Q1 Update: The MVP & Collaborating Towards an Open Music Industry Infrastructure

As with most things in the blockchain space, a lot has transpired in the past few months since we last posted. We promised we would have to something to show in Q1 2017, and although it’s not the MVP, we can show you what we’ve done, what happened, and what’s next.

Our initial ventures towards the MVP focused on the value proposition to artists, while accepting certain short-term technical shortcuts in exchange for a quicker delivery.

By deciding to put all metadata in Ethereum itself, there were less moving parts but also trade-offs. Although it was more expensive, the data was replicated and accessible for any Ethereum savvy user. Unfortunately, it also meant that the metadata wasn’t content-addressed, and thus would be difficult to find if you didn’t know where to look.

We basically had this finished. Before polishing the designs, here’s what it looks like (WIP):

It gave artists the ability to register their works and listen to them. It was essentially a decentralized SoundCloud built on Ethereum, and the first step towards building out our vision for an open music platform.

However, after many meetings that were spent in deep introspection, three things forced us to reconsider launching it as it is.

  1. Identity platforms are coming.
  2. The platform is key.
  3. In a decentralized economy, collaboration is vital to success.

Identity platforms are coming.

Artists and fans are continuously losing control on the web. Their digital identities are fragmented and siloed between various service providers and these centralized entities take authority to silence or delete the work of artists as they see fit. How many times have you lost playlists due to platforms disappearing, computers crashing, or changing services? Have you ever created and published a work to a streaming platform to have it deleted with little or no valid explanation? We believe artists need to own their masters and be the masters of their art. We believe that fans should own their reputation, data, and digital assets and that all of this should be portable.

uPort, our sister team at ConsenSys is building a flexible, self-sovereign identity platform on Ethereum, that aims to be the first fully-decentralized, user-owned digital identity and key recovery system. We believe that integrating uPort into Ujo is foundational to solving the problems described above, and with the technology maturing it is a pivotal time for us to do it.

The platform is key.

In our initial roadmap, we envisioned that moving towards a common and open music industry infrastructure would come later, but the deeper we dove, the more we realized that the vision would be incomplete without this first.

Thus, we had to pivot our architecture to be more inclusive of our peers who share our vision for an open music industry. We decided to focus on making sure our metadata is easily accessible, standards-compliant (using COALA IP), and our architecture is (reasonably) scalable (up to millions of records). We’ve been drafting a long document by speaking to all our fellow stalwarts on what this looks like, and will be sharing soon to get feedback from more collaborators and the community.

Dogfooding Collaboration

Building an adjacent music industry is a monumental task. If we believe that all these scrappy blockchain and music startups are going to provide immense value to musicians, then we will need to collaborate as best we can. We have friends at Jaak, Bigchain, Mediachain, Resonate, Alexandria and others all fighting the good fight. If blockchains promise a future of collaboration over competition, then we need to innovate and dogfood this ourselves.

We’ve been drafting experimental designs in using tokenized models to allow current and new collaborators to align themselves in accomplishing shared goals. The key components we see in these early stages include:

  1. fostering standards-compliant metadata (eg COALA IP),
  2. sharing said metadata (into IPFS/IPDB/Mediachain/Swarm), and
  3. making sure we re-use and define what is valid metadata.

We’ve been exploring concepts such as continuous token models and curation communities, and we feel this is the right direction to move towards. We will be rolling out experiments based on these ideas soon!

Team updates:

Simon de la Rouviere has been working on these collaborative economic models & architecture designs.

Gabe Tumlos has been deeply exploring our community strategy, having wine-filled (Pacifico Sur) bursts of lucidity about what a music industry built upon the same foundation might look like, and helping us coordinate with our collaborators.

Juan Blanco, unfortunately recently bogged down with a broken leg, is our back-end expert and has been building Nethereum so that we can process data as it gets logged.

Karl Floersch, when not giving feedback to Vitalik on Casper, has been laying down the Redux & contract code.

Gael Blanchemain, our resident ex-Buddhist monk, has gone from 0-60 as a developer and is now working on integrating uPort into Ujo.

Alexander Attar recently left the legacy music industry. In just one month at Ujo, he has taken on designing schemas for our community platform, and helping us map the various metadata networks.

Jesse Grushack, our product champion, has been helping us coordinate our efforts with partners and constantly reminding us to ship!

We’ve been hard at work. We will share our full vision of an adjacent music industry soon, and hope you can join us.

Cheers!

Team Ujo

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