We first wrote about Audius in August 2018, when it raised $5.5m for what one report described as “SoundCloud on the blockchain”. It launched just over a year later, with a “censorship-resistant, community-controlled” audio streaming service where “anyone who joins Audius can effectively become an artist, just by uploading tracks”.
Its decentralised model – music hosted on local nodes around the world – posed some thorny questions around copyrighted music and potential takedowns, with no Content ID-style system at launch to identify infringing content, and Audius unable to remove such content itself, although the company said it was working on a process for dealing with such issues.
Since then, Audius has continued developing its service. An iPhone app came out in February this year, followed by a $3.1m funding round in August. Now there’s another round to report on: $1.25m from cryptocurrency exchange Binance. Although the total may be less important than the fact that the exchange is supporting Audius’s ‘$Audio’ token – the announcement of which sent the value of that token soaring.
Audius says it has more than 40,000 artists on its platform, while its public stats suggest it currently has more than 830,000 monthly active users. That’s very small in the wider scheme of music streaming, but certainly more activity than most blockchain music services we’ve seen in the past.
On Friday, Audius held a livestream concert on Twitch featuring artists Deadmau5 and RAC to celebrate its ‘mainnet’ launch (definition here), while it has also distributed $Audio tokens to its top 10,000 artists and listeners as part of that launch.
Some of the language around all this falls into the now-tiresome blockchain-disrupto bucket (“DEAR OLD MUSIC INDUSTRY, YOUR TIME IS UP” etc), and our suspicion remains that there’s more potential in blockchain technology for helping that industry’s infrastructure to evolve, rather than in creating niche walled gardens of rightsholder-free music outside it.
Even so, having a service up and running with a tradeable token and a growing community of artists and listeners at least provides a way to study this technology in action, with the challenges and opportunities of this model alike.