So I am a musician. I've written some songs. They are on SoundCloud right now. How do I attach an NFT to my song, "Monsieur Bon", so when it gets picked up and becomes the fave song of French bistros across the world, I get to retire a nickel at a time?
There are a several moving parts here:
- Your music has been uploaded to SoundCloud. Soundcloud doesn't appear to subscribe to anyone's audio fingerprinting services. Let's instead suggest that you've put it up on iTunes because now it's in GraceNote, which means it's everywhere.
- IF there were an agreement between GraceNote and all of its subscribed vendors, whenever one of those vendors queried the GraceNote database and found your song, and
- IF there was a mechanism in place that allowed GraceNote to access the location where it was queried
- THEN Gracenote could query that location to see if it had signed onto a mechanical royalty contract with ASCAP/BMI/Whoever,
- IF you had registered with ASCAP/BMI/Whoever,
- THEN ASCAP/BMI/Whoever throws you a nickel worth of mechanical royalties.
You'll notice that we have yet to hit a smart contract or NFT. This is mostly you kowtowing to the man, a bistro kowtowing to the man, Soundcloud collecting rent for middle-manning shit and ASCAP/BMI/Whoever shaking everyone down for a nickel. This is probably one reason outfits like Spotify and iTunes haven't moved forward with this; it's a consumer nightmare and nobody wants it.
Instead, let's launch Don-b-a-dick.tunes, which has a dapp running on the Ethereum mainnet.
- You upload your music, which Donbadic fingerprints. Each tune has an NFT that says it's your music within the Donbadic universe.
- Donbadic has millions of NFTs, each specifying who owns what track. It's also got a fingerprint database.
- The Donbadic app allows all users to browse all content (or, for example, content that the rights holders permit based on whatever their contract specifies - I could lock out residents of Kentucky if Donbadic gives me the opportunity to geofence for Kentucky, for example, or I could mark my shit as explicit and require an opt-in from users). You dump ten bucks into Donbadic and set how much you're willing to pay to listen to a song. Donbadic looks up your payment, the payment specified in your NFT, and executes the transaction between the user and you.
- Here's where things could be simple or complicated: Donbadic could only show you songs you can stream for $0.000002 or songs you can stream for $0.02 or songs you can stream for free. You could unlock an artist for ten cents a month. You could specify any unique IP could listen to any unique NFT four (and only four) times. You could go Wu Tang on it and put a track up there that can be played once by the first person to pay you a million dollars and then deletes itself from the database forever.
- On the performative side you could set up your bistro's Donbadic player to adjust your royalty payments based on the number of IPs your router is reporting at any given moment. As a Donbadic member, your Donbadic player might have a microphone on that listens to whether or not any other Donbadic music is playing, regardless of whether or not it's coming from your player. You could do obnoxious things like charge more for it being loud enough for more than three people to hear. You could do things like adjust your playlist based on how whether the mechanical rights for any given song cost more than the formula you've specified. Artists could do things like insist that their goth metal can only be played after local sunset.
- And the amount it costs Donbadic to run their contract depends on how much code they're executing on the blockchain. That's the true genius of Ethereum - you pay per clock cycle. Ether is the big number, gwei is what you pay gas in and gwei is the currency that allows you to literally buy computational power on the blockchain. Most of this? You'll offload it somewhere it doesn't cost you anything but rights execution you want to run as lean and mean as possible where it can be verified. Might not be the main net, might be a side chain, might be a private chain - but if it's on the ETH mainnet then you're burning a certain small amount of gwei to do the work. And if your gas price is too low your app stops. And if your gas price is too high you go out of business.
- But if you get it in that sweet spot? Then the money automatically goes from the guys playing to the guys composing through whatever complicated route they've set without you having to do a thing. And it always works. And you can charge 1% or 0.5% or 0.005% and if you've got a bigger pool to work from, you win and if you have a smaller pool but lower fees, you also win and ASCAP/BMI/Whoever STARVES because fuck those guys, truly.
It would seem to me that a single blockchain could be established that was "goobster's music" and any time I write a new song I could add it to that chain. But for that to be "real" that blockchain needs to be hosted in many places, by people who neither know me, or are motivated to help me out.
Register the fingerprints with anyone who brokers your music and you're done. The whole point is to make sure that your rights are managed by an organization that will enforce them. New song, new fingerprint. Do it with one NFT(contract), do it with many. Put some songs on one organization, some on another. It's still mechanical rights, there's still mechanical royalty management, you're just no longer reliant on an organization squeezing the falefel shops for playing Britney Spears. The falafel shops are gonna have to get squeezed - don't get me wrong. But considering the overwhelming marjority of money collected by ASCAP/BMI/Whoever went to ASCAP/BMI/Whoever, you've now got Jerry's Falafel paying Goobster .000003 cents per song because he likes you but kleinbl00 he only plays because the music ain't bad... for free. Maybe Friday and Saturday nights he splurges up to $1 an hour for music because it matters and donbadic throws a bunch of cool stuff at him that he doesn't hear otherwise. So he takes that playlist, brings it home where he isn't going to pay anything (he's a private customer now, not a business) and he decides his business is willing to pay $3 to stream Cat Power whenever he feels like until Easter.
Sky's the limit.
And... what physically happens to my song "Monsieur Bon"? Is there a steganographic encoding of its serial number/blockchain in the audio file itself? A metadata field?
Sure could be. It all comes down to the proper balance of trust, enforceability and portability. You aren't putting your music on the blockchain, you're putting a legal representation of your music, as well as the legal terms and conditions for its playback, on the blockchain.
Assuming YouTube wanted to do the right thing and flag copyright infringement when someone downloads my song and uses it for their YouTube channel's theme song... what is YouTube looking for, and at, to confirm ownership of that track?
Youtube is very deliberately not looking. That's the important distinction: The DMCA gives rights holders the right to petition for any material in violation to be taken down. No petition? No takedown. Because it's a user-centric platform, it lets people upload whatever. Meanwhile rights holders hire mercenaries to cruise around looking for their content. Youtube will most assuredly take your fingerprints... and for a fee (of course for a fee!) they'll enforce your rights for you but that's power-of-attorney shit and just another grift for them. My roommate would spend his weekends looking for bootleg NFL and NBA games for $15 an hour but NHL? Who cares those guys are cheapskates. It comes down to who's willing to pay.
(And honestly, I think they WOULD want to do this, because it is impossible/trivial/flexible and much easier than paying a bunch of people to listen to and manually flag tracks.)
Imagine instead UsTube. You upload your content as well as setting your rights. People browse videos and if they watch yours, some pathetic microtransaction bounces between their account and yours (which might only have funds because advertisers have topped you up in exchange for watching the MyPillow guy eight times a day). UsTube takes money for hosting, or maybe they don't, maybe UsTube is just an index with pointers. Maybe UsTube's smart contract will automagically transfer the ownership of any clip from you to Universal if the fingerprint matches any portion of Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Instead of people with an incentive to not do the right thing, the "right thing" is mathematically bound.
Smart contracts aren't a magic bullet. What they are is a mechanism whereby the sticky stuff that we pay zombies and flacks to do happens automatically when certain conditions are met. It turns every transaction into escrow, eliminates the trust, eliminates the verification, eliminates the overhead.
Youtube is a big-ass company with lots of employees. Once UsTube is coded, it's an autonomous program that only needs to be maintained. Donbadic is mostly marketing - you're getting enough creators and enough users to rub dicks together so that magic happens.
That's really what we're seeing right now: the network effects on NFTs are juuuuust high enough that the normies are going "WTF is this shit I hate it" whereas before they were at "you spent how much for a picture of a cat LOL kill yourself."
Thing is? Spotify pulled in eight billion dollars last year. With smart contracts you could do it for AWS hosting and give the rest back to the musicians. Or split the difference - charge half as much as Spotify and give half back to the musicians. Or write a whole 'nuther smart contract that does the advertising.
We're absolutely surrounded by SaaS bullshit that's entirely parasitic on our lifestyles. NFTs and smart contracts can completely fucking eliminate almost all of it. Right now? We're at the "when I stuff the earpiece of my phone in this screamy box I can play Zork on my typewriter" stage of adoption.
NFTs and smart contracts are the thing that gets us to the thing.