THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN a gulf between the few musicians who make it big and the many, many others who have to do something else to pay the bills. That was true in the days of Mozart, who died in debt. It was true in the golden age of rock music, when record companies promoted a few stars like The Beatles and Michael Jackson. And it’s still true in the age of Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services, when most musicians get pennies for their work.
“If you’re on Spotify right now, listening to my band, you’d have to stream one of our songs 786 times for me to be able to buy a single cup of coffee,” said Joey La Neve DeFrancesco of the punk rock group Downtown Boys during a protest in March.
George Howard, a professor at Berklee College of Music in Boston, is out to make the future more just. He’s introducing new technology to make sure musicians get a fair shake.
“It’s tragic,” he says. “My main thrust in all my work these days is to ensure that no more will any of us create tools or applications for artists without artists being in the room.”
Howard’s experience includes heading up an independent record label and advising clients such as National Public Radio and singer Carly Simon. More recently, he’s invested a lot of his time in blockchain—the online technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Although blockchain is mostly used for financial transactions, Howard says it can also be used for copyrights and contracts to protect artists and help them earn more money.
The advantage of blockchain is that it’s decentralized. There’s no middleman to take a percentage and no controlling banks or record companies to slow things down. Howard and colleagues at Berklee and MIT have started a blockchain platform called RAIDAR, designed to help musicians connect with potential clients (perhaps filmmakers or video game designers who need theme music) and get paid for their work without losing ownership. When a client wants to license music, a record of the transaction is kept on multiple computer servers connected online—literally, a chain of ledgers, or “blocks.” That keeps everyone honest, because if one block is altered it won’t match the others. The blockchain uses “smart contracts”—computer programs that issue licenses and process payments.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
City of Water
As climate change triggers sea-level rise and extreme weather, even New York, one of the world's best-prepared cities, may not be doing enough
Bans Off Our Bodies
MoveOn and Abortion Access activists rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court on May 3 after the leak of a draft opinion overturning the Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
Slower Ways to See the World
Travel should be an act of discovery, not a checklist to complete. Slow travel is an invitation to explore things at a pace that allows you to absorb your surroundings as you move through them-on terms that are meaningful for both you and the people and places you encounter. It may seem counterintuitive that by doing less, you will see more, but that's exactly the idea we propose in our book, Kinfolk Travel (Artisan). Following are a sampling of the destinations from the book, meant to inspire thoughtful travel and spark deeper ways of thinking about new journeys and destinations.
Faith and Murder
Under the Banner of Heaven explores both a brutal crime and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
Crypto In Your 401(k)?
Just because you may soon be able to buy Bitcoin in your workplace retirement plan doesn’t mean you should.
Summer Music Festivals to Get Your Groove On
What seemed a relic of the past amidst COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing precautions are now back in full force. This summer promises a music festival resurgence, with events taking place all over the world. Across festivals, lineups are both highlighting international talent and championing local artists. From Afro Nation on the pristine Portuguese seaside to Glastonbury in rural England to Fuji Rock in a Japanese forest, live music lovers of every genre have a lot to anticipate. Let the music play!
‘Division of the World Is Inevitable'
Countries need to choose whether to align with autocrats or democracies, says a former NATO Secretary-General
Blue -or Bluer
In Pennsylvania and Texas, democratic voters face clear ideological choices that could signal the party's direction
Betrayers in Blue
HBO's We Own This City tells the true story of the crooked cops who preyed on Baltimore for years