Taology: How the Blockchain Works for Creators in the Music Industry
Welcome to the Blockchain!
Two years ago I began a journey to help an industry abused by technology and in dire need of reforms. What started with a few drinks and conversations has now evolved into a dozen projects, all with the goal of restoring value to the creative process by leveraging the power of blockchain technology. It is with distinct pleasure that I have the opportunity now to not simply explain, but to demonstrate in great detail exactly how blockchain technology will resolve decades of conflict within the music industry. From these humble first steps will come the means and methods for major labels and independents to enjoy the most transparent, functional, practical, and portable rights management ever conceived.
The playing field is about to be leveled, and our platform “Taology” is going to lead the way.
The Taology Platform
In this article it shall be my pleasure to describe for you the operation of an open source platform that leverages 3 different industry accepted technologies with the power of a blockchain for the declaration of provenance, identification, and preservation of musical works. This method is completely compatible with existing US copyright legislation and regulations. It is not a new file format, nor is it a new DRM. It is a means of storing and accessing data in a decentralized manner and without trusting intermediary third parties.
At the risk of being existential, who you are as an individual is what determines your rights to your creative works. The ability to prove you are you is vital to the functioning of our society. Beginning with this philosophy, before we launched our blockchain we turned our sights towards how to establish legal identity within cryptographic systems. With the help of some partners in the fintech world, we have gamified AML/KYC verification procedures in combination with social media and advanced cryptography and integrated it into the process of establishing creative content. When these identity verification processes are then paired with cryptographically unique key pairs, what is created is a legally defendable, cryptographically provable (and private!) “greatest claim” to original creative works.
As these platforms can be really complex, I’m just going to stick to the basics of identity and on-boarding content without diving too deeply into the assignment of ISRC numbers, UPC codes, registration with Performing Rights Organizations and the US Copyright Office. From these humble beginnings it is quite easy to see the path along which this technology is headed. Suffice it to say for now that we are registered with the RIAA and GS1 and already have content in distribution on iTunes and Spotify.
Building a Portable, Legally Valid Cryptographic Identity
While we are still integrating our specific AML/KYC implementation, our demonstration utilizes the power of social media authentication to illustrate the means of establishing identity in the age of blockchains.
A variety of music related social media platforms have been integrated into our system to allow for a range of comparative identities. A “high score” on the social media identity scale is directly a function of the number of social media accounts associated with your cryptographic identity.
To begin, one simply selects any of them to form the foundation of the identity. I’m going to use Facebook.
Each identity has a “shorthand” code which is represented in 6 bytes. For this demonstration, mine is “eff77f5644b5.”
This code is derived from a complex set of cryptographic functions which are known as “deterministic,” meaning if you start from the same place you always get the same results. The core of the identity is represented in three plain English sentences extracted from “A Portrait of The Artist” from Project Gutenberg. For the nerdy, the method of selection is via a Markov chain selection algorithm providing a granular randomness to each word, but still forming human-readable text. It requires a huge volume of words to operate properly and still generate sufficient randomness, which is why wordy classics are recommended.
My identity phrase in this demo is “The red rose wins. Your eyes have set man’s heart ablaze And you have had your will of him. These questions are very profound, Mr Dedalus.”
Were I to take this phrase and enter it into a completely different instance of the Taology platform, all of my content would be instantly accessible.
The integration of additional points of identity verification and its storage on a blockchain while still retaining privacy shall be the topic of another post, but for the rest of this article I’m going to explain the pipeline for on-boarding content into the ecosystem.
The assignment of rights, licenses, and royalty splits comes after content is on-boarded and will be the subject of subsequent articles, so that allows for a very simple form to begin the process.
A pipeline is then established which processes each uploaded file including a cryptographic fingerprint. For audio files, a spectrogram is created, as well as an acoustic fingerprint with a verifiable resolution of matching in 3-5 seconds. A unique cryptographic key pair is then mathematically derived from the identity which is used to encrypt the audio content before it is compressed and stored in the cloud. Taology utilizes the Interplanetary File System (or IPFS) to provide the lowest possible overhead for content storage.
Audio is converted into 24-bit lossless PCM before processing and storage. The entire pipeline takes less than 15 seconds on my MacBook Air.
Bring on the Blockhchain!
Once all the files are processed and stored in the IPFS cloud, the system assembles it into a JSON data block. The data block is then reduced to a pre-image (or hash) value which is signed by the same key pair that encrypted the audio. This signature can be validated in any Tao network client. This cryptographic association creates a smart contract between the encrypted content and the information registered on the blockchain, which is then tied to AML/KYC and social media accounts, providing a mathematically provable proof of creation which is legally enforceable in courts of law around the world!
This cryptographic association creates a smart contract between the encrypted content and the information registered on the blockchain, which is then tied to AML/KYC and social media accounts, providing a mathematically provable proof of creation which is legally enforceable in courts of law around the world!
The data is then processed through the consensus network and is available to all clients in a secure and trusted manner, able to be verified and audited by third parties. Notice the data contained in the blockchain does not identify me in any way, yet still provides accurate and verifiable metadata about the content being referenced.
Third party verification of data is vital to the success of any decentralized cryptographic system relying on a blockchain.
Once processed by the consensus network, the data may be verified on third party platforms, such as this one.
Financially Incentivizing a Fair System
Taology operates exclusively on the Tao Network blockchain platform. The platform processes transactions in a manner known as “proof-of-stake.” Stakeholders in the network receive 4% interest per year on their investment, plus the transaction fees associated with establishing provenance on the blockchain. Each transaction has a cost of 0.01TAO, which is paid to the stakeholder which processes the transaction. The cost of establishing provenance on the Tao blockchain is currently $0.000001USD.We held a public crowd sale earlier this year which not only served to provide our initial funding, but placed protection of the network in the hands of the public, outside of corporate interests…including my own.
We held a public crowd sale earlier this year which not only served to provide our initial funding, but placed protection of the network in the hands of the public, outside of corporate interests…including my own.
In future articles I’ll describe the more advanced features which blockchain-enabled rights management enables, such as the association of royalties through ticket sales, limited distribution and windowing through digital scarcity and license management, and global royalty collections through PROs and platforms such as TuneSat.
The disruption that blockchains bring isn’t in the way that the music industry does business, but in that it allows the music of business to be done better and makes it trustworthy by and accessible to everyone on the planet.