From Napster to iTunes to Pirate Bay to Spotify, no application or digital service has ever cracked the riddle of how to fairly compensate musicians for their work.
In fairness, though, none of those platforms ever used blockchain to address the challenge.
That’s exactly what Zeptagram is now trying to do via an innovative trading platform that allows buyers and sellers to exchange music rights like shares of stock on NASDAQ. The prime audience is musicians who might want to monetize their work by selling, say, a partial ownership stake in a composition while retaining majority interest — and, thus, creative control.
It’s a best-of-both-worlds use-case that just isn’t supported by the music industry’s existing method of auctioning rights, which dates back decades and tends to create winner-take-all outcomes that leave artists disillusioned.
According to a report from Citigroup, out of the music industry’s $43 billion revenue in 2017, only $5 billion actually went to composers. The rest went to distribution services like radio stations, online platforms, and record labels.
When rights to a piece of music change hands, matters can get particularly messy under the current system. Think of the famous incident in which The Beatles lost their entire song catalog to a bid by Michael Jackson, for example. His estate still controls the Beatles catalog to this day, sometimes putting Beatles songs to uses the two living band members don’t necessarily agree with.
Such horror stories were what Zeptagram’s co-founders, Christina Löwenström and Johan Forsman Löwenström, had in mind when they created Zeptagram. As respected musicians themselves in their native Sweden, they knew firsthand artists’ common complaints about music publishing.
“The music industry is really dying for blockchain solutions in many ways,” said Christina, Zeptagram’s CEO. “This is a real game-changer that creates better incentives for everyone — the artists, the fans, and the labels.”
The Zeptagram platform launched October 1. On it artists can also do crowdfunding and share royalties proportionally with partial rights holders via smart contracts. The system’s native token to accomplish all this is the ZeptaCoin, which utilizes the public Telos blockchain.
On the “buy-side” of the market, as Wall Streeters would say, Zeptagram is meant to be attractive to music lovers and non-musician investors, including many who are effectively shut out of the existing proprietary system for trading music rights.
Zeptagram’s platform is already available on the web and Android and iOS devices. The company is iterating to add new features and looks forward to some big-name artist announcements in 2020, Christina said.
Zeptagram is also looking to add partnerships in the U.S., as well as investors to help fuel its growth. ◊