The road to a global repository for music IP

Share on:

May 22, 2024

Most data across the music industry remains fragmented and siloed due to the variations in how data is stored, processed, and managed. It is dispersed across various locations, often outdated or incomplete, and exists in multiple versions that differ from one place to another. As a result, there is a growing consensus in the music industry for the need for a global, digital database that properly and efficiently manages intellectual property (IP) and rights data.

“Everybody knows that the industry needs a global repertoire database, and that the only efficient way to cost-effectively manage data is with a single, reconciled, authoritative database.”

– Andrew Jenkins, President, Universal Music Publishing Group of Australia and Asia Pacific Region.

The idea of creating a comprehensive music database is nothing new. Since the 2000s, numerous attempts have been made to address the absence of a unified database, each to streamline rights management, simplify music licensing, ensure accurate compensation for rights holders, and decrease the frequency of lawsuits and conflicts.

Unfortunately, every attempt has failed, facing consistent constraints in funding, collaboration, and/or governance. Industry-wide initiatives like these rarely achieve alignment on the crucial decisions required to achieve success—who manages the initiative, who pays for it, and what rights do contributors have?

“This historical lack of collaboration stems from the adversarial nature of the music industry, where competition overrides cooperation. In the end, the industry has always adapted reactively rather than proactively. We’re not good at getting ahead of problems because we operate on the basis that our business is all about market share and beating the competition.”

– Andy Saunders, Founder Velocity PR

The music industry’s previous attempts to reform modern music ownership

Among the industry’s earlier attempts was the International Music Joint Venture (IMJV), formed in 2000 by a group of collection societies from across the globe. Later, the World Intellectual Property Organization took a different approach with the International Music Registry (IMR) project. The IMR effort, launched in 2011, began with great promise but ultimately underwent the same fate as the IMJV.

One of the most famous examples in recent history is the Global Repertoire Database (GRD). Supported by over 80 organisations and more than 450 individuals across six continents, the GRD aimed to create “a single, comprehensive and authoritative representation of the global ownership, administration, and control of musical works”. Despite years of effort and considerable funding, the project was abandoned after six years in 2014. The shutdown was attributed to the collection societies’ inability to share their data openly, a lack of overall collaboration, and “due to a fall-out of collection societies over funding”. 

In 2014, JAAK was one of the first blockchain-based startups to attempt to build a comprehensive repository for music IP. They realised early on that public blockchains enable the aggregation of information from various sources into a unified repository, ensuring an auditable trail of ownership and data integrity without the reliance on a central authority. By 2018, they had launched a pilot with major industry partners, including WMG and BMG. Despite their commendable effort, the company was forced to shut down after six long years. Their shutdown can be attributed to a lack of funding required to get to market, the immaturity of blockchain and Web3, and the music industry’s limited understanding of the technology. 

A new approach to establishing a global repository for music IP

While previous blockchain-based attempts made significant breakthroughs in reforming modern IP ownership and management, they were restricted in many ways. For instance, JAAK’s open data network was designed to run on top of the Ethereum blockchain. While general-purpose blockchains like Ethereum have been proven to be the most secure and robust option for real-world asset tokenisation, their one-size-fits-all approach comes with a level of complexity that needs to be fine-tuned to the specific nuances of the music industry. Their generalist nature makes it difficult to construct specialised solutions seamlessly integrating with the existing industry value chain and legal frameworks. With the recent advancements in Web3 interoperability, scalability, and composability, specialised industry blockchains are now a viable alternative to general-purpose blockchains like Ethereum. 

For any industry-wide initiative – such as developing an industry-specific blockchain protocol – governance and coordination are key success factors.

In innovation clusters or any environment where you try to define how something new is going to be implemented in everyday life, it is proven that you always have an orchestrator. This is someone leading the conversation, the experimentation, and the adoption. Usually, orchestrators have been innovative corporations or academic institutions.

– Sergio Mottola, President and CEO of the Web3 Music Association

In this context, the Web3 Music Association (“W3M”) is a non-profit entity with the goal of orchestrating innovation in the music industry. Its mission is to educate music industry professionals, support their digital transformation, and stimulate the development of a global blockchain-based repository for music IP. By bringing together various music industry stakeholders, the W3M aims to bundle a broad set of expertise to collaboratively build out new infrastructure – owned and governed by the music industry at large.

Created from an extensive three-year collaboration, the association is a lead contributor to the Music Protocol – a dedicated blockchain for intellectual property registration, management and monetisation. The Music Protocol is designed to overcome the traditional constraints in funding, collaboration, and governance that have plagued previous industry initiatives in the past. What sets Music Protocol apart from its blockchain predecessors is its attempt to align and incentivise stakeholders through an industry token and customised incentive framework. Further details coming soon.


Brought to you by the Web3 Music Association (“W3M”) – a non-profit entity with the goal of orchestrating innovation in the music industry. Its mission is to educate music industry professionals, support their digital transformation, and bring them together to collaboratively develop innovative use cases. Created from an extensive three-year collaboration, the association is a lead contributor to the Music Protocol – a dedicated blockchain for intellectual property registration, management and monetisation.

Sources

Contributor

Tim Soens – Web3 Music Association Analyst

Follow