Blockchain’s Solution to the latest Music Industry Manipulation Claims


Just a few days ago, music distribution giant Tidal has been accused of manipulating sales figures in favor of the wife of one of the company’s owners, Beyonce, and one his friends, Kayne West. This alleged manipulation would have changed revenue distribution, negatively affecting other artists that would have earned less than their fair share of the payout. Claims such as this are not unusual in the arts industry in the digital era. Small independent artists, in particular, are often said to be disadvantaged by current distribution models.

But how is this relevant to a blockchain and cryptocurrency website? Well, digital art protection and distribution is a key application in which the blockchain can provide a transparent and fair model. To put it simple terms: With a decentralized blockchain-based system, it would be extremely difficult for a distributor to manipulate sales figures and favor one artist over another.

Digital Art Management

Digital art is a type of asset well suited for being represented on the blockchain. Such assets can be implemented in the form of non-fungible tokens. In contrast to fungible tokens (think bills or coins), items represented as a non-fungible token can differ individually and have different values. For example, songs might be represented as non-fungible tokens, with each song being different, having a different price and a different owner (copyright holder). Of course, ownership may be transferred by trading the token. Each song may also have a list of license holders, that have purchased the right to listen to the song.

Non-fungible tokens are even standardized on the Ethereum platform now. The ERC-721 standard provides a common interface, allowing interoperability across different applications.

Payment Models

Blockchains also come with built-in payment systems in the form of cryptocurrencies and tokens. A blockchain-based system allows paying for access to digital art in cryptocurrency in a variety of models. For example, a user may pay a small amount each time they stream a song, or by lifetime access with a one-off payment. Other possibilities are subscription models and exclusive licenses that allow using the song for commercial purposes. All this can be managed transparently through blockchain transactions.

Alternative Licensing Models

The blockchain also allows for alternative models that were not previously possible for digital assets. For instance, it would be possible to create a limited edition of a digital painting. A fixed number of copies with individual serial numbers could be sold, with the blockchain guaranteeing that copies are indeed originals and that no additional copies have been produced and sold.

Copyright Register

The blockchain can also take on a notary role in digital arts management by acting as copyright register. By saving timestamped cryptographic fingerprints of a digital art items, artists can register their copyright claim. In such a system, artists can prove that at a certain date and time, they did indeed own a precise version of a certain item, disproving later claims.

With a non-fungible token-based approach, it is even possible to realize copyright transfers easily, in a standardized way.

Some Example

All this may sound futuristic, but there are already existing use cases of blockchain-based digital art management. DADA is an online marketplace for digital drawings.  Users can put their drawings up for sale using the platform and connect with buyers.

Of course, most people will have heard of CryptoKitties. Whilst collecting cat images is situated somewhere between a game and baseball card-style collectibles, the unique cat images are a good example of blockchain-backed digital assets.

Ujo and Musicoin are digital rights management platform for music, aimed at empowering artists, allowing copyright to be managed and direct royalties payments to be automated.


The blockchain is ideal for managing digital assets of all kind. Digital art is one of the most promising use cases, ranging from digital paintings and stock images to large-scale music or video streaming services. Assets can be copyright-protected, licensed and sold transparently. In particular, small and independent artists can benefit from the blockchain’s characteristics.

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Dr. Stefan Beyer is editor-at-large at BlockTelegraph and a Blockchain consultant and smart contract auditor. He graduated from the University of Manchester in 2001 with a degree in Computer Science and obtained a Ph.D. in 2004 from the same university with the title “Dynamic Configuration of Embedded Operating Systems”. Since then he has worked in computer science research in distributed systems, fault tolerance, ubiquitous computing and cyber security. He is currently working as head of research and development for a medium-sized cyber security company in Spain.


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