Cape Town, South Africa
British singer and songwriter Imogen Heap is building what she calls a “fair trade” music industry that aims to sidestep middlemen like iTunes and Spotify and give musicians more ownership over the money and data produced by their work.
Heap’s latest song, “Tiny Human,” a ballad to her newborn daughter, debuted last year on a site called Ujo Music where users can buy the song, as well as the track’s key, tempo, and stems, using a cryptocurrency called Ether. The money goes directly to the producers, writers, and engineers involved in the song’s production.
“When someone buys a piece of music or plays a piece of music, ultimately in the future there will be no need for a middle, centralized service. The fan will be immediately paying the artist,” Heap told Quartz on Thursday (Feb. 18) at Design Indaba, an architecture and design conference in Cape Town.
The singer’s experiment with “Tiny Human” is the precursor to an entire music eco-system she’s building called “Mycelia,” named after a thread of underground fungus that grows for miles. Aside from enabling faster, direct payments for artists, Heap wants to create a free platform where musicians have control over the data created by their songs as they circulate among fans and other musicians, including the song’s credits, terms of usage dictated by the artist, where the song is played and when, and any transactions. This information is tracked using blockchain technology, a method of recording digital transactions first used for Bitcoin.
“There’s a whole world behind each song…there’s a lot of data there and a lot of wasted data that’s not being harnessed to give back to the artist,” Heap says, adding that this data can provide valuable feedback for artists. “It’s so, so important to be able to know where your fans are, what they are listening to, what is exciting to them about what you are doing.”“Tiny Human” debuted on Ujo Music, using blockchain t...