Music industry must embrace a fairer future, says Coldcut

The Great Escape 2018

The music business is ‘still stuck in the past’ and must harness emerging technologies to enable a fairer future for artists, Ninja Tune and Coldcut co-founder Matt Black tells The Great Escape.

Speaking on the Rewiring Music: New Models for a Fairer Future panel alongside PRS for Music director and songwriter Imogen Heap, he said: ‘There’s no doubt the data jungle of the music business is a tangled place. We’re evolving to learn how to handle this and the time has come for some breakthroughs and new ideas.

‘But we’re all a bit stuck in the past and we need to spring to the surface and start taking advantage of the new opportunities available here.’

The pair were discussing the advent of blockchain as a disruptive force which can bring more equality to artists, songwriters and rightsholders in the music value chain, if used correctly.

Black went on to assert that each artist has an enormous amount of data, which is their identity, assets and contracts – but there is no one central repository holding all that information.

‘There’s nowhere I can go to find out and know with confidence exactly what films Imogen’s worked on, what collaborations she’s involved with, what releases she’s put out, what her contractual position is. That would be the benefit of this “creative passport” [within blockchain] – it would be a safe, transparent and authoritative space to keep all this information.’

Heap, who’s actively involved in the development of blockchain solutions through her Mycelia initiative, added: ‘I first got involved in this when I thought to myself, “How can we create a future that makes sense to me as a musician?” I knew there was something in [blockchain]. Transparency means good business and good money.

‘I discovered lots of people who all think the same thing and we were all having conversations around bringing about transparency. But then I discovered there are lots of people who don’t think it’s such a good thing because they benefit from the opacity in our music industry…’

She continued: ‘Imagine if transparency in the value chain was possible – and did become normal? Then anyone could invest in a musician. All your fans could invest in you as an artist. That’s the future, taking away the responsibility of big funding and having your fans be micro-investors.’

The panel was moderated by Terry Tyldesley from ethical music streaming co-op Resonate.