Guns N’ Roses Drummer Uses Crypto to Change Music Industry
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Matt Sorum, formerly of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, is lending his name and experience to a new crypto funding project, Artbit, in an effort to eliminate the age-old middle-person between artists and consumers.
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Former Guns N’ Roses Drummer Matt Sorum Wants Artists to Get Paid What They’re Due
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Matt Sorum explains, “My interest is in cutting the middleman. That’s been something on artists’ minds for years. There’s all these people you got to pay along the way. With blockchain, imagine if you bought a song online for 99 cents and that money was automatically distributed straight to all the contributors—the producer, all the writers of that song. With this technology, the money can go into everybody’s wallets automatically, it doesn’t go into a bank account where somebody’s making all that money and interest,” he told Yahoo Finance.
It might be difficult to understand how much has changed in such a small period of time for the music industry. For most of pop music’s history, distribution has largely been based on government licensed radio stations. A cartel arose, similar to the taxi industry, as coveted licenses were purchased, and in tandem a label industry emerged alongside. The two worked hand-in-hand through payola to essentially make contrived markets.Matt Sorum (top, left)
The same then extended to the concert circuit, as both radio stations and labels began to siphon profits due almost entirely to limiting artist availability and access. The system, in more or less this form, lasted until the mid 1990s. A shot at hearing a struggling artist, someone listeners might love equally or more than label-approved products, was near zero – labels, radio stations, concert promoters, and later Music Television (MTV) had a very lucrative lock.
With the advent of peer-to-peer file distribution over the nascent internet, the industry’s foundations shook to their core. And in 2018, for sure the music industry as described above still exists in some form, but it is a shadow of its former self. Mr. Sorum has a unique perspective in this regard. He’s lived through the old system, succeeded wildly in it with bands such as The Cult, Guns N’ Roses, and Velvet Revolver. He’s lending his stardom and experience to a payment and concert hosting project called Artbit to finally end that system.
Eliminating the Middle-Person
“This whole crypto economy, this is the future. To me it’s like the new rock and roll… Cutting out the middleman, they’ve done it with Airbnb, they’ve done it with Uber. The community is running the world now. Direct source. Traditionally what’s happened in music for decades is that the artist is the last guy to get paid. At Artbit, we’re going to make it the first guy to get paid,” Mr. Sorum said.
Artbit is built on top of a distributed ledger platform, Hashgraph, a controversial blockchain replacement. It’s a way to bring smart contracts to the music industry and beyond. Mr. Sorum’s hope is to create what the company refers to as “curatorial public,” essentially eliminating an intermediary. How that is exactly accomplished is still fuzzy, but the company explains artists are to be paid automatically, directly. Using a wallet, no intermediary between artist and consumer, transactions are peer-to-peer.
Mr. Sorum stresses, “As we all know, platforms like Spotify, only a very small percentage of artists can even make money on that. Any new or young artist has really got to work really hard to even get on the front page of a platform like Spotify—and even at that point you can’t really monetize your art. With Artbit, we’re going to have direct access, people are going to be able to get online right away, not be served a bunch of ads, and have a direct community to be able to monetize their craft now, with no middleman, direct payout, with a wallet, with crypto, and a community that’s safe and secure, powered by Hashgraph.”
If all goes well, the company plans to expand and include some version of a tokenizing initial coin offering (ICO). It’s a gutsy move in this regulatory environment, as the US Securities and Exchange Commission has been particularly aggressive regarding ICOs and especially those with celebrity endorsements (street artist Shepard Fairey is an advisor to the project as well). Artbit expects to formally launch later this year. And while it’s not exactly a trend, it also isn’t a new idea: underground label Arena experimented with a similar format, and India’s Ziro Music Festival also gave crypto a try last year.
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