Musician Imogen Heap presents Mycelia @ KCL Blockchain

On Tuesday March 26, multi-grammy award winning songwriter, producer and musician Imogen Heap addressed a 200-strong crowd.

Ms Heap came to discuss her company, Mycelia, a blockchain-supported “research and development hub for music makers.” She has been developing this not-for-profit company with a team over the last few years as a system of giving artists full acknowledgement, accessibility of information and smart contracts for streamlined payments to musicians and songwriters.

“I believe in 10 years or less the music industry will be a fruitful place to earn a living,” Heap began optimistically. However she went onto say that because of the current industry norms of streaming, record label hegemony and inefficient payment systems, the landscape is only profitable for the most well-known.

Heap sees the accessibility of data as a solution to this problem: “Companies can share data and potentially get paid via an interaction of that data.” This is where the Blockchain would act as a ledger to store information and contracts that would rapidly expedite these processes.

Currently, 50% of royalties from songs don’t reach their intended recipients due to the complex of web of labels, advertisers, streaming services and others who often come before the artists themselves.

Heap emphasised the harm to musicians, especially those less well-established: “It’s really hard to do business with songs.”

Subverting the paradigm

In 2016, Heap and her team decided to make her single ‘Tiny Human’ available for free and then to collect all the data of sales and buyers.

This Creative Passport (CP) method similarly democratises the music industry by creating a comprehensive crediting system and mutually verifiable artistic profile network. The CP also contains all the information (personal, musical, legal, licensing etc.) supplied by individual artists themselves.

Heap saw the CP as the future of artists’ agency in the music world: “The distillation of the artist’s identity” in the CP would put them back in charge of their own brand and store.

This is linked to the Digital Wallet ID that facilitates automatic payments. These smart contracts are calibrated individually for every song/album so that different featured musicians are all paid their agreed share without delay or label mediation.

Predictably, labels have been reluctant to engage with innovative technology they fear could cut their supremacy. Heap combatted this by saying Mycelia was “not a threat but an augmentation of a limited system.”

According to Heap, taking control of data will be the future for musicians to make a success out of a tough career: “Until we get our data sorted, we’ll always be in the back seat.”

The ideology behind Mycelia and its features is about letting musicians take control and fairly reap the profits of their work. The software is free for artists; only companies pay to access its data.

The software is reaching its later stages of development and soon will be readily available. Heap encouraged any musicians out there to sign up and get their name out on an equitable platform that prioritises them. “How can we make it really easy to let music boom?”

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