BBC Click

Ujo and our work with Imogen Heap is featured in this week’s episode of BBC Click. The segment discusses how blockchain technology could be used to transform the music industry. UK viewers can watch the show on-demand at through the BBC iPlayer.

 

 

 

Imogen Heap’s Tiny Human

Earlier this year as we were working away on Ujo in stealth mode, I heard on the blockchain grapevine that Imogen Heap had made contact with some mutual friends at Ethereum and was exploring how blockchain technology might be used to implement some ideas that she was working on for a new kind of music industry. Aside from being a Grammy and Ivor Novello-winning artist, producer and songwriter, Imogen is also an entrepreneur, setting up her own label Megaphonic in 2005 and more recently founding the musical gloves project Mimu. So even though she had not yet heard of our project, she seemed like a dream collaborator.

 

When we were eventually introduced, it became clear to me that many of the ideas we had been working on from a technology and business perspective she had been working on in parallel from the artist’s perspective. [Imogen subsequently laid out her vision – called Mycelia – in two interviews with Forbes.] Over the next few weeks we developed the idea of building a prototype that would use Imogen’s new song Tiny Human as a test case to show how our shared vision could be built on the blockchain.

 

The prototype has since been informed by discussions with many other people doing great work in the blockchain space – that we hope will be interoperable with Ujo’s open platform – and a broad range of voices from the artistic community. It barely scratches the surface of what is possible – it is a prototype after all – but it does demonstrate that ideas that have been largely theoretical until now are actually achievable using our technology. In allowing us to use Tiny Human as a test case, Imogen has given us a wonderful opportunity to provide the smallest of glimpses into what the future could look like.

 

Over the next few weeks we will be constantly updating and improving the prototype – and making it possible for more people to access its full functionality by incorporating credit card and Bitcoin payments. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy interacting with our first demo release and ask for your patience as we slowly transform it into the full functioning platform we have in our heads.

Rethink Music: Fair Music Workshop 2 October

Ujo’s Phil Barry is speaking at Rethink Music’s Fair Music Workshop in Boston on 2 October. He will be part of a panel discussing Rethink’s recent proposals for how blockchain technology might be used to improve transparency in the music business. Also speaking at the event are Brian Message (Partner, ATC Management – Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Nick Cave), Willard Ahdritz (CEO, Kobalt Music Group), Imogen Heap, Robert Ashcroft (CEO, PRS For Music) and many others.

 

For more details, please visit Rethink’s website

Guardian Event and Prototype release 3 October

We are excited to announce that we will be releasing a prototype based on Imogen Heap’s new song Tiny Human  at an event hosted by The Guardian newspaper on 3 October.

The two-day event will begin with Imogen, Paul Pacifico (CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition) and others setting out current issues facing artists on 2 October, with the second day focussed on practical solutions. Ujo’s Phil Barry will present the prototype before taking part in panels on blockchain technology and how artists and technologists can move forward together to achieve their joint goals and visions.

The event will take place at Sonos Studio in London.

 

Click here to read the press release

Get Ether

In the Ujo prototype, the only way to pay for Imogen Heap’s new Single Tiny Human is to use Ether (though, soon, you will be able to use a credit card). Below are a few steps you can take to purchase Ether, send it to an Ether wallet on the Ujo platform, and use it to buy the song.

 

  1. If you have bitcoin, skip this step and go to step 2. To purchase Ether, create an account on kraken.com and go through the approval process. You can use American Dollars, Canadian Dollar, Japanese Yen and British Pounds. Use these funds to purchase a small amount of Ether. You will need around 1ETH, but please be aware that the price of Ether may fluctuate.
  2. Go to alpha.ujomusic.com and click “Download”.
  3. Click “New Address”. Save and remember your password. Close the popup.
  4. Refresh alpha.ujomusic.com and click “download”.
    •  a) Copy the “Wallet Address” – the long number that looks something like 0x2a36008569d226c79d285a5959dcb24d1a0479ee.
    • b) If you have set up an account on Kraken to buy Ether, visit Kraken.com now and send the Ether funds you have purchased to this address. Skip to step 5.
    • c) If you have bitcoin, visit shapeshift.io. Select “bitcoin” in the “Deposit” form on the left hand side (It may load this way). On the right hand side of the page, in the “Receive” from, click the arrow to change currencies from “LTC” to “Ether”. (You will see a warning message because the Ethereum Foundation is being transparent about the current status of the Ethereum network. This will change for the Homestead launch happening in a few months time.) Finally, in the “Your Payment Address”, enter the wallet address that you copied in step 4a. Agree to the terms and click “start”.
  5. You may need to wait a few minutes depending on how long it takes for Kraken or Shapeshift to process your request.
  6. Refresh the Ujo alpha page. You should see your funds if you view the menu on the top left of the screen.
  7. Pay for Imogen’s new song, Tiny Human!

The Observer New Review

This weekend’s cover story in The Observer New Review focuses on Imogen Heap’s Mycelia and how technology companies such as Ujo are making the vision reality. Ujo’s Phil Barry is interviewed in the piece, which you can read in full on The Guardian

Billboard Interview

Ujo is envisioned as a rights database and payment infrastructure, intended to be free for anyone to use and build applications upon. “Our view is that there is no advantage in multiple people all building the same infrastructure — it should be shared and open”, explains Barry.

 

Ujo is attempting to tackle two major problems. The first, echoing PeerTracks, is how money is distributed to artists and rights holders. The other is determining the ownership of a creative work, a convoluted structure when songs can have ten or more co-writers attached. That, in turn, makes licensing difficult. “We in the music industry should be doing everything possible to make it easy for people to license music, because that is when you get new business models and new revenue opportunities that might benefit the music industry in the future”, says Barry.

 

The music industry’s last attempt at cataloging songs and their creators, the Global Repertoire Database (GRD), failed. To be sure, getting the industry-at-large to jump on the blockchain will take a long time. “People have their own vested interests in keeping data private,” Barry says, “and all the existing systems are outdated and don’t match up. [But] if we wait for all the music publishers and all the collecting societies and everybody to organize themselves, sit around a table and reach an agreement about creating this central database we’ll be waiting until the end of the next century.”

 

Instead, Barry hopes that, bit by bit, his will replace those outdated systems. “It will save a lot of money,” he claims. “On average, about 12.7 percent of royalties that go through performing rights societies are used for operating costs. That money would be available instead to artists and record companies. Secondly, the music industry absolutely needs new revenue and business models, new ways of consuming music and to simplify the way music is managed and licensed.”

 

Ujo will provide artists with tools for voting and negotiation, so the artists themselves can set the parameters of how their work is used.

 

“Just standing in the middle, collecting money, waiting a year, sending it on and taking 10 percent won’t work anymore,” says Barry. “If anybody wants to build a new curation or streaming service, a negotiating service or other things that no one has imagined yet they can just build it on top of the blockchain. If it is a good model that benefits the creative community it will succeed, if not, it won’t.” 

 

Interview by Gideon Gottfried