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As with many areas of entrepreneurship, the music industry is demonstrating to all within it that the primary constant is change. Distribution, funding, piracy and inequality are issues. Licensing restrictions and requirements reign supreme, and in the traditional model is leaving artists enslaved with little income for the revenue they create with few alternative options for actually making a profit from the music they sell.
According to one recent report, consumers are spending more than ever before on music, but $20B a year of the industry’s record $43B for 2017 (the most profitable year since 2006) was spent on streaming services and live performances. Of the $20-plus billion the record labels have received, musicians received just $5.1B, with most of their revenue coming from touring and live performances.
How can this happen? Easy—at every point in the process the middlemen—labels, radio companies and streaming services—take a slice of the profit, siphoning revenue away from the artists involved. Piracy is another issue that costs everyone—not only the illegal download and copy of music or the deliberate or unknowing breach of copyright rules. A recent Nielson report notes the majority of businesses streaming music from personal accounts on Spotify, Apple Music or Sirius XM are doing so illegally, costing the music industry an estimated $2.65B in license fee losses per year.
How do artists keep up? Many are relying on increasingly heavy touring schedules and live performances for revenue and are increasingly moving to release their music direct. (This is easier said than done, however, as the recording labels own the license to much of the current music in existence, and artists must end or break contracts with their labels in many cases to be allowed to record and release future songs on their own).
As with every form of entrepreneurship, however, an evolving or suffering model for business is also an opportunity to innovate change. One such entrepreneur and agent for change is Cali Tucker, a rising country music star, who has been the first female artist and country star to release her music on the blockchain, as a new means of delivering music directly to consumers in all parts of the world.
Tucker was born into a legacy of music in the famous Tucker family that includes her mother, LaCosta Tucker, who recorded with Capital Records as a country music artist, toured nationwide with greats like Bob Hope, Dolly Parton, Alabama and others and appeared on television from the early 1970s to the mid 1990s. One of Cali’s childhood memories includes peeking out from behind the curtains watching her mother perform for thousands, lighting the fire of the career that would become her destiny as well. She recalls the stories of her mother’s journey into stardom that seemed so different from the struggles that face rising artists today.
It was once based on pure talent and marketability, however in this day in age there are many other requirements (such as size of social media following) that factor in to getting signed with a label or publisher. What does it take to succeed? Talent, money from backers, social media numbers, luck or all the above? Cali has a clear vision that emerging technologies such as blockchain will help to level the playing field by allowing artists to distribute and profit from their offerings directly, while allowing recording labels and artists to evolve the traditional model together.
These days, Cali is making her own mark as a one-of-a-kind vocalist, public speaker, and advocate for women’s issues and interests. Now 34, Cali made her formal premier on NBC’s “The Voice” Season 6, where she performed with Team Blake. It was a breakthrough event, but perhaps thankfully did not become a binding event (winners of each season are provided with resources but are contractually bound to the show for several years beyond).
Following the show, Cali had a strong feeling that destiny was bigger than Nashville and moved to Las Vegas in 2014, where she’s become a sought-after vocalist in Vegas and throughout the U.S. and beyond. In early 2017, Cali released her album “Cover Girl” and a set of music videos.
However, it is hard work for an emerging artist to break out as a star. Without a recording label, the artist must handle or fund everything from business management, tour management, recording, production and PR on their own. On the path, Cali has increasingly honed not only her singing voice—big enough to resonate through the Dolby theater, as listeners can attest—but has become an increasingly strong mouthpiece for women’s empowerment as well.
Recent interviews with Reba McEntire have lamented the persisting “bro culture” in country music. As one of the most successful women in the sector, whose hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards, 15 times, she expressed her dismay that the top award in the 2019 program has not produced a single female nominee.
Cali has noted the unequal journey for women as well, conducting her own research by keeping count as she listens to country radio stations as the playlist presents 15 songs by men for every 3 by a female singer. She examined the Billboard list as well and found the odds just as bad: At the end of March 2019, the list of 50 country artists included only 8 who were women. Yes, the Billboard list represents consumer downloads and purchase, but how are female performers to break through when the majority of the performances presented are by men?
In her own journey as a single woman she has faced multiple situations where men of power promising career assistance have turned out to be primarily or even abusively interested in her for non-professional reasons instead.
The Blockchain Changes Everything
While she’s worked doubly hard for every advantage, Tucker is undaunted by the industry’s challenges as she announced in October, 2018, at a DolbyTheater premier with blockchain platform NASGO her decision to be the first country artist (and first female artist) to adopt the blockchain and tokenization as her platform for future music distribution, as a way to sell and distribute her music directly to fans in every part of the world.
She elaborated further during recent performances at SXSW, how the emerging program will work. With NASGO (and with the help of the NASGO sidechain company ShareNode) she is developing a digital “Cali coin,” that fans can use to engage with her directly and to gain early access her to newest material, including her upcoming EP she’ll be premiering later this year.
The means of distribution is highly intriguing as well. Cali’s messages and offerings will be available through an AR (Augmented Reality) app called VAPR, which transmits her messages and music via satellite waves that can be viewed through any mobile device ranging from a mobile phone to—in the case of VAPR-transmitted films and full-length movies—a full-sized theater screen.
Because the VAPR transmission can’t be downloaded or copied, the issues of piracy, lack of access to internet (in regions such as China) or illegal streaming go entirely away. In regions such as the U.S. where internet and social media are prevalent, the messages and invitations may come from all of these channels, but the access to music transmissions, because they arrive through streaming mechanisms, must come from Cali (or her representatives) alone.
As a means of monetization, while Cali may offer free tokens to viewers who listen to and share her message, those who buy music experiences, subscriptions, AR performances, live performances or other products or services do so via the purchase of digital tokens.
The split (generally 50/50) between the artist and the platform happens instantly. Thanks to the transparency of blockchain the transaction and the revenue it produces is visible to both sides—no more waiting for quarterly royalty payments and hoping the accounting is right.
As another advantage, the marketplace app that manages the VAPR function is able to verify buyers via mobile device, while keeping their name, their email and their purchasing information private. Influencers and artists gain access to a much bigger audience (even billions bigger thanks especially to the Asia Pacific regions like China) and can see and evaluate their effectiveness in audience building and transaction in every offering or campaign while protecting safety and privacy on all sides.
Some of the biggest challenges for emerging artists remain—without traditional labels and representation, artists will need to find and select business and tour managers, music production facilities and talent and PR and sponsorship representation on their own. However, the increased audience and speed of revenue is likely to spur the development of blockchain-specialized agencies and resources shortly, NASGO and other industry watchers believe.
For artists like Cali, the distributed platform she’s adopting carries several other benefits as well—with additional audience and revenue available, the development of new material (and fan participation and input in the development) can spur the artist and the industry better and faster. And the additional revenue allows artists to incorporate meaningful support for social and humanitarian efforts as well.
This is also important to Cali as she continues to speak out in keynotes and articles on her message of empowerment (at the time of this article she is in discussions for one or potentially several upcoming presentations at the United Nations this year).
Equally exciting to Cali and her growing fan base, are the opportunities to record new music on her upcoming EP. Although her roots have stemmed from country music, her artistry and passion are increasingly covering a spectrum of musical genres including pop, rock, soul, jazz, standards, rap, indie and alternative scores. The music she performs in addition to her original creations includes Adele, Amy Winehouse and Stevie Nicks as well as Patsy Cline, Etta James, Rhianna and even Journey. Cali is excited to continue her work with Grammy-nominated producer G’harah (“PK”) Degeddingseze and co-writer Tricia Battani out of Burbank, Calif. on her upcoming EP.
But perhaps most exciting to Cali is the opportunity her new digital platform creates for her to record and re-introduce the music of her mother, LaCosta, who has been the backbone of support for Cali since her musical inclinations were born. The blockchain can introduce LaCosta’s timeless music and talent (and the offerings of many others) to an entirely new and global audience beyond any that has been imagined before, breathing new life into a career from long ago as well as launching new and emerging influencers and musical stars. I look forward to watching Cali’s efforts progress.
April 8, 2019 at 04:28PM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs