From May 23rd to 27th the Music Tech Fest Berlin held first blockchain workshop. It was attended by approximately 25 people and took place in the beautiful buildings of the Funkhaus Berlin. The event was attended by a host of different people: representatives from streaming services, labels and collection agencies, musicians, software developers and more.

On top of that there were a bunch of presentations held remotely through Skype or Google Hangout from people like Imogen Heap, Benjie Rodgers, Daniel Harris (the founder of KendraHub), and the singer of Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. In the days of the workshop I learned about a lot of ventures and projects in the realm of music and “blockchain technology” (for instance upcoming music streaming app Jaak, which has Viktor Tron from Ethereum as one of it’s founders.)

One of the most prominent topics discussed was the question whether blockchain technology could simplify the process how creators of music can be remunerated. Several employees of the streaming service Soundcloud reported how difficult it can be to determine who to pay what, because there are so many different collection agencies sometimes even giving conflicting information. However xkcd’s famous Standards comic was brought up several times and I believe most attendees will agree that blockchain royalty schemes will more likely than not complicate things even further (at least in the short and medium term) by adding another “standard” by which rights information can be published.

Another big issue that was brought forth by artists/creators is the meager recompensation of creatives. Blockchain technology certainly has the promise to increase the share that artists receive from the money that fans pay. This could work through elimination of layers of middle-men and by making the payment flows more transparent. However I imagine that a prerequesite for this happening would be that customers embrace digital, blockchain-based currencies. Furthermore these currencies first have to solve their capacity issues. Both are still quite uncertain.

In one aspect the week didn’t meet my expectations: there was no programming workshop / hackathon and too much thought was given on how to get big stakeholders (like major labels, collection agencies etc) on board. I believe that the music industry has a major disruption coming for it in the form of a decentralised publishing process. If I let the emergence of bitcoin form my opinion, this disruption will come about by somebody starting an open source project and writing some code and not by wooing the stakeholders of the predominant system.

I want to thank the organizers Petter and Peter (founder of resonate.is) for organizing this session and Music Tech Fest Berlin for providing the location. Also there is another blog post by fellow attendee Bas Grasmayer with his recap https://medium.com/music-x-tech-x-future/the-music-industry-isnt-ready-for-the-blockchain-2df4f2cf2e0c#.x93p4srig