How do you listen to your music? I’ll take a guess and say you’re using a streaming platform such as Spotify, Deezer or Apple Music. But what most people don’t know is that when you pay your monthly fee for these streaming services, up to 80% of the artist’s revenue is deducted.
Whilst bigger artists, whose income is often supplemented by big record deals, worldwide tours, and substantial merchandise revenue can deal with it, smaller artists are struggling to make a living from music streaming.
But that’s not all. With streaming services fiercely competing for exclusivity, the industry has become somewhat fragmented. Fans often have to chop and change between different platforms just to listen to their favourite music.
But then along came OPUS. Led by a team of computer scientists and engineers, the OPUS Foundation has set out its mission to disrupt the music industry, backed by the power of blockchain technology.
Having been captivated by the idea, I caught up with the co-founder and COO Mateusz Mach (pictured below) to find out more about his project, how they plan to take it to market, and the future of the music industry.
Whose idea was it to create OPUS?
The idea came from myself, Bokang Jia, and Chenchao Xu. We all met each other in Abu Dhabi and started working on the platform there. I have already started or been a part of various other projects and so I used my experiences to grow the company to its current size and to manage quite a large team developing the platform to its full potential.
What inspired you to create OPUS?
Some of our team members have a background in the music industry and are well aware of the problems crippling this market. Most existing music platforms take well over half the revenue a musician generates, leaving artists who are still trying to establish themselves struggling to make a living. We were inspired to help aspiring artists monetize their work fairly and to give them the opportunity to boost their careers.
We knew about the blockchain and its potential, and we figured that this would be perfect to solve these issues. We really hope to change the way people think about music in the future.
For those who aren’t familiar with OPUS, how does it work for the consumer?
We recently switched from a buy-to-own model to a streaming model, as it was suggested by our amazing community, and as such we will be operating in a similar way to some of the biggest music streaming platforms already out there. Users will be able to set up their account, link it with their wallets, and then pay a regular subscription fee to get access to all the music on OPUS. You will be able to search for all your favorite songs and browse through the latest releases. The platform will also have the function to create playlists, and the creators of these playlists will be able to generate their own revenue when people listen to them.
Being compared to the most established platforms out there from a user experience point of view would make us very proud. They are characterized by a friendly interface and ease-of-use, and achieving this kind of accessibility would be incredible; indeed, this is what we are working towards.
The biggest difference between OPUS and other platforms will be felt by the artists. Music fans will have the opportunity to really show their support for their favorite singers and bands, who in turn can really get all the credit they deserve for their hard work.
And how does it work for the musicians?
OPUS will really change the way people, in particular musicians, think about music. We use smart contracts to ensure transparency in how the revenue is distributed and guarantee that every artist will receive his or her promised share of the profits. Most other platforms shroud royalty distribution in a great deal of mystery and so no one really knows where all that money goes. With OPUS, musicians will have access to see exactly what happens with the revenue they generate.
Artists will be able to sign up to OPUS via the player (though in the meantime, while the platform is still being developed, we are recruiting artists using a brief form or by getting in touch with them via e-mail), where they will be able to set up their profile with all the necessary data, such as names, genre, and so on. This profile will then be linked to their wallet, and they are good to go. The artist then just needs to upload his or her music and watch as their hard work is monetized in a secure and transparent way.
If you had to give a brief elevator pitch to someone who’s never heard of OPUS, what would you say?
OPUS is the world’s first decentralized music streaming platform, based on Ethereum and IPFS, which allows musicians to monetize their art without having to give away most of the profits.
How do you plan on taking OPUS to the masses?
As our development is going very smoothly and is ahead of schedule, we are starting to focus more on carrying out a successful marketing campaign. We will be sponsoring a variety of conferences all over the world, from
New York to London to Gdansk, Poland, the location of our main offices. Getting global exposure is vital to attract fans from every corner of our planet. We are hoping to announce important strategic partnerships with other startups soon, as well as reaching out to some established, big names in the music industry to get them on board.
How will you incentivise users of other music streaming platforms to switch over to Opus?
Music fans want as much content as possible from their favorite musicians, and this will only happen if the artist can afford to release more music. With our unique UX, we hope to prove to the world that artists will really benefit from switching to OPUS, and we know that their fans will realize that this is the fairest solution and join OPUS.
Over the last ten years, the way that music is distributed and consumed has changed drastically. From physical release, to P2P and now we have streaming services. How do you see the music landscape changing in the next 10 years?
The music industry is rapidly developing. There is certainly going to be a greater emphasis on transparency from everyone involved in this market, whether that’s artists, their fans, record labels, or music streaming platforms. The problem with royalties and their distribution will be solved because this issue can no longer be ignored, it frustrates everyone. I can also see more independent artists emerging, with the rise of new solutions to various problems crippling the music industry and a change in the way record labels function.
Do you think there could be other ways that the music industry is disrupted by blockchain technology in the future? If so, how?
One of the biggest problems in the music industry is royalty distribution, it is very difficult for most artists to handle. I believe that there will be royalty management systems based on the blockchain in the future, which will definitely disrupt the entire industry.
Would you say that industry gatekeepers such as Spotify, Soundcloud and Deezer who traditionally held influence will go the way of the dinosaur?
That is an excellent question. Our whole team at OPUS, myself included, have the utmost respect for all our competitors. Every one of the platforms listed has in some way revolutionized the music industry, and they will certainly take steps to change the way artists are treated, but it is very difficult to say whether or not they will succeed. Someone needs to do something about all the problems that plague the world of music, and that is precisely our mission. It is what we set out to do and it is what we will keep working towards.
Who’s your favourite artist/group?
I am a fan of all sorts of music but most of all, I’m a Kanye West fan. Let’s hope he releases more music soon.
To find out more about the OPUS project, visit www.opus-foundation.org