder the streaming business seriously? Tell em you’re going to fix it via the blockchain and ‘boom’, no one knows what you’re taking about, but boy are they impressed.

To that end, Spotify has bought itself a team of data and blockchain specialists to “further the streaming leader’s journey towards a more fair, transparent and rewarding music industry for creators and rights owners”.

The streaming firm has acqui-hired – if we’re allowing that term now – New York-based Mediachain Labs, the team behind the open-source Mediachain protocol who say that, over the last three years, they have “developed open, decentralised data infrastructure, built open-first applications to surface attribution for creators, and even prototyped our own cryptocurrency to reward creators and curators for their contributions to culture”.

But it’s the people rather than the company’s past products that Spotify is interested in. Quite what the digital firm wants the Mediachain team to work on isn’t clear, though the acquired company wrote in a blog post yesterday that “a shared data layer is key to solving attribution, empowering creators and rights owners, and enabling a more efficient and sustainable model for creativity online. The opportunity to join an organisation that shares this vision comes at a crucial time, when the relatively nascent blockchain community has few bridges to mainstream consumers, creators or the platforms they use to interact”.

As much previously reported, mediocre metadata attached to the music industry’s recordings mean streaming services often don’t know who performed on and produced a track, what song the recording contains, and who wrote, publishes and reps that song. Poor data makes it harder for services to fully credit all those involved in a track and to use that information to aid discovery tools, but more importantly makes it tricky for services to directly pay the owners and beneficiaries of song copyrights.

The streaming sector generally relies on the collecting societies to administer payments to songwriters and publishers – and, as discussed at CMU@CMW last week, some societies are better than others at that task. Meanwhile in the US, where there is no industry-wide mechanical rights society, Spotify and others have found themselves on the receiving end of lawsuits for failing to pay all the royalties due on the songs it’s streamed.

Some reckon that it is the music industry’s job to sort out its data issues, rather than relying on the streaming platforms to do it. Though Spotify made commitments about building a songs database in the wake of the aforementioned lawsuits, plus the platforms can use better data to improve the navigation and recommendation elements of their services. The Mediachain team may now be charged with fixing the bad data problem for Spotify.


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