Will Audius Dethrone Spotify? Musician and Entrepreneur Damian Keyes Takes A Closer Look.

5 min read

With Spotify paying between $0.003 – $0.005 per stream on average to artists, it’s only the most popular artists that will ever stand to make a decent income on Spotify from their music. Meanwhile, in the Blockchain world, a new Web3 frontier has been opened for artists and musicians to get paid more fairly for their art.

BIMM founder, musician and youtuber Damian Keyes weighs up Audius as the potential new king or queen of the Music Streaming kingdom. The challenges ahead and the opportunities for musicians to build their foundations and stake their claim in this wide open musical landscape.

Here is the transcript below.

Is Spotify losing its grip and about to be dethroned by Audius as the new king of the streaming services? 

And are artists about to get a fair reward for their royalties?

All right back it up let’s take a step back and have a look at how we got here. In case you haven’t heard there is a new kid on the block – Audius. But there’s nothing really new about this, after all we’ve all heard about tidal, and Deezer , and Pandora,  and Amazon Music, and Quobus and Tunzeel, and Music Boom , and Geosarvan…

There are plenty of music streaming services and Audius is a new one. But this one has a big difference, those magic three little words blockchain. Now, this is where things get a little bit complicated and I have spent the last two days reading blogs and watching videos mostly by dudes who live in their basements and play dungeons and dragons, and will never ever get laid but I’m going to try and make this as simple as possible for us real musicians and not people who have handkerchiefs up their sleeve.

Audius is a streaming service but it’s on a decentralized platform which basically means that the music isn’t housed on Audius the platform. Instead it’s housed across a distribution network, so in layman’s terms what this means is there’s no middleman so as an artist you can charge whatever you want for your art and your music, which incidentally is quite weird isn’t it now Spotify is thought of as the middle man. Whereas it used to be the labels that were the middleman and then Spotify came and disrupted everything and it was like oh fantastic this is amazing, now we can go straight to the consumer and everything is done in Spotify. And all of a sudden now Spotify is the bad guy and the middleman and now there are far too many middlemen and now someone else comes in to disrupt and move across the middleman to basically be a middleman.

But with that said audience has said it’s here to put artists first not that we haven’t heard that before and it’s also said that audience is here as a non-profit organization, not that we haven’t heard that before well, so this is the answer to everyone’s prayers. Artists get to make music, sell it themselves, and reap the benefits of the rewards themselves. I mean what could be better? 

Well technically yes and no because this is a political shitstorm, this is a hot potato and even governments have been stepping in. The uk government recently summoned the three major labels to give evidence in the houses of parliament to justify how much money is going to the artist which is around about 12%. 

The problem here is the uk government seems to have listened to the evidence and said ‘sounds bad what do you think we should do about it’? and everyone else has said I don’t know what you think we should do about it. And everyone seems to have kind of gone I don’t know let’s just wait and see what happens. 

Meanwhile, UMG, Universal Music Group, the most powerful entity in the whole of the music industry has just posted record profits and is now worth an estimated 55 billion dollars.

So the labels are literally making it rain whilst their artists are sometimes getting royalty checks for thousands of dollars instead of millions of dollars when they are creating the art itself. So the time is right for something to happen, an artist to take control and yes in theory Audius and blockchain technology could be the answer. Therefore giving control back to artists to be able to sell their own work and make that money back.

This brings in a whole world of new ideas to be able to sell including NFTs or a Shopify store where you can actually sell one song or an album or your entire back catalog or even your entire future catalog for one lump sum. Very very clever, what on earth is going on but there are three major issues…

Number one is consumption. At the moment people pay around about 10 bucks a month for their music and I mean all music for 10

bucks a month, and it doesn’t even have to be 10 bucks. You can get it completely for free as long as you don’t mind having some adverts. So getting people to change platforms is doable but very very difficult especially when you’re saying the main reason why you need to change is that the artists get paid more.

Now the reality is we’ve tried this with Jay-Z and Tidal and it didn’t work because people, well they’re very selfish. Then there’s the concept and idea of Blockchain technology. 

Now your average joe is a bit scared of blockchain technology and the idea of buying some kind of tokens to be able to spend that on music that they listen to whilst that sounds futuristic and space age, is going to scare the hell out of a lot of normal people who just want their music which they already get for free or 10 bucks a month. 

I mean we are still living in a time where half the population still thinks CDs are still a thing, so the idea to go from CDs to MP3s to streaming and now into this futuristic technology with Audius, it’s not going to happen overnight.

But then there’s the big one the mic drop moment which is the labels themselves.

Over the last 70 years the labels have owned and controlled music. If you think about the last few years yes you can go and make your own music but if you think about the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s.  All of the greatest music that’s out there, well that’s still owned by labels.

The labels are libraries of music and let me tell you, things are going very very well for those labels so they are not going to be early adopters. They are not going to rock the boat and say give us a go let’s see what happens, they are

going to be against this because think about it…

Words like decentralized, that works great for Dave down the road but it doesn’t work so well for Warner music who are literally churning millions and millions of dollars every single week. And this is a huge problem because without the major labels on board that means 70 years worth of music is now not on this platform.

So it’s great for up-and-coming music and at the moment, Audius is very electronic heavy. But what about the likes of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift and the weekend and while we scoff and say it’s not real music. 

But look at the numbers Ed Sheeran – 70 million monthly listeners. The weekend – 70 million monthly listeners. Justin Bieber – 83 million monthly listeners. 

The problem is from a consumption habit people go to Spotify for that music, and if you say you can still do that but if you want to go and get your other new music go to this new place, most people go ‘i’m not going to use two places, I’m just going to go to one’ so if we’re talking new artists and new music and new future then yeah, this could be incredibly powerful. Especially for you an artist who owns and controls their music 

But let’s be under no illusion. The labels are not going to be there to just

roll over and give up what they’ve got which is incredible control and power right now. 

But what this is is an incredible step in the right direction and a disruption. What this is doing is starting to hand more power to more artists and in doing so, there is a future where artists can be looked after hopefully sooner rather than later.

And who knows the labels might be forced to step into it but right now the most important thing for me is when you are an up-and-coming artist the most important thing is building your that audience so that you can get that return of investment. And I would not want to see up-and-coming artists spending lots and lots of time, effort, and energy trying to understand and learning new technologies when the most important thing to do is getting their music heard and building the audience first. 

This technology will develop and hopefully quickly, and whether it’s Audius or whether it’s someone similar that comes along after Audius, we are seeing the dawn of new technology that hopefully will look after artists.

But right now we have the right strategy. Build your platform build your house build your audience, there are plenty of ways of bringing in that return of investment. But we cannot do that without great music and a loyal audience. 

So, is Audius the future or is it another flash in the pan? Or is this blockchain technology the way forward to actually get musicians paid the royalties they deserve?

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