Is Blockchain the Future of Music Sales?

blockchain technologyThe music industry has had trouble adapting to the new 21st century model of downloading music, rather than selling it on physical media, as had been done for a century.

That’s not to say that people do not buy records or compact discs; they do.  But most people who buy music now either buy downloadable files or they subscribe to streaming services, such as Spotify of Pandora.

Artists are not too happy with the current arrangement, as they earn far less in royalties via streaming services than they do via sales of physical media.

There are several different plans at work to correct this, and they make use of so-called “blockchain” technology to facilitate the sales of downloadable music.  Blockchain technology is the one that makes Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies work, and people in the music industry believe that if you can tie the sale of a particular song or album to a transaction via cryptocurrency, then several things can happen.

Perhaps the artists would get paid more.  By only agreeing to sell their music via a technology that required payment and ensured that they’d get paid, artists might have a more reliable source of income.

Cryptography could attach a file to the buyer, making it impossible for them to share it with anyone else.

It’s possible that this technology could work, but part of the problem with cryptocurrency in general is that there are so many of them.  The success of Bitcoin spawned a number of different but similar currencies, and they’re all fighting for second place in a market that will eventually allow for relatively little competition.

blockchain technologyOthers think the entire thing is a waste of time and there may be some merit to that argument, as well.  Consumers aren’t interested in anything that makes acquiring music difficult.  Over the years, music technology has grown and developed, and one common thread among all platforms is that over time, music became easier to access and acquire.

You used to have to go to the store, buy a reel to reel tape, bring it home, thread it through your player and play the tape, only to have to rewind it when you were done.  No you just turn on your phone, call up Spotify and listen to music.

If it’s that easy now, why are people going to want to be bothered in acquiring some kind of cryptocurrency to use to buy their music?  What if the industry can’t agree on a standard?  Then what?

This likely won’t help prevent piracy, either.  Remember -people want simplicity.  If you can play the music, whether its encrypted or not, then it can be recorded, by microphones, if necessary.  Rest assured, if anything happens in the industry to make it harder for people to buy or listen to music, then other people will find ways to work around that technology.

That means, at the end of the day, that more people will likely be stealing their music to get it for free, rather than to pay for it.


Music from Your Watch…at Last

apple watchSmartwatches were supposed to be the latest “must-have” gadget, but people quickly found out that they had some serious limitations.  Sure, they looked like something Dick Tracy would use to call his crime-fighting associates, but it didn’t quite work that way.  After all, when Dick Tracy used his wrist radio, he didn’t have to have a smartphone in his pocket in order for it to work.

The newest Apple Watch 3 was supposed to fix some of the limitations of the earlier versions of the watch by incorporating LTE services into the watch. You’d be able to make and receive phone calls without having to have a smartphone handy.  That was great for people who were working out, for example, as one of the many features of the Apple Watch is the ability to track your fitness stats.  If you’re jogging and a call came in that you just had to take, you could do that.

Of course, people who work out often like to listen to music, and you’d think that if a smartwatch could make phone calls that it could also stream music so you could have something to listen to while working out without having to haul your phone around, too.

Apple promised that with the Apple Watch 3 and then the watch was released to the market…without the streaming feature.  Hmm.

A month later, and certainly later than promised, Apple has delivered a software update for the Apple Watch 3 that now allows you to engage in music streaming on the watch without having your phone handy.

Of course, there are some bugs and qualifications – it will stream music from iTunes, for example, but it’s not going to stream music from Spotify or Pandora.  And why would it?  Apple has always been pretty Apple-centric with its products, and the Apple Watch is no exception.

There are some other drawbacks to streaming music on the Apple watch, as well.  You’ll likely need to use Siri for your music requests due to the relative lack of a suitable user interface on the watch.  If you’re OK with verbally requesting your music, you’ll be OK.  There are also reportedly some interoperability problems with the streaming music feature and the built-in Radio feature that may require a bit of a learning curve to work around.  You’ll also have to pay to use the streaming service using the Music feature, but you new that, right?

Small steps.  They’ll fix these problems in time.  In the meantime, the ability to stream music is there.  They’ve also added a few other fixes to existing problems, including the ability to manually disconnect from a wi-fi network, as some users were having problems with the watch switching over from Bluetooth to LTE to wi-fi, and so on.

They have also fixed an issue that prevented some Apple Watch 1 users from charging their watch, which would definitely be an inconvenience.  If there’s one thing that’s a universal problem with smartwatches of all kinds, its the fact that they are power hungry.  If you can’t recharge, you’ll have some problems.