FAB Use Cases: Music, Entertainment and Media
In this series, we tackle different potential use cases of Fast Access Blockchain and how we can build a better world through our solutions.
New Applications, New Business Models, New Possibilities
Applications which are an ideal fit for blockchain technology have the following characteristics:
- Involve multiple organizations
- Where trust is key, or trust is presently severely eroded
- Proof is key
- Involve exchange/transfer of assets or value
- Involve data sharing or presently suffers from silo’d data
- Benefit from micro transactions/streaming
- Have opportunities for new business models, products or services
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Perhaps the most obvious application of blockchain technology in music, entertainment and media is to dis-intermediate content aggregators such as iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, and Netflix via decentralized applications (DApps) that are not owned or controlled by any one organization. Right now artists are paid paltry sums for their work; as an example, Spotify pays artists anywhere between $0.004 and $0.0084 USD per stream.
By using DApps, artists will be able to receive the full value of their work, without a middleman cost, more fairly compensating content creators for their work. This would also connect artists and content creators more directly to consumers, and provide creators with greater transparency and control as to where, how and by whom content was being consumed. Direct payment in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency is also another necessary prerequisite for allowing artists to reach a worldwide market without an intermediary handling payment and currency exchange.
The whole area of digital rights management (DRM) is ideally suited to being re-invented by blockchain technology due to its immutable public ledger capabilities. Content can be cryptographically signed and watermarked and therefore traceable to the original creator(s) via the blockchain ledger. As rights are assigned from one user or distributor to another (for example, a song is used in a movie or ad, or a movie is played on an airline’s in-flight entertainment system), this is also recorded in the blockchain ledger, providing transparent traceability of the entire distribution chain.
In parallel, content metadata can include the cryptographic signature of the source, the content + metadata cryptographically signed by the licensee. This proves that the content has been obtained from an official (non-pirated) source and that the license terms have been respected and royalties due have been paid. This is analogous to how the bitcoin blockchain records proof of ownership of any amount of bitcoin.
Perhaps in the future, if someone finally solves the end-to-end encryption problem, all content can be securely custom encoded right up to the internals of the playing device, such that it can only be played on the device specifically licensed to play the content. Blockchain technology is one of the key missing pieces that enables this possibility.
Ticket scalping is a major issue in the music industry. Scalpers buy tickets to concerts and shows in bulk and sell them for a larger rate to end users. You’ve probably seen them outside of your city’s football or basketball stadium hawking tickets to last minute buyers. The new breed of scalpers mass purchase tickets online using sophisticated bots. These bots work faster than any human can to purchase all the Taylor Swift tickets within a second of the purchasing portal being opened. They also have the ability to evade CAPTCHA scans.
Even before bots come into the picture, almost half of tickets are sold or given to industry insiders before the public such as agents, marketers, venue staff, family members, sponsors, labels and contest winners. Bots make a small market smaller and more daunting.
Bands such as the Foo Fighters have fought against this practice by selling tickets only at box offices to in-person buyers, but this is not a long term solution.
For live entertainment, such as concerts and shows, a useful application could be electronic tickets that are not transferable (i.e. cannot be resold) as a mechanism to prevent scalpers and scalper bots from purchasing large numbers of tickets to be resold at a large profit, depriving legitimate customers from purchasing them originally. This would also eliminate the problem of counterfeit tickets.
Perhaps one of the most exciting possibilities is streaming payment models, where content is paid for by the second or by the minute with micropayments which might be tiny fractions of a cent, all enabled by smart contracts. This was not practical before the advent of blockchain technology where transaction processing costs were high, also with the middleman taking a comparatively large cut. This can be further enhanced by smart contracts that offer different pricing for different usage licenses, such as one time play, n-time play, perpetual play, play with ads, or ad-free. Some have even proposed the idea of digital scarcity, where the price of content increases with each new new consumer.
Another emerging use case is blockchain based content publishing and blogging platforms primarily to combat fake news. Fake news and the use of propaganda has reared back into the pubic consciousness after the 2016 US Presidential Election and the use of fake news stories to demonize different political movements, peoples and politicians by many different actors. False articles and memes could be seen on major social sites and news aggregators such as Facebook, Reddit, Twitter and YouTube.
The backlash against this problem has spurred the leaders of these companies to crack down on this propaganda epidemic even if it may have adverse effects on their bottom. Mark Zuckerberg has even made it Facebook’s mandate to act as a news aggregator and cut down on the problem, going against their longtime stance as an open public forum so that they could not be held liable for content on their platform. (No wonder Facebook is looking into Blockchain usage) https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10103269806149061
Even Youtube has started cracking down on conspiracy videos on it’s platform, through punitive measures and directly linking to Wikipedia.
Blockchain based solutions for these issues are varied. Most of the proposed systems in this space include the idea of using the wisdom of the consumer audience to rate or vote on content, building up the reputation of good content authors and hopefully driving out fake news authors. Advertising revenue may be split amongst authors based on their overall reputation or content ratings.
Specialized fact checkers could also be incentivized through smart contract to fact check major stories or cross reference with legal papers, police/court documents and published scholarly articles. Payments would be delivered after a set amount of fact checkers have come to a consensus on major fact points. Ratings of fact checkers could be determined based on number of corroborated stories they’ve been a part of, as well as other factors.
By Ken Tang and Eugene Cofie
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