If blockchain technology can help the commercial and contractual relationships in music keep pace with technology and the communication between artists and fans then it could be truly revolutionary, writes Nick Mason from Pink Floyd in the foreword to a new report on the subject.

The "Music on the blockchain" report from a research team at Middlesex University, continues a concerted effort led by musician and technologist Imogen Heap to get artists a fairer deal using blockchain designs. Heap has brought together members of the Ethereum community, ConsesnSys and a host of others at London's Sonos studios.

Mason said: "This report is a valuable contribution and I hope it can help inform the debate and take us forward."

According to the report, there are four main areas where blockchain could transform the music industries:

  • A single, networked database for music copyright information, rather than the many, not-quite-complete databases maintained at present;
  • fast, frictionless royalty payments, whereas payments can currently take years;
  • transparency through the value chain, allowing musicians and their managers to see exactly how much money they are owed, as opposed to a culture of non-disclosure agreements and "black boxes"; and
  • access to alternative sources of capital, with smart contracts – contracts implemented via software – potentially transforming crowdfunding and leading to the establishment of 'artist accelerators' on the model of tech start-ups.

Senior Lecturer in Popular Music and lead author, Marcus O'Dair, said in a statement: "Since the turn of the millennium, people trying to make money from recorded music have struggled with significant challenges. Music can be streamed and downloaded at the click of a button but payments to the people who actually make that music can be slow and opaque. There is also a major problem with copyright data.

"Though some of the claims made for blockchain technology are premature, it does appear to have at least the potential to transform the record industry.

"We have set out to summarise the key arguments, and to present something more nuanced than what can be a black-and-white argument between the 'for' and 'against' camps.' It is not a case of one-blockchain-fits-all.

"We're delighted to be working with the Featured Artists Coalition on this, and to be launching the report at Sonos Studio in Shoreditch with leading figures in music, tech, media law and academia."

Imogen Heap
Imogen Heap has been driving use of blockchain to make commercial arrangements in music fair and transparent