“The biggest problem in the music industry is that streaming is taking off and musicians aren’t necessarily earning a lot of money. And it can take three months, or up to 18 months for unsigned musicians, to get paid for streams,” says Ranidu Lankage. This is a common problem faced by musicians across the world and one that he’s trying to tackle using blockchain with his new startup, Audius.
But what exactly is Audius? According to Techcrunch, it’s an open-source platform that wants to help musicians get paid their fair share. As such, it wants to cut out the middlemen using blockchain. Therefore, users would pay either pay using tokens they bought or by listening to advertisements to earn Audius tokens. These tokens would be stored in a wallet.
Afterward, for every song they stream, users would pay using these tokens. At the moment, each song a user streams would cost them a fraction of a cent. 85% of the amount users pay would go directly to the musicians. The remainder would go towards anyone else that uses the Audius platform to build apps that make the songs accessible to the users.
“A user wouldn’t even know that they have a wallet,” explains Roneil Rumburg – CTO of Audius. The goal of Audius is to offer a seamless experience for users while ensuring musicians get paid. However, at the moment Audius is a work in progress. The startup plans to launch it’s open-sourced platform in beta later this year.
At the moment the startup is focusing on independent electronic musicians. In other words, musicians that might have a strong following on platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud. But despite their strong following, they could be struggling to make money off the platforms. These are the people that Audius wants to get on board.
In order to attract these musicians, Audius plans to offer bonus tokens to those that join the platform in its early days. The startup believes that fans will go wherever the musicians go. And so with its generous payment offerings with blockchain, Audius hopes that its links would be the first musicians would share to popularize the service.
Nonetheless, like many other platforms, Audius too faces a chicken and egg problem. To get musicians to use its platform it needs listeners. To get listeners on its platform it needs music and artists. And it has believers that are betting it will solve this problem. Already Audius has raised a $5.5 million Series A led by General Catalyst and Lightspeed. Other investors include Kleiner Perkins, Pantera Capital, 122West and Ascolta Ventures.
Furthermore, it’s also acquired some big name advisors to help build its product and relationships with musicians. But Ranidu Lankage himself knows the struggles musicians face all too well. After all, he’s famously known as one of the best Sinhalese R&B and hip-hop artists. With multiple billboard charting singles, he was also the first Sinhalese artist to have his music featured on BBC and MTV.
But Ranidu’s also an entrepreneur with his fair share of tech startups. He first teamed up with Justin Kan – cofounder of Twitch to build an app called The Drop in 2015. Later the duo teamed up again to build another app called Whale. While both apps failed, Ranindu went onto build another app called Polly, which died after an acqui-hire by Reddit didn’t work out.
“Earlier this year I shared the news about my last startup failing after 3 years. It was tough but I thought the only way forward for me is to keep going for it,” says Ranidu Lankage looking towards the future. Will Audius succeed with its blockchain powered approach? If it can attract users, then it likely will. But one thing is for sure, musicians around the world want their fair share. And it’s time for record labels to take notes before they become irrelevant.