27 September 2016

Reeperbahn Festival: GEMA discusses the blockchain’s potential for the music industry

The blockchain is undoubtedly the trending issue of the year 2016. Expectations in this technology are high - whether as a new standard for data quality, in terms of its resistance to fraud, or the transparency of exchange processes it could provide. During this year’s conference at the Reeperbahn Festival, GEMA discussed the usability and application of blockchain technology in the music industry together with experts in the field.
For the 11th Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, GEMA invited representatives of the music industry to a panel concerning the blockchain issue. Under the title “blockchain reaction - are shared databases the future of the music industry?”, Benji Rogers, founder and Managing Director of the direct-to-fan platform Pledge Music, Thomas Theune, Director Broadcasting and Online at GEMA, Benjamin Bailer, music publisher and President of Bailer music publishing, and Jörg Heidemann, Managing Director VUT [Association of independent music labels], discussed the topic in question in the Hamburg Schmidt Theatre. The expert panel was moderated by Thimo Prziklang, Director of Strategy and Development at GEMA. Benji Rogers opened the panel with a kick-off presentation. He presented his vision of a blockchain-based “Fairtrade” music database to 100 visitors. Rogers outlined a database of music works which registers all changes relating to authors, artists and usage rights in detail and stores such information in a decentralised and transparent way spread out across many different computers. That way, the music database cannot be manipulated and is at the same time verified. After the presentation, Benjamin Bailer, Jörg Heidemann and Thomas Theune explained the relevance of the blockchain for music publishers, the record industry and rights management.  Another topic for discussion were the various possibilities to use the blockchain which could lead to a change in the music industry for example a faster payout to music authors by means of efficient and direct transactions. The challenges of the technology were also broached: Thomas Theune substantiated: “When it comes to evaluating the potential of the blockchain, security, quality and validity of the data have highest priority for GEMA”. In order to realise the vision of a blockchain for the music industry, the experts pleaded for a joint analysis of the usage possibilities of the blockchain. Benjamin Bailer, President of Bailer Music Publishing: “There are no standardised user data at the moment, especially not in the streaming sector. A new technology alone will not resolve this issue. All collective management organisations will need to work on this together, worldwide.” Jörg Heidemann, Managing Director, VUT: “The blockchain can only be established if all participants in the sector will adopt the technology. The idea is great but it is time to show that the blockchain works differently in practice.” Benji Rogers, Founder and Managing Director of Pledge Music: “Only 10% of the data problem in the music industry can be resolved by means of technology, the remaining 90% depend on the actions of various players. There is currently no blockchain yet that addresses all issues of the music industry.” Thomas Theune, Director Broadcast and Online at GEMA: “The blockchain is a tool but not a solution to the data problem. Transparency is the central strength of the blockchain.” You can access the entire panel discussion as a video: www.gema.de/blockchain_panel. GEMA has taken a closer look at the blockchain - read more about it here: www.gema.de/en/aktuelles/wertvolle_transaktionen. GEMA represents the copyright of more than 70,000 members (composers, lyricists and music publishers) in Germany, and more than two million copyright owners globally. It is one of the largest societies for authors of musical works in the world. Since 2007, GEMA has been represented in Brussels via a liaison office.