Higher-powered home computers drove the democratization of music production, then the internet allowed individuals to promote themselves. Many at the time wondered if this would be the death of record labels, which previously were the only way for bands to get known.
As it turns out, the labels simply got partially replaced by streaming services and, because of the massive flood of home-produced material that was terrible as well as the social media habit of seizing on darlings of the moment, labels became more important as a way of finding good music.
This has thrown musicians for a loop. What is the point of home producing when you still need a label? Why bother self-promoting when you can only get so far, unless you are struck by the fifteen-minutes-of-fame lighting for writing a trendy or funny song?
Some music fans are working toward a new model: self-publishing with cryptocurrency as a way to trade value, so that when people listen to a podcast or album, they can then kick along micropayments directly to the artists and avoid the entire production apparatus.
I was lucky to speak with Kolomona Myer AKA Sir Libre, founder of Lightning Thrashes podcast, to delve deeper into this new economy and method of promoting music outside of the industry that takes a big cut off the top before it ever gets to musicians.
You wrote a document about how to get paid for podcasting that seems to advocate using Podcasting 2.0-compatible RSS feeds and BitCoin micropayments to fund podcasters. How hard is this for the average user?
It can vary between extremely easy to very complicated. It all depends on what the average user’s goals are and how comfortable they are with technology. There are services that will completely do everything for the user, all they need to do is create an mp3 file.
Right now I like what Boo-Bury is doing. He’s helping musicians get their music online for a small split.
If self sovereignty is a concern then the complexity increases. One could set up their own bitcoin lightning node, manage liquidity, self host their files and distribute them via IPFS. I don’t recommend this as it’s a major pain.
No matter how the podcast gets published all that is needed is an RSS file, an mp3 file, a place to host those files and a lightning wallet capable of receiving keysend payments.
How widely adopted do you think BitCoin is at this point in time?
Without relying on a search engine I will try to answer this question from my perception which is likely inaccurate.
I think that we are still in an early adoption phase regarding bitcoin. I’d guess that less than 1% of the world owns any bitcoin and probably somewhere around 15-20% even know about it.
A lot of the value provided by bitcoin to regular people these days is in the form of remittances. Many migrant workers send money back to their home countries. Before bitcoin, services such as Western Union would take a high percentage of any money sent across borders. Now with the bitcoin lightning network this can be done for a fraction of a penny. Example:
Many in the 2.5 million Salvadoran diaspora send money to friends and family still living in El Salvador. Last year, they collectively transferred nearly $6 billion, or roughly 23% of the country’s gross domestic product, and a chunk of that went to the middlemen facilitating these international transfers.
The hassle around remittances is one chief reason El Salvador President Nayib Bukele cited for declaring bitcoin legal tender. As part of the rollout, the government has launched its own national virtual wallet — called “Chivo,” or Salvadoran slang for “cool” — which offers no-fee transactions and allows for quick cross-border payments.
Mega companies like BlackRock are looking at ways to add bitcoin to their portfolios. When this happens I think that we’ll see a lot more adoption of bitcoin by other companies, which should lead into the adoption of bitcoin by normal people as they use the services provided by those companies.
Would there be collisions with copyright if podcasters were creating radio shows that featured bands that held their own copyrights, or bands whose copyrights were held by labels? Do these bands generally waive copyright for radio broadcast?
The world of music copyrights is a very expensive, ugly and litigious one. I recommend treating traditional copyrighted material as if it were a deadly poison.
From what I understand, in order to play copyrighted music on the radio, a podcast, a video, or other medium the proper license would need to be purchased from companies such as ASCAP, BMI, SESAC, etc.
The monies received by these companies are supposed to get funneled down to the copyright holders, which may or may not include the actual artists. It’s an inefficient, convoluted mess of a system that is best avoided.
In 2021, ASCAP collected over US$1.335 billion in revenue, distributed $1.254 billion in royalties to rights-holders. In FY 2022, BMI collected $1.573 billion in revenues and distributed $1.471 billion in royalties. $81 Million from ASCAP, and $102 million from BMI totaling $183 million, was not distributed to those rights holders, and was “eaten up” by the system.
The podcasting 2.0 specification attempts to solve this problem by the disintermediation of these agencies and allowing the listener to give real value directly to the artists. The artists in turn can have that value automatically split between themselves and whomever they choose; a guitar tech, sound engineer, groupie, etc.
Notice I did not use the word bitcoin at all. The podcasting 2.0 spec is agnostic to the payment medium. It could just as well be any appropriate cryptocurrency or payment layer.
When an artist publishes a value enabled RSS feed it is reasonable to assume that they are granting a license allowing anyone to play their music in a manner that allows value to flow back to them.
Have you created any metal shows in this area? What has the response been?
I released episode one of Lightning Thrashes Sept 9th, 2023. As of this writing there are four episodes.
The response has been generally positive considering I’ve only marketed my show on podcastindex, facebook and Nostr.
According to conshax.app The show has received a total of 705 donations totaling 114,750 satoshis (Approx: $31, BTC Price $27,212)
Which is not a lot of money but considering that under 100 people have listened to the show and 15 to 20 of them donate regularly I see it as heading in a positive direction.
How did you get involved in “libre” (free, open, and able to be used for profit, as far as I can tell) software and music?
Basically not having any money to buy software. Ever since my first computer, an Atari 130XE back in the 80s I used to have to type source code from magazines like Byte and Compute.
I went through a phase of software pirating back in the 90s and early 2000s. Eventually Open Source software became good enough for actual use. I pretty much gave up on Windows about 5 years ago and haven’t looked back since.
Is podcasting necessarily live, or can people do canned shows?
Both canned and live shows are possible. While there are some podcasters like Adam Curry (No Agenda Show, Boostagram Ball) and Leo Laport (TWiT) that broadcast their podcasts live, most podcasters do canned shows.
Lately there has been a growing trend of podcasters doing live podcasts thanks to the podcasting 2.0 liveItem tag and modern podcast apps which support it newpodcastapps.com
Lightning Thrashes is a canned show mainly because I do not have a stable internet connection where I live.
How do you think the widespread adoption of this format would change the band-label-fan relationship triangle?
I believe that labels, record companies, A&R reps, etc. are a dying breed. They will be replaced like so many other antiquated businesses. They may never go away completely but they will become less and less relevant as time passes.
You can still buy a wagon wheel, but there aren’t as many wagon wheel manufacturers as there once was.
The ability for fans to directly monetize their favorite artists and for the artists to directly support their infrastructure is revolutionary and has the potential to change the entire music industry.
The model can also be applied to any business. Imagine paying for a hamburger and instantaneously every person that had a hand in making that burger gets a portion of the money, not from the restaurant owner but from the customer directly. In this scenario there is no employer, save the customer. It’s hard to fully wrap my head around the implications of this but I feel that it’s profound.
Do you create any music of your own?
I’ve been playing guitar and piano since I was a teenager but never seriously. Maybe one day I’ll record something.
How can people tune in to your programs?
Right now the easiest way to get the full value for value experience of a show like Lightning Thrashes is for the listener to get a modern podcast app like Fountain which is both a podcast app and a bitcoin wallet.
Buy a small amount of bitcoin from within Fountain and search for Lightning Thrashes or use this link.
The beauty of podcasting is that it’s decentralized and there is more than one way to consume.