It will come as no surprise to most that the days of records, cassette tapes and CDs are ancient technological history (apart from lovers of all things retro). Yet, with the rise in streaming services such as YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music, things are looking rather uncertain for musicians keen to secure their future pay cheques. How can they be sure they’re being paid what they’re owed?
There is some hope on the horizon however; a new project from the Open Music Initiative (OMI) is aiming to change the way information associated with tracks is collected and distributed, establishing a sustainable music funding model for the digital age.
What’s gone wrong?
A problem that, until now, has received little coverage is the distribution of information. If you download or stream a song, it might tell you who the artist is, but the meta data (the extra information given to make finding data easier) often doesn’t include vital information like the session musicians or even the composer, which often leads to important contributors not getting a look-in at streaming revenue.
What are the OMI doing?
The OMI are an initiative group formed of over 200 organisations, and they’re currently working on a project which will allow for all this relevant information to be catalogued, and published. Companies such as Spotify could voluntarily include this database in their system and it would then log which music is being streamed and when and where the streaming is taking place.
The initiative is decentralised; completely neutral, and hopes to be a reference point for songwriters, session musicians and sound engineers alike to claim their stake in the projects they’ve worked on. It relies on blockchain technology to make sure that all these stakeholders get the credit they deserve.
As news broke this week of Spotify’s initial public offering, making sure artists, composers and other creators featured in their streaming service are paid and recognised for their work will be a major concern for everyone involved. Streaming services command huge numbers of users and a growing share of the market. Allocating royalties from within this developing network could have a significant impact on the shape of the industry going forward.
The OMI project is still in its beta period and currently the focus is on the US, meaning it will likely be some time before any impact is felt. For some musicians, however, this could be a valuable tool to pay attention to, particularly amongst those struggling to gain a foothold for their contributions in the established order of digital music.