dotBlockchain Music: Data Before Database

The dotBlockchain Music Project (dotBC), an ambitious effort to create an open-source data framework for sound recordings and musical compositions, received a major boost last week with the announcement that four industry partners have signed on to support the initiative: Canadian performing rights organization SOCAN and its rights administration subsidiary MediaNet; publishing royalty administrator Songtrust; independent music distributor CD Baby; and digital rights service FUGA.

The new partners, the first for dotBlockchain, will bring a catalog of more than 65 million recordings into the dotBC ecosystem, and will add another 500,000 new recordings a month, according to the announcement.

According to dotBlockchain co-founder Benji Rogers, the four partners were recruited in part because they represent most of the critical links in the music value chain: PRO, distribution, rights administration, and technology platform. dotBlockchain is also working with music publishers and leading digital service providers on joining the initiative, according to Rogers, but those partners are not yet ready to go public with their participation.

The of the dotBlockchain Project is to create a technical framework for permanently binding data on authorship and ownership of musical compositions to individual sound recordings. That package of sound file and ownership information could then serve as the foundation for others in the music value chain to layer on additional metadata related to their involvement in or uses of the work, such as the date of the recording and the identities of the musicians involved, and the date of and artists involved in any subsequent recordings of the same work.

If all goes according to plan, the system would provide an unbroken chain of data from any use of a work, such as streaming a recording of it, back to the original authors and rights owners, and to anyone due money for use (see the video below for a visual representation of how it’s meant to work).

Getting a real-world catalog of publishing information to work with was key to the next phase in the development of the dotBC ecosystem, Rogers told RightsTech.com.

“The most important when you’re trying to bootstrap something like this is you have to have a base level to start from. We needed actual sound recordings to work with,” Rogers to RightsTech.com.

SOCAN and CD Baby will provide the data on those recordings.

“We can now say, this is where the sound recordings are, and here is the publishing information,” Rogers said. “And now, a DSP can have all of that information for every stream.”

Rogers hopes that ground-up approach will allow dotBlockchain to success where other efforts to create a comprehensive library of ownership data have failed, such as the now-abandoned Global Repertoire Database initiative.

“Every other proposal for how to do this has been database-first. We felt this had to be publishing-first and then you build out from there,” Rogers said.

Rather than building and hosting its own database, in fact,  dotBC will use the public blockchain to register information, eliminating questions about ownership of the data and who would have access to it.

“This will give publishers much better visibility into how their works and being used and will put them on much more equal footing with other rights holders.”

With last week’s announcement the dotBlockchain Project officially entered Phase 2 of its three-part development plan, according to Rogers. Phase 1 included open-sourcing its code base and creating “wrapper” codes for binding ownership information to sound files. Phase 2, which Rogers described as a sort of “sandbox” phase, will let interested parties model real-world examples of what a finished dotBC file would look like and to test the robustness of the data chain. It’s scheduled to run through the third quarter of this year.

“I think by the late summer there will be a fair number of real dotBCs in the world,” Rogers said.

Phase 3, currently scheduled to begin by the end of the year, would involve implementing the system in the wild.

 

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