2016 saw a new word entering the music business lexicon: blockchain. At c/o pop Convention 2016, Benji Rogers unveiled new components of his dotBlockchain Music project, making it easier for external parties to participate in the project. But what is blockchain, what can we expect, and what are the most recent developments? Bas Grasmayer, digital strategist and founder of MUSIC x TECH x FUTURE, answers these questions in anticipation of c/o pop Convention 2017.
Blockchain is the technology powering Bitcoin. It allows people to make cryptographically secure peer-to-peer transactions, without the use of an intermediary. These transactions are then stored in a distributed ledger of which all the nodes on in the network have a copy. All records kept on the ledger are immutable, which means that changes are submitted by appending new lines to the record, generating a type of change log.
In the case of Bitcoin, it has allowed for the creation of a digital currency which is not regulated by government bodies or central banks. People can transfer money across borders without bothering with transfer fees or currency exchange rates. Since ledgers are replicated across the network, it makes it very difficult to tamper with data: an attack or corruption on one node is not very effective, since changes have to be appended to all copies of the ledger. A lot more can be done with the technology however, much like how the internet can be used for more than just email.
Ethereum, which was utilized by Imogen Heap’s music blockchain project with Ujo Music, provides a platform for blockchain-based ‘smart contracts’. These
enable conditional transactions that only trigger when a certain criteria is met.