Blockchain technology removes ‘agency’ for artists (or creators) across any discipline.
If you are an artist, dealing with an agent – a gallery, studio or a photo agency – this tech can rock your world.
Blockchain rids you of the intermediary cost — the agent or gallery — who typically takes a cut of your sales.
Today, you don’t need an agent to sell art. Now you can showcase your art on your own digital website to the world and sell directly to people who like your work.
But if you are in the gallery or agency space, a specifically designed Blockchain can remove your gallery or agency from the transaction of a sale. Thereby liberating profits that you can reinvest in you – to create more interesting, provocative and challenging work others will want to buy and experience.
As a professional documentary photographer, here’s my perspective.
On March 22, 2017, The Tapscotts published an article in Harvard Business Review telling us creatives how we can profit more from our work using Blockchain.
Here’s the guts of what they said.
- Value templates to construct deals that respect the artist as an entrepreneur and equal partner in any venture. LeBeau considers the engine of SingularDTV to be its smart contract system, which continually directs the flow of funding to, and revenues from, projects per the automated terms of agreement.
- Funding mechanisms whereby artists can raise venture capital. For example, actor Mitzi Peirone plans to use WeiFund, a blockchain-based crowdsale platform, to fund part of her debut thriller, Braid. Unlike Kickstarter or Indiegogo, WeiFundturns supporters into investors who share in the profits, should a film become profitable.
- Inclusive revenues that use self-executing smart contracts to divide profits fairly and without delays according to each person’s contribution to the creative process. This benefits not just actors, screenwriters, and directors, for example, but also other artists and engineers.
- Transparent ledgers distributed on the blockchain so that everyone can see how much revenue a film is generating and who is getting what percentage.
- Micrometering and micromonetizing functionality to stream the revenues immediately to the artists and contributors, the way a film itself streams to online viewers. For example, filmmakers can monetize their content directly by making it available through Wiper, an encrypted messaging app that comes with a bitcoin wallet. Consumers can view films on their mobile devices in exchange for bitcoin.
- Usage data analytics in the hands of artists at last, to attract the right merchandisers and distributors, plan promotions, and crowdfund resources for future creative collaborations with other artists.
- Digital rights management (DRM) — that is, the deployment of smart contracts to maximize the value of digital rights in a database. For example, SingularDTV represents film, television and software projects on the blockchain as SNGLS tokens.
- Piracy protection though public key infrastructure, which enables artists to exchange their assets securely with consumers over networks. For example, Custos Media Technologies, a South African startup, has deployed the bitcoin blockchain to track media piracy by incentivizing the file-sharing community to police pirated content.
- Dynamic pricing mechanisms to experiment with promotions and auction-style schemes that could even tie pay-per-view and advertising rates to the online demand for a film.
- Reputation systems that cull data from a token address’s transaction history and social media, to create a reputation score for that address. Artists will be able to establish their own credibility as well as that of prospective partners and refrain from doing deals with entities that fall short of reputational standards or lack necessary funding in their accounts.
What the Tapscott’s don’t tackle is the following:
- Disruptive technology for a non-technology enabled artist is hard to consume. The argument to convert to Blockchain and the tech associated with it needs to be super simple, easy and readily accessible so that it is integrated into the creator’s creation process, not as an afterthought. Moreover, it must not create more friction in my creative business than already exists.
- Blockchain demands a completely different socio-political | economic mindset when it comes down to the relationship between creator (now potentially owner) and consumer. For example, we now talk about venture capital to become a co-owner of a film or documentary photography project, demanding different profit sharing deals or arrangements otherwise not in the mix. Great if you are in that play, most artists aren’t, and are therefore not ready or prepared for or haven’t hired a lawyer or accountant to deal with with these options or eventualities.
- No talk of the real impact of transparency in a traditionally closed, and frankly arbitrary set of cultural industries writ large (I’m generalizing). Smart contracts may benefit creators which I love, but eviscerating transparency in typically closeted industries raises issues of ethics, parity, gender, equality and just plain what do you do once that information is laid bare. How does one manage the fall out of cultural disruption, and importantly, who owns this mess.
- Monetization is intriguing and seductive. Who doesn’t know a ‘starving artist’ who could benefit from an on-going stream of financial support? Giving creators their fair share of financial support is crucial. But doing it in a way that artists are able to easily and simply absorb this added layer of digital administration is key. Moreover, I get the dynamic pricing schemes — for example, pay for view, on-line auctions. Yet in my photographic domain, where everyone on their Smartphone thinks they can take an image, monetization is challenging. I have to cut through the visual and cultural noise to make my image relevant, authentic and valuable in order to have someone see its worth and actually buy it.
- I get the data analytics argument. Data is king. The more data & evidence, the more an artist can extract marketing profits. It goes hand in hand with the idea of ‘rights’ – maximizing the value of digital rights (assuming the created work is digital). Tracking, transacting rights of content consumed by others but managing it through the creator. But the level of market ‘success’ will depend on the ability of the artist to actually have trusted someone – maybe staff or a surrogate – to track the data thus freeing the artist to create content needed to drive the business. Clearly, Blockchain favors the established artist or consortia with data and infrastructure support to drive and financially take advantage or disruption, or the very starving artist at the beginning of their career who can embrace and ingest the technology quickly and decisively. Canada’s artistic “middle class”, however, may need to help to adjust, and therefore, how?
- Privacy protection, intellectual property, copyright. I get it but in a world of creative commons, open data, open government, open almost everything as well, how does Canada’s creator fit into this new world? While the Tapscott Blockchain model is economically consumer driven, I wonder as an artist, are you relevant to me?
- And finally. Reputational standards. What the heck does that mean? Are my website and images are not real, true or authentic? Will Blockchain somehow ‘authenticate’ my creativity? And who does that and at what cost? Frankly, I don’t want an algorithym telling people that I am real or have an authentic voice.
Digital disruption is great — being the wild West of the new world.
Driving a blockchain value proposition for artists and society may even more greatly disrupt.
But sucking the creative integrity and soul of art doesn’t work for me.
Blockchain needs to meet me on my terms as a creative.
I need to design it to support me in creating value.
Derived from truth.
Its a brave new world.
Vision | Voice | Visuals mine