“DEBUT”: A new music protocol for fair play

Ver 1.1

update: We have changed the governance token scheme after discussing with the community.

Author: Musicoin Community

Executive Summary

After years of experiments, we have pinpointed several key areas to innovate online music service with blockchain technology by removing both hypes and barriers from previous experiences. The whole community has applied some novel processes to bring composable and interoperable potential into a new protocol to facilitate a decentralized music streaming realm over a public blockchain (Ethereum, more specifically). The new protocol aims to unlock billions of dollars which are hindered by today’s centralized and intransparent models handled by monopoly players and unleash the power of musicians, listeners, and curators, to realize the potential of music.

The Gordian Knot

The key problem in today’s music industry lies in the fact that musicians and creators are underpaid because of the siphoning effect from those middleman businesses deployed by those monopoly players,, hence it is becoming a less creative and aged industry. Although some streaming services have remobilized users to listen to music from a centralized platform, they lack transparency and accountability and somehow have put musicians into an even weaker position to demand their share of the revenue for their work..

The problem is rooted in the industry structure but no incumbent player desires to solve that because they don’t want it to change. Even though there were some joint efforts trying to engage new technologies, it’s hard to find unified standards, thus it’s impossible to lead to a concrete solution. The whole industry is becoming a Gordian Knot. It can’t grow much, it can’t be solved, thus — it maintains the knot.

With such a structure, music content itself becomes a caged bird. It cannot be easily shared online with a simple link. The proprietary paywall is everywhere within this current version of the digitalized music industry and has been since its beginning. The function of music is dramatically reduced by such a barrier, thus limiting its social potential.

A New Protocol

Stewart Brand famously said at a hacker conference in 1984, “Information wants to be free”. While he meant “free” in terms of cost, the idea also applies to the movement of information through physical space and across social groups.

We are proposing a new protocol called “Debut” based on open blockchain(s), which incorporates the most important stakeholders in a music piece’s lifecycle: ideation → creation → curation → consumption → remuneration. The new protocol reduces the friction between musicians and listeners, but also considers the quality of content based on a method of community-filtering, backed by curators, who will be rewarded as well.

In this new protocol, we still encourage listeners to subscribe to the service, but with any amount they wish, it’s not a locked-in pricing model like other subscription services today. With a flexible amount of contribution, listeners can listen from 1 to an unlimited amount of music tracks based on a stable rate of payment from the subscription pool to royalty pool illustrated below:

PPP (Pay Per Play) is still the core engine in the new protocol — it’s upgraded though from PPP 1.0 described in Musicoin’s white paper to give further privilege to musicians to control their rights and revenue structure.

PPP will request every stream from the Subscription Pool for a stable rate (eg 0.01USD/stream). The rate is relatively stable but linked to the future governance model to fit the needs of fair play. With such an arbitrary setting, musicians won’t be treated prejudicially by the system, instead, every play was born equal.

Within PPP, musicians can recover the majority of the revenue and freely distribute to their contributors (e.g. Lyricists, composers, band members, marketers, etc.) after sharing a fixed rate (let’s say 10%) to the curation system for curators to review and nominate their works. The curation rate will be linked to a government apparatus as well.

Curator is one of the most important roles in this protocol because it will help the best works to be filtered and emerge from the ocean of creations. In our design, all the musicians verified in the system are automatically curators by default, so they can enjoy another source of revenue evenly distributed from the UBI pool. Other curators are active community members who are willing to contribute and select the best works from the catalog and rate them continuously.

With the collective curation, listeners can consume music more effectively from mere indifferent listening. With a stable PPP rate, listeners will not waste their subscription fee because every penny counts. Even if they didn’t consume music this month, the subscription won’t expire. Hence, they won’t be exploited.

Implementation

The new MUSIC protocol can be implemented on a public blockchain, more specifically on Ethereum, which is reaching maturity over time to become a programmable and composable decentralized financial system. We also learned the lessons from Musicoin’s early experiments that a proprietary private blockchain requires a huge cost to maintain while hindering real value development.

With its strong capabilities on smart contract functions on the Ethereum blockchain, we can put the focal logic of the new MUSIC protocol on the chain, benefitting from the underlying blockchain’s stability. At the same time, we will try to run other peripheral logics off the chain to reduce the cost of gas expenditures.

In the real world, there’s also a need to consider the sustainability of the project with development perseverance. Any project needs to run upon a vast range of infrastructures even if they are called “decentralized”, at the same time we need to consider the operation cost of a viable system that may engage a lot of cost for online/offline interactions. Apart from implementing the core protocol vigorously, we’d propose to add some extra fees to authenticate musicians and curators which will help streamline the system and help us avoid a management vacuum.

Given the hybrid nature of the protocol, we will support both crypto wallet and social channels to authenticate users. In this way, users holding cryptocurrencies can consume music anonymously, while fiat currency users may be easier to share and connect with other users even beyond this realm. In either case, we will assure the utmost privacy of the users.

Economy

As long as good music keeps emerging, the system will be able to serve all the stakeholders and incentivize them to create more value and keep the system running in a fair distribution and utilization.

According to Nielsen Music and MRC Data’s 2019 Year-End Music Report, Americans streamed a record of nearly 1.15 trillion (!) songs in 2019. Globally the number can be rounded to twice the scale. If all the streams can be gauged as 0.01 USD PPP, the total scale will be over 30 billion, which is 5x bigger than today’s industry.

The new DEBUT protocol is not limited to music, actually, if we add support for podcasts and audiobooks, the economy would be even greater.

Governance

The initial prototype will run upon a centralized configuration but soon thereafter, will transfer to a ledger to enable decentralized ruling.

Several rates in the new music protocol will be ruled by the decentralized governance model. To facilitate this ruling, a fixed amount of governance token will be issued, E.g. 1,000,000 in total, the future issuance will then turn to initial owners of the token to vote and decide.

A governance token (called $MUS) will be issued before we migrate to Ethereum blockchain. The new token will be issued with a cap of 2,000,000,000 in volume. Old $MUSIC will be converted into the new token in a public interface.

The old generation of Musicoin will be converted to the new governance token once the governance model is defined.

To make sure all the governance tokens are serving for the future of the project, an allocation scheme was developed in this way:

Stakeholders

Total allocation

Migration strategy

Musicians

Amount to be determined — source: organization fund received from non-swapped old coins.

Each verified account receives rewards for validated activities over time.

Dev team

Amount to be determined — source: organization fund received from non-swapped old coins.

Dev team receives rewards for validated accomplishments over time.

Community

Amount to be determined — source: organization fund received from non-swapped old coins.

Community receives rewards for validated activities over time.ent activities

Old coin conversion

Approximately 2,000,000,000 old coins converted to 2,000,000,000 new ERC20 tokens

Swap ratio: 1:1

(e.g. 1,000,000 $MUSIC will get 1,000,000 MUS)

Total

2,000,000,000

Blockchain and digital currency for music