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Grimes collaboration with music platform makes 200+ AI songs available for creators

Grimes’ manager Daouda Leonard and music platform Slip.stream explain the importance of artists owning their data and controlling their rights to stay ahead in their approach to AI.

The rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) into the public sector has proven to be one of the biggest developments of the year on a global scale. 

Major industries have been turned upside down with AI now on the scene. In the creative sectors, the music industry in particular, AI is often seen as a double-edged sword: a creativity kickstarter and a thief in the night of copyrights.

The popular musician and producer Grimes, however, has had a different approach to being an artist in the time of emerging AI. She was one of the first artists to be vocal about the technology after its explosion in popularity in late 2022 with the release of ChatGPT.

In April, Grimes famously said she would split 50% of the royalties with the creators generating AI music using her vocals. It was after this that Grimes announced her new platform elf.tech, an open-source software program solely dedicated to legally replicating her voice for music creation.

In September, Grimes was included as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 People in AI. Recently, Grimes and her team partnered with music creation platform Slip.stream to make 200+ GrimesAI songs available for use by creators.

Cointelegraph spoke with Grimes’ manager and CEO of research studio for musician’s IP rights CreateSafe, Daouda Leonard, along with the team behind Slip.stream, to understand how creatives can get ahead in their approach to AI.

Daouda pinpointed the current moment on the timeline of the technological revolution as the “DARQ ages (Distributed, Artificial, Reality and Quantum). “The only way through it is to use it,” he said. “I think all industry executives, artists, and companies need to be experimenting with new emergent technologies.”

“By rights holders allowing new technology platforms to train with their data, they can be proactive about striking lucrative deals for their artists and catalogs.”

With AI, creators can now utilize artists’ voices, for example, in their own creations, and AI companies are taking creative data to train their systems. Therefore, a strong content management system and royalties mechanism need to be a priority.

Grimes’ management said it’s also using another emerging technology, smart contracts, to make this happen and manage metadata information about “who did what, when and what they’re owed.”

Slip.stream, being the platform that houses the available Grimes AI tracks, echoed the sentiment saying:

“It’s up to forward-thinking artists, executives, and companies to dream up and experiment with its applications to better protect their clients and capture any upside… It takes guts to zig when others zag.”

When artists and management don’t manage to stay on top of such things, it could become too late.

Lawsuits against AI companies have been springing up throughout the year, be it the Author’s Guild launching a class-action lawsuit against OpenAI - the creator of ChatGPT- or Universal Music Group (UMG) suing Anthropic AI, both over creative copyright infringement.

Related: Universal Music and Google in talks over deal to combat AI deep fakes: Report

Leading by example, Grimes is showing the industry what is possible when artists both own their data and control the rights to it.

“Owning your masters and publishing is only good if you know what to do with it,” said Daouda. “I don’t know if there is a perfect artist to do such a move. Grimes felt that it was important to experiment and see what’s possible.”

“I think every artist who is open to taking risks and curious about how technology can be a benefit to their career is the perfect for doing this, so I’m sure there are a lot of them.”

Many industry insiders who have wrapped their heads around the possibilities AI can present to artists and are trying to proactively find ways to reap the benefits without losing sovereignty have touted the technology as a “creative amplifier” of sorts.

Slip.stream said when artists are proactive with their rights and content shows that “AI is not about replacing humans with robots, but establishing new norms and structures for artistic collaboration that were unavailable to the masses before CreateSafe and Grimes.”

“To give anyone in the world the ability to collaborate with their favorite artist, opens up groundbreaking possibilities for creative output and fan engagement.”

Grimes herself posted a similar sentiment on X, formerly known as Twitter, a few days after the announcement of her collaboration with Slip.stream:

Daouda ended by saying that he believes what is happening with AI is even bigger than samples and collaborations.

“Generative AI or computational creativity makes it possible for people to go from idea to distribution in minutes, maybe even seconds,” he said.

“Whether that’s a good or bad thing is subjective, but what is objective is that now a lot of people can do it and it opens up modes of expression that ultimately could lead to a certain type of healing that many people can participate in. Music is healing and when we can participate in it that’s powerful.”

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Universal Music Group sues Anthropic AI over copyright infringement

Universal Music Group, Concord Publishing and ABKCO Music & Records alleged that Anthropic “unlawfully” copied and disseminated “vast amounts of copyrighted works” from the publishers.

Universal Music Group (UMG), Concord Publishing and ABKCO Music & Records have filed a lawsuit against the artificial intelligence (AI) startup Anthropic on accusations of the latter committing copyright infringement in training its AI chatbot Claude.

The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 18 and claims that Anthropic “unlawfully” copied and disseminated “vast amounts of copyrighted works - including the lyrics to myriad musical compositions” that are under the ownership or control of the publishers.

It called Anthropic’s use of the works “widespread and systematic infringement” and said the defendant cannot reproduce, distribute and display copyrighted works to build a business without the proper rights.

“This foundational rule of copyright law dates all the way back to the Statute of Anne in 1710, and it has been applied time and time again to numerous infringing technological developments in the centuries since. That principle does not fall away simply because a company adorns its infringement with the words “AI.”

The lawsuit claims that Claude can generate identical or nearly identical copies of songs such as “What a Wonderful World,” “Gimme Shelter,” “American Pie,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Every Breath You Take” and at least 500 more.

Related: British MPs urge action on NFT copyright infringement, crypto fan tokens

In this case, the publishers provided examples of Claude being able to deliver an almost word for word replication of UMG’s song “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor. 

The plaintiffs have asked the court to order that the alleged infringement is put to an end, along with monetary damages.

This case joins the many popping up against major AI developers on the grounds of copyright infringement. 

OpenAI, the developer of AI chatbot ChatGPT, has been sued for similar reasons by the Author’s Guild. Meta is currently facing a lawsuit by author Sarah Silverman and others for copyright issues. Google is involved in a lawsuit regarding its data scraping policy for AI training purposes.

As far as the music industry’s involvement is concerned, UMG has been vigilant about protecting its catalogue and the rights of its artists from AI-related copyright violations. On Oct. 18 it entered into a strategic partnership with BandLab Technologies focusing on ethical AI usage to protect artist and songwriter rights.

Over the summer, UMG and Google were reportedly in talks to create a tool that would allow for the creation of AI tracks using artists’ likenesses in a legal way.

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Universal Music Group enters partnership to protect artists’ rights against AI violations

The new partnership between Universal Music Group and BandLab Technologies focuses on ethical AI usage to protect artist and songwriter rights.

Universal Music Group (UMG) announced a new partnership with social music creation platform BandLab Technologies on Oct. 18 to promote responsible practices with artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. 

The partnership says its focus is on the “ethical use of AI,” with one of the main goals being to protect the rights of artists and songwriters.

Michael Nash, the executive vice president and the chief digital officer of UMG, added that:

“This is more important than ever right now as AI assumes an increasingly prominent place in the evolution of music creation tools.”

Nash commented that along with protecting artists' rights, the two plan to create responsible approaches to using AI in creative processes to “champion human creativity and culture.”

A similar sentiment was expressed by the CEO of the Recording Academy, the institution behind the Grammy Awards, in an interview with Cointelegraph when he said AI could be an “amplifier” of human creativity.

Related: AI music sending traditional industry into ‘panic,’ says new AI music platform CEO

This is not the first time UMG has taken on AI-related issues. In August, UMG and Google were reportedly in talks over ways to combat AI deep fakes through the development of a new tool that would allow for the creation of AI tracks using artists’ likenesses in a legal way.

Shortly before UMG and Google began talking about taking AI copyright issues, YouTube released its own set of principles for working with the music industry on AI tech.

YouTube said it had been in talks with major music industry players such as UMG over how to develop the principles. One was the introduction to its new “Music AI Incubator.”

The struggle for copyright infringement matters between artists, musicians and creators regarding AI has even reached the courts. In August 2023, a United States judge denied copyright for AI art.

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Google requests dismissal of AI data scraping class-action suit

Google argued in its motion to dismiss the claims that using publicly available information shared on the internet is not “stealing,” as claimed.

Big Tech player Google is seeking to dismiss a proposed class-action lawsuit that claims it’s violating the privacy and property rights of millions of internet users by scraping data to train its artificial intelligence models. 

Google filed the motion on Oct. 17 in a California District Court, saying it’s necessary to use public data to train itsAI chatbots such as Bard. It argued the claims are based upon false premises that it is “stealing” the information that is publicly shared on the internet.

“Using publicly available information to learn is not stealing. Nor is it an invasion of privacy, conversion, negligence, unfair competition, or copyright infringement.”

Google said such a lawsuit would “take a sledgehammer not just to Google’s services but to the very idea of generative AI."

The suit was opened against Google in July by eight individuals claiming to represent “millions of class members” such as internet users and copyright holders.

They claim their privacy and property rights were violated under a Google privacy policy change a week before the suit was filed that allows data scraping for AI training purposes.

Related: Google updates service policies to comply with EU regulations

Google argued the complaint concerns “irrelevant conduct by third parties and doomsday predictions about AI.” 

It said the complaint failed to address any core issues, particularly how the plaintiffs have been harmed by using their information.

This case is one of many that have been brought against tech giants that are developing and training AI systems. On Sept. 20, Meta refuted claims of copyright infringement during the training of its AI.

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The Author’s Guild launches class-action lawsuit against OpenAI

The Author’s Guild opened a lawsuit against OpenAI, alleging misuse of copyrighted material in training of its AI models.

The Author’s Guild in the United States opened a class-action lawsuit against the Microsoft-backed OpenAI on Sept. 19 due to its alleged misuse of copyrighted material in the training of its artificial intelligence (AI) models.

According to court documents, the oldest and largest professional organization for writers in the U.S. is operating under the Copyright Act and seeking “redress” for what it calls “flagrant and harmful infringement” of registered copyrights in written works of fiction.

It goes on to argue that works were copied wholesale and without permission or “consideration” by feeding them into large language models (LLMs).

“These algorithms are at the heart of Defendants’ massive commercial enterprise. And at the heart of these algorithms is systematic theft on a mass scale.”

The Author’s Guild said it represents a class of professional fiction writers whose “works spring from their own minds and their creative literary expression.” It says, therefore, that since their livelihoods derive from these creative works, the LLMs “endanger” the ability of fiction writers to make a living.

It suggested that the AI models could’ve been trained via the public domain, or OpenAI could have paid a licensing fee for the usage of the copyrighted works.

“What Defendants could not do was evade the Copyright Act altogether to power their lucrative commercial endeavor, taking whatever datasets of relatively recent books they could get their hands on without authorization.”

On Sept. 11, the Guild posted an article on X about how authors can protect their work from AI web crawlers. 

Pinned to the top of its profile, the Author’s Guild has a link to its advocacy work in regards to AI technologies.

Related: Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman talk AI regs in Washington

This filing from the Author’s Guild follows updates in a similar lawsuit against Meta and OpenAI and their respective AI models using copyrighted material in training.

Author Sarah Silverman and others opened the lawsuit in July; however, now both companies have asked judges to dismiss the claims.

In August, the U.S. Copyright Office issued a notice of inquiry on AI, seeking public comment on topics related to AI content production and how it should be handled by policymakers when AI content mimics that which is made by human creators.

Prior to the inquiry, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that artwork created solely by AI is not eligible for copyright protection.

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Water & Music’s Cherie Hu says Web3 and AI will revolutionize creativity: The Agenda

Water & Music founder Cherie Hu explains how technology is evolving the music industry — but is it to the benefit of musicians?

Curiosity might have killed the cat, but for musicians, it’s often the launchpad of creativity and innovation. 2023 saw the rapid growth of OpenAI’s powerful ChatGPT artificial intelligence tool, and technologies like Midjourney and Dall-E have provided content creators the ability to literally become a one-man band — or a one-person production studio.

Keeping pace with the rapid evolution of technology and its impact on relevant industries can be a challenge for the average busy person, and one of the goals of Water & Music is to offer a more research-backed approach for music industry professionals to inspect, discuss and experiment with new technologies.

On Episode 19 of The Agenda podcast, hosts Ray Salmond and Jonathan DeYoung speak with Cherie Hu, the founder of Water & Music — “an independent newsletter and research community on a mission to make the music industry more innovative, cooperative, and transparent.”

Change is inevitable

When asked about what’s new in the music industry, Hu recognized that “the old music business very much was driven by a small group of gatekeepers,” and she suggested that the pandemic, new technology and perhaps even some of the ideology that backs the Web3 movement would eventually change this status quo.

“The pandemic, I think, woke a lot of people up,” Hu said. “I think it encouraged people to become a lot more proactive about speaking out about and advocating for changes that they wanted to see.” She added:

“A lot of the most critical, like deeply critical, conversations I’ve heard about streaming have come in the last three years just because, due to the pandemic, artists were put in a position where they had to essentially rely solely on digital sources of income to make ends meet without touring. And then they look at their streaming checks and are like, ‘This is this is nothing. I can’t live off of this.’ And so, there have been a lot more productive conversations around alternative models to monetizing music in a digital context. Web3, of course, has played a huge, huge role in this.”

Historically, breaking into the music industry meant artists either needed to know the right people to get picked up or be able to fund their endeavors in a way that created enough ripples to capture a wider audience. Hu believes that within the traditional music industry, “a lot of those mechanisms haven’t really changed for like the last 10, 20, even 30 years,” but she also acknowledges that new technologies have opened up new methods for creators to completely circumvent the conventional path to success.

Hu said:

“The way that culture is moving, especially if you look at apps like TikTok and the impact that ecosystem has on music culture and what music, what songs get big, it just moves so quickly. The unfortunate part of the music industry is that the financing element has not caught up to it.”

According to Hu, Water & Music aspires to take a more analytical approach to how the music business is evolving and being impacted by emerging technologies.

“So when we think about the new music business, we definitely focus on new technologies that enable people to participate in the music industry. You know, whether it’s creating music, marketing music, building communities around it, monetizing it in totally new ways. We’re interested in that entire stack.”

Related: 5 AI trends to look forward to in 2023 and beyond

Web3 ideas and practices could become endemic to the music industry

Blockchain-based gaming, nonfungible token collections and other Web3 gimmicks were all the rage in 2020 and 2021 when the broader crypto space was in a bull market, but host Salmond wondered how relevant these tactics are today, particularly in the music industry.

Hu explained that with gaming, there are currently “more opportunities for building experiences than for monetizing them and building a business out of them. I would say that element is still missing and still challenging for a lot of indie artists.”

The infrastructure, time and overhead required to build out entire worlds is labor-intensive and not necessarily proven to be sticky, except for major gaming platforms like Roblox. Hu explained that a more pragmatic opportunity for artists might be sync licensing. According to her:

“Sync, or synchronization, licensing is the music industry term for licensing music for any kind of audio-visual multimedia experience, so like a film or a podcast or a game. And there are actually a lot of mobile games, especially, which I think is probably one of the more underexplored areas of music and gaming partnerships. You normally think of these huge games like League of Legends or Fortnite, but there are a lot of emerging mobile games, a lot especially built around music, that are looking for partnerships with the music industry.”

To hear more from Hu’s conversation with The Agenda — including her deeper explanation of how subscribers have benefited from the research published by Water & Music — listen to the full episode on Cointelegraph’s Podcasts page, Apple Podcasts or Spotify. And don’t forget to check out Cointelegraph’s full lineup of other shows!

Related: AI music sending traditional industry into ‘panic,’ says new AI music platform CEO

This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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AI music sending traditional industry into ‘panic’, says new AI music platform CEO

Can Ansay the founder of AI streaming and marketplace platform Musixy.ai, says AI-generated music is revolutionary and brings efficiency and lowers costs to productions.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been making waves in various industries across the globe. However, the conflict between its usefulness and its ability to infringe on intellectual property (IP) has seen a particular struggle in the creative industries. 

Major players in the music industry from artists and record labels to institutions like the Grammys and YouTube have all had to factor in AI in some form.

In the midst of traditional spaces in the music industry dealing with technology, new platforms are popping up that are embracing the technology from the start. Musixy.ai launched on Sept. 14 to serve as a streaming platform, label and marketplace for music exclusively generated by AI.

Cointelegraph spoke with Can Ansay, the CEO and founder of Musixy.ai, to better understand how giving AI-generated music its own space could shape the future music industry.

Musixy.ai said that it aims to become the “Spotify for AI hit songs,” particularly those that have been banned from other platforms. Over the last year, Spotify and other major streaming platforms have become more vigilant after Universal Music Group sent out an email asking them to step up their policing of copyrighted AI tracks.

Ansay said “the establishment” or major labels are in panic mode again, “as it was back then with Napster, because they fear revenue losses due to a new disruptive technology.”

“Unlike back then, the AI revolution is not only perfectly legal, but even threatens the existence of record companies; music is not only produced much more efficiently but also cheaper.”

He said AI presents “talented producers” with the ability to produce and monetize a hit song with any famous voice in any language. Musixy.ai particularly emphasizes the creation of new and covered hit songs with AI-generated vocals of well-known artists.

Related: AI-generated music challenges “efficiency” and “cost” of traditional labels, music exec.

Musixy.ai also works with Ghostwriter, who produced a viral song with AI-generated vocal tracks of artists Drake and the Weeknd called “Heart on My Sleeves." 

The song initially was said to be eligible for a Grammy, though the sentiment was later clarified by the Grammy CEO highlighting that it was taken down from commercial streaming platforms and didn’t receive permission from the artist or label to use the vocal likeness and therefore doesn’t qualify for nomination

Ansay said if Musixy.ai is recognized as a streaming platform by the Recording Academy:

“For the first time these amazing AI-assisted songs could rightfully win the Grammy recognition they deserve, produced with the help of AI.”

“This is especially true for those songs that unofficially use the vocals of famous singers with the help of AI that were arbitrarily banned from all other recognized streaming platforms,” he continued.

Ansay argues that from a legal perspective, vocal likeness is not “protectable,” as it would violate professional ethics and make it difficult for singers to work having a voice similar to another more famous voice. 

Instead he suggests that AI vocal tracks should be marked as  "unofficial" to avoid confusion.

Recently Google and Universal Music Group were reportedly in negotiations over a tool that would allow for AI tracks to be created using artists’ likenesses in a legal way.

When asked if AI-generated music be "competing" on the same level as non-AI-generated music in terms of awards and recognition or have its own playing field - he said both directions could be viable.

“For that to happen, one must legitimately, legally, and arguably under the rules of the Grammys, distinguish what tasks AI is used for in music production and to what degree.”

Otherwise, he believes a new category should be created such as  "AI Song of the Year" or something similar. "Because according to the Grammys' mission statement on their website," he argued, "they also want to recognize excellence in 'science.'"

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Grammy CEO clarifies AI Drake song ineligible for award over copyright issues

The Record Academy executive clearly stated that the track is “not eligible” and cited that the vocals were not legally obtained nor were they cleared by the label or artist.

The CEO of the Recording Academy, which hosts the yearly Grammy Music Awards, has cleared up misconceptions regarding the eligibility of an artificial intelligence (AI)-generated Drake song for an award nomination.

On Sept. 8, Harvey Mason Jr. took to Instagram and released a video clearly stating that the track is “not eligible for Grammy consideration” and wanted to be extra clear that:

“Even though it was written by a human creator, the vocals were not legally obtained, the vocals were not cleared by the label or the artist, and the song is not commercially available — because of that, it’s not eligible.”

He said the topic of AI is both “complicated” and “moving really quickly” while also commenting that he takes it “very seriously” and anticipates more evolution and changes in the industry.

While music with AI components can be eligible for Grammy nominations, the track must meet specific requirements, most importantly that the part up for nomination was created by a human. For example, for a track to win an award for vocal performance, it must have been performed by a human.

Mason Jr. reiterated this element in his most recent statement by saying:

“Please, do not be confused: the Academy is here to support and advocate and protect and represent human artists and human creators period.”

In a previous interview with Cointelegraph, he also stressed this aspect, saying “The role of the Academy is always to protect the creative and music communities.”

Related: Justin Bieber hit track becomes NFT for royalty sharing

In addition to the human element, the other aspect stressed by Mason Jr. is that in order to be eligible for an award, the track must be commercially available. This includes availability on major streaming platforms, such as Spotify and Apple Music. 

However, the track in question was removed from platforms due to its copyright violations and lack of approval from the artist and label.

Labels have been advocating for platforms to be vigilant in removing content that infringes on the intellectual property of artists. Back in April, Universal Music Group (UMG) asked streaming services, including Spotify, to remove AI-generated content.

Most recently, UMG and Google announced a collaboration to combat AI deep fakes. The two are in negotiations for licensing melodies and vocal tracks for use in AI-generated music.

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7 blockchain-based platforms for content creators

From Steemit and LBRY to Ujo Music and SuperRare, discover how blockchain technology empowers content creators in the digital age.

Blockchain technology has recently penetrated a number of sectors, altering the way we do business, store data and interact with digital assets. The decentralized and transparent nature of blockchain also benefits content creators, including authors, musicians, artists and photographers.

Blockchain-based platforms offer unique opportunities for content creators to protect their intellectual property, receive fair compensation, and engage with a global audience. This article will explore seven blockchain-based platforms that enable content producers to earn money from their work while retaining creative control.

Steemit

A blockchain-based social media site called Steemit pays content producers in cryptocurrency. By publishing creative material, supporting worthy content and engaging with the platform’s community, users can earn “Steem” tokens.

The decentralized nature of the network ensures that content producers retain ownership and control over their creations. As a blogging platform, Steemit has grown in popularity, drawing content producers from a variety of industries.

LBRY

LBRY is a decentralized platform for publishing and sharing information that makes use of blockchain technology. By eliminating intermediaries, it enables content producers to publish their work directly on the platform.

Thanks to LBRY’s blockchain-based system, creators have complete ownership over their creations and receive fair compensation for their contributions. Additionally, users can find and access a variety of information thanks to LBRY’s distinctive architecture because no centralized authority controls what is made available.

Related: What’s next for NFTs and Web3 in the age of the creator economy?

Ujo Music

Ujo Music is a blockchain-based platform specifically designed for musicians and other music industry professionals. It provides an environment where musicians can publish their work, own their rights and receive payment from customers directly.

To make sure that artists are appropriately compensated for their work and have more control over licensing and royalties, Ujo Music makes use of the transparency and smart contracts offered by blockchain technology.

Po.et

Po.et is a blockchain platform that seeks to establish a decentralized, unchangeable database for artistic productions. It enables content producers to timestamp all of their digital assets on the blockchain, such as texts, photos, videos and more.

Creators can demonstrate ownership and a record of the existence of their work by doing this, which can be extremely helpful in situations involving copyright infringement. Po.et gives content producers the ability to enforce their intellectual property rights and offers a market for licensing and remuneration for their productions.

SuperRare

Digital art can be purchased on SuperRare, a blockchain-based marketplace. It enables artists to produce and market original digital works of art in the form of nonfungible tokens (NFTs).

Thanks to blockchain technology, each NFT represents a one-of-a-kind work of art and is indubitably rare. SuperRare gives creators a platform to share and make money from their digital works, and collectors may buy and possess unique digital artworks.

Related: The NFT marketplace: How to buy and sell nonfungible tokens

Audius

A decentralized music streaming service called Audius seeks to upend the established music business. It allows musicians to share and profit from their work without using intermediaries. Audius uses blockchain technology to make sure that creators are in charge of their content and are fairly compensated for their efforts.

The platform’s decentralized structure makes it possible for a more inclusive and diverse music ecosystem, which also aids up-and-coming musicians in gaining visibility and forging connections with their audience.

BitClout

Content producers can monetize their social media presence with BitClout, a blockchain-based social media platform. It uses a novel business model where users can purchase and exchange “creator coins” that represent significant figures on the platform.

Fans can support the development of their favorite creators by purchasing creator coins. BitClout gives content producers a fresh method to interact with their audience and open up revenue streams.

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Web3 community-building meets music technology at Wavelengths Summit 2023

Crypto natives and newbies alike came together to build community and share alpha on the latest in music technology and decentralization.

Web3 has become one of the hottest buzzwords in the music industry, with everyone from independent musicians to major label artists dropping nonfungible token (NFT) collections and throwing concerts in the metaverse. But for many, the actual use cases and potential of these technologies remain shrouded in mystery and confusion.

On May 6, Water & Music held its inaugural Wavelengths Summit, a one-day event bringing together musicians, industry executives, artist managers, researchers and technologists to explore the bleeding edge of music technology and democratize access to information. On the agenda were talks about blockchain-based communities, the growing influence of artificial intelligence on the music industry and the future of artist revenue streams.

Water & Music is a collaborative music technology research network founded in 2016 by writer Cherie Hu as a free newsletter. It has since evolved to encompass a paid membership structure, an extensive online collaboration network and in-person events. Its research often touches upon Web3 and how blockchain impacts the music industry.

“I think the music industry, in particular, has suffered from information silos,” Hu told Cointelegraph. “If you’re trying to figure out how fans interact with your music in a holistic way, it’s actually a huge challenge.” Enter Water & Music, which seeks to empower its community with the knowledge needed to thrive in the digital era.

Community

A central focus of both Water & Music as an organization and its Wavelengths Summit was building a sense of community. The event’s emphasis on the importance of community-building in music and Web3 was ever-present, from the topics chosen for discussion — including sessions titled “Music Community Building and Decentralization: Lessons from History” and “URL to IRL: Uniting Music Communities Online and Offline” — to the way the event itself was hosted and organized.

For instance, Hu opened the summit by laying out four ground rules for positive community-building: “Be kind and respectful,” “Stay critical, “No shilling,” and “Have fun!” She also announced that there would be no panels; instead, experts would facilitate conversations, with audience members encouraged to jump in at any point. Talks on the main stage were accompanied by a large screen displaying live comments and questions from audience members via an app called Slido.

“I think what we were really aiming for is recreating the magic of our Water & Music Discord,” Diana Gremore, Water & Music’s events director, told Cointelegraph. “We have such a thoughtful, articulate, critical, passionate, curious community, so we wanted to do our best to facilitate how that URL community translates into an IRL experience.”

Web3 community building for musicians

Throughout the day, many of the conversations touched on how Web3 and blockchain technologies are being explored in the world of music. During the “Music Community Building and Decentralization” session, participants discussed how online communities such as decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs) are the next step in a long history of decentralization.

As pointed out by Austin Robey, co-founder of Metalabel — which is building a blockchain-based platform for collaborative artist releases — on-chain voting and governance are digital versions of what real-world communities have always done. Social spaces are always governed, and communities are always decision-making. And while DAOs may be subject to “code,” real-world communities have always been subject to social “codes.”

The discussion was moderated by Kaitlyn Davies, membership lead at Friends With Benefits — a social DAO for creatives — and head of curatorial partnerships at Refraction — a DAO for artists and creators with a particular focus on live music events. Davies told Cointelegraph that the preexisting decentralization in music communities helps explain why so many in the music world gravitate toward Web3.

“You see a lot of people who have always been interested in decentralized ways of organizing or sort of left-of-center means of organizing look to this technology to keep doing their work — not even to get bigger or to cast a further net but just to enable what they were already doing,” she said, adding:

“Cultivating a scene or a community, that’s really important, and that’s what drives culture. [...] My hope still is that decentralized tech helps us do that better and helps us do that in more equitable ways.”

During the “Web3: Balancing Niche and Mainstream on the Road to Adoption” session, participants discussed the importance of first understanding one’s community before launching crypto music projects. Melanie McClain, a Web3 consultant and founder of Blurred Lines — a community of Web3 tastemakers supporting left-of-center Black music — said that if fans want free shows, artists can experiment with NFTs that give collectors free access to concerts. And if the artist blows up, that free-performance NFT will suddenly become much more valuable.

Related: Music NFTs are helping independent creators monetize and build a fanbase

Speaking to Cointelegraph, McClain said that crypto-native and crypto-newbie artists alike could use blockchain tech to build stronger communities, but each approach must be tailored. “They have to be self-aware,” she said. If a musician’s community is not native to Web3, “they might not say words like NFTs or social tokens. They can lead the conversation in other ways while still using the tools in the back end.”

Many facilitators and other attendees expressed that Web3 solutions offer particularly unique advantages for musicians, with Gremore telling Cointelegraph that “one of the biggest strengths of [Web3] is the ability to build community and sustain community.”

Perhaps part of the reason for this is that blockchains are generally designed for efficiency. According to Hu, this allows artists and their teams to better utilize “smart money” — when a musician doesn’t have much money to spend and therefore must use their funds as efficiently as possible.

“In music and Web3, I’m noticing instead of just random artists dropping NFT projects that happen to gain a lot of money, there’s more focus on ‘what’s the actual use case?’” Hu told Cointelegraph. “What is blockchain actually adding to music in a way that makes things easier and not harder from a technical standpoint?”

URL meets IRL

One thing that stood out at the Wavelengths Summit was how many online friends were meeting IRL — in real life — for the first time. Having many internet friends is not unique to crypto, but it is particularly pronounced in the space, given its inherently decentralized nature. For most people, meeting an online friend in person is special, and the summit was designed to facilitate those connections.

The internet allows for a level of community building previously impossible, especially between musicians and their fans. But as Gremore told Cointelegraph, “There’s a magic in IRL that just can’t be replaced.” She added, “URL is where so many of the conversations start happening, and then IRL — it’s a chance to deepen those bonds.”

Summit attendees connect and network during the “Web3 Happy Hour.” Source: Jonathan DeYoung

For Hu, building in-person relationships is critical for the long-term success of Web3 communities. “IRL events make or break trust in a community,” she said. When internet-based communities meet in person, that community’s carefully curated online image disappears, and people see it for what it really is — whether good or bad.

“Events are so important for online communities because if the name of the game is long-term sustainability, that will make or break trust. If it succeeds, it could be a huge kickstarter to a whole new stage or a whole new level for the community or for the brand. But I’ve definitely seen it go the other way around also.”

For those unable to participate in IRL experiences, online ones still offer opportunities, such as allowing fans to connect virtually with their favorite music artists. “I think using virtual things, not necessarily the metaverse but using live-streaming platforms, things like that — I think you can simulate the same thing,” McClain said. “Everybody can participate no matter where they are.”

“I think online spaces are safe havens for a lot of people, and I think that that should never be discounted,” believes Davies. “But I think the power of meeting somebody in person and being like, oh, you’re like a real human being, and we have similar thoughts about this, and maybe a block on a chain helped us find each other — but really what it’s about is us hanging out in person.”

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Ultimately, the main takeaway of the Wavelengths Summit was that community-building is a critical component for success in both music and Web3, and Water & Music intentionally designed its inaugural summit to set an example of how it believes community-building should look.

To close out the day, Gremore shared with the audience that Water & Music wanted attendees to leave empowered — that even though it may seem like the music industry is broken, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. And as the summit revealed, some of that hope may come in the form of DAOs, NFTs or other blockchain-based tools that help artists build community directly with their fans. Or, as Gremore told the audience:

“We’re fucked — but maybe we can do something about it.”

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