Consensus Systems (ConsenSys), the New York City-based blockchain venture production studio, plans to move its Ujo Music rights management and royalty payments platform into closed beta mode during 1Q 2017, according to Jesse Grushack, a ConsenSys Director and Ujo product lead.
The Ujo Music “open music” platform is designed to concentrate artists’ identities and businesses within artist-owned websites, where their content is marketed, royalty shares quickly distributed via digital currency — and traditional industry entanglements avoided.
Grushack made it clear that he sees Ujo Music as the ConsenSys stake-in-the-ground for technology innovation, related investment and collaboration, and in entrepreneurship tied to industries producing creative content.
Grushack told Bitcoin Magazine that the closed beta is likely to admit only digital-music producers, initially. Ujo is now at proof of concept stage.
Roughly six months ago, Grushack said, he and his colleagues began a series of "deep dives into the music industry."
When they came up for air, they realized that while it would be tough to remedy music industry problems that result from power-jockeying, regulatory and policy impediments, and other factors, they had at least one clean shot on goal: "We realized we could remove the majority of the administrative burden behind a lot of this stuff, shorten the payments process, and make music more open and licensable."
Grushack said he no longer thinks mainly of "disrupting" the music industry because he realizes "a lot of times music labels still have an important role to play, as in artist management.”
Equally important, he said, is achieving "a delicate balance while trying to simply shift the music industry," and awaken labels and others to ways blockchain infrastructure and tools can help them dramatically expand the numbers of artists they can reach internationally, and to sources of revenue beyond radio and television.
Veterans of the U.S. industry, in particular, are likely to be galvanized when they experience how Bitcoin and blockchain allow them, for example, to reach out to other parties in Australia and "absolutely trust their access," he added.
"All of this is still basically really young, and I think we really have a lot of learning and a lot of testing to see what really works in this space," he emphasized. As was true in the early days of the internet, he said, there are still many tools to be built.
Nonetheless, he said it’s good to keep in mind that the Ethereum platform, upon which ConsenSys is builtis still very young, although its progress over the past 18 months has been fierce.
The steady flow of new offerings suggest blockchain-adoption momentum is growing in the music sector, he said, citing as an example the recent announcement of the Berlin-based blockchain-enabled collaborative called Resonate, a stream-to-own entry.
Moreover, he said, it was just a year ago that the Ujo team employed its then-prototype platform to support U.K.-based singer-songwriter, Imogen Heap, in the release of her single, Tiny Humans, on the Ethereum blockchain. Users bought licenses to download, stream, remix and sync the song. Payments were automatically split on the blockchain and sent directly to all who collaborated with Heap.
Through its tech studio operation, ConsenSys builds decentralized applications and developer and end user components deemed essential for services and business models that are destined for the blockchain. In its venture role, the company aims to serve as a “hub” organization. Its roadmap features 13 “spoke” pathways or domains, within which it creates, acquires, invests in and otherwise collaborates for development and advancement of related blockchain initiatives.
ConsenSys announced on November 1 that SingularDTV has adopted its uPort application, which features a self-sovereign identity and key management system built on the Ethereum blockchain and includes a mobile app, Ethereum smart contracts and open source libraries.
The brand "Ujo" is derived from an Esperanto expression for "container," and was chosen to suggest the infrastructure, assets and security of the blockchain-based offering, Grushack explained.
A year ago, Bitcoin Magazine listed PeerTracks and Bittunes, as well as Ujo, as blockchain startups intent on enabling performing artists and others to have a freer hand in safeguarding and commercializing their assets, while speeding up payments to all who have rights to proceeds.That same story included comments from founding Ujo team member, Phil Barry, a legacy industry veteran who played an instrumental role in advancing Ujo Music to prototype, but then exited that team early this year.
Barry subsequently established Blokur, headquartered in the London area.
Reached for comment today, Barry said Blokur remains generally in “stealth” mode and is not likely to be more visible until 2017. The Blokur domain was created in February, according to WhoIs.
Barry explained he began working on the Blokur business in earnest a few months ago. He said his team includes legacy industry veterans and outside advisors. The advisors include, for example, a former Performing Rights Organization (PRO) executive, he confirmed.
“We are working at the moment with some of the big music companies and big music services on pilot projects,” he said.
He characterized his early work on Ujo as yielding “a very useful tool to get feedback from the the music industry about what blockchain might look like” in the music context.
Asked his view of the legacy music industry’s posture regarding blockchain adoption and new business and operating models, Barry said he sees “growing appreciation that this technology could solve real problems in the music industry and that those problems are universally understood to be big enough to invest in” to create remedies.
Barry noted that many individuals within the legacy industry are personally very interested in blockchain, but are also extremely cautious not to associate publicly their employers’ brands with their personal exploration of the matter.
“It’s fair to say that, at this stage, many people don't have a deep understanding of how blockchain technology works and how it will provide the value.” So, he said, the job is to “prove to them that it has value, rather than talking to them about blockchain technology, which, at the end of the day, is just a tool, just a technology.”