Congress, ASCAP, BMI, the RIAA, and the NMPA all agree on one thing: The modern music industry has a major problem. Specifically, music data, ownership, and a horde licenses remain wildly disorganized.
One key solution exists: the creation a single, unified music rights database for all. This would ensure that all artists and rights holders get paid every time on every streaming music and digital radio service.
There’s just tiny little one problem. It seems that every major player in the music industry, and even the US government, has their own initiative. And, they’ve each belittled the other’s attempts to create this database.
Last summer in Congress, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA) proposed a bill to establish a searchable digital database. The database would contain historical and current copyright ownership and licensing information. Dubbed the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act, the legislation would promote a “vibrant music licensing marketplace.”
Days later, ASCAP and BMI announced plans for their own music rights database. According to a statement, both PROs had started a year before the bill’s introduction. Then, word came out that the RIAA and NMPA started work on their own unified music rights database.
Politicians and lobbying groups, as well as music publishers, immediately lambasted ASCAP and BMI’s initiative. Then, the RIAA and NMPA criticized the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act. Finally, in their talks, the RIAA and NMPA had specifically excluded ASCAP and BMI, as well as other PROs, from the creation their own music rights database.
So, what’s happened to each initiative? Well, the Transparency in Music Licensing and Ownership Act has seemingly stalled. We have yet to hear more about ASCAP and BMI’s plans, if they still exist. The same is true for the RIAA and NMPA’s planned database. And let’s not even mention the millions wasted on the failed Global Repertoire Database (GRD). PROs pulled out after claiming they couldn’t afford the “exorbitant costs” to build a database. It makes you wonder how they can suddenly afford to build one now through their own initiatives. That is, until you realize the database would form part their business models.
So, with so much infighting to “help artists get paid,” which database will ultimately emerge triumphant? Maybe one not reliant on political organizations nor PROs. Maybe one completely reliant on blockchain technology.
London-based tech startup JAAK has an idea. Using blockchain technology, the firm wants to develop a global network for intellectual property rights registration, management, and monetization. And, it wants to start with the music industry.
JAAK has announced a successful pilot its blockchain system, KORD, in partnership with leading labels, publishers, performing rights organizations, music industry service companies, and companies.
KORD operates as a decentralized network IP information. It connects identifying information across labels, publishers, PROs, songwriters, and their representatives. Users can connect to a shared data network that utilizes the Ethereum blockchain. They’d have the sole authority to insert, update, and remove their own information. This, in turn, would create a public rights and an immutable audit trail. Imagine major streaming music platforms and digital radio service across the globe employing this technology. Maybe every artist and rights holder would finally receive payment for their work after all.
Vaughn McKenzie-Landell, Freddie Tibbles, and Viktor Tron founded JAAK in 2015. As with other past (failed) initiatives, the firm’s ultimate goal is to have a single database that provides royalty and IP info.
So far, the initiative appears promising. The firm has worked with the music industry for the past few years. In fact, pilot participants include BMG, Warner Music Group, Global Music Rights, Outdustry, Phoenix Music International Ltd, Sentric, and Warner/Chappell Music.
Once the pilot has completed, JAAK will launch a broader sandbox with partners in the music industry. According to the announcement, the startup hopes to develop products and the KORD network in collaboration with these partners. The firm ultimately wants to ensure that music industry partners “address real challenges.”
Speaking on JAAK’s initiative, Sean O’Malley, COO Global Music Rights, praised the promising pilot program.
Yet, the big question remains: can JAAK truly succeed where major music industry organizations, and even the government, has failed? I guess we’ll find out soon enough. You can find out more about KORD here.
Featured image by methodshop .com (CC by 2.0)