New year, and a fresh start... Welcome to 2022. As Q1 blows away those 2021 cobwebs and hangovers and we all settle back into the pace of work, I’d like to take a moment to look at the year ahead. Hopes and wishes, technical advancements and challenges.
The last few years have been such a mixed bag for the business, but one thing that Covid has accelerated rather than hampered is technological advancement. Everything from consumer knowledge and consumption to innovation and infrastructure has been propelled years ahead during the pandemic. If I were to guess a buzzword you’re going to hear a lot this year, it’s without a doubt ‘Web3’.
Regular readers will know I’ve covered blockchain here over the years as an early advocate but Web3, in a nutshell, is a decentralised online ecosystem that lives on the blockchain. The platforms and apps built on Web3 aren’t owned by a central gatekeeper, they’re owned by users, who gain their ownership stake by helping to develop and maintain those services.
Web3 (short for Web 3.0) is not a new term – it’s been around since 2014, and was coined by Gavin Wood, who helped develop Ethereum (the cryptocurrency second only to Bitcoin). Web3 is the start of a decentralised internet, and the music business would be foolish not to prepare for it.
If you’re not fully up to speed on blockchain (what rock have you been hiding under!), the potential impact on the business is vast, already in play, and growing at a rapid rate. From smart contracts and community, to tokens, micropayments, games, distribution, licensing, ticketing, wallets, rights registration and management, the potential for this infrastructure has long been discussed and in many cases created.
What makes Web3 particularly interesting is the potential mass-market penetration of a decentralised system. At a time when many are worried that the overarching power of large tech companies is dangerous for humanity, the idea of a decentralised system harks back to the original internet ethos: putting power back to the people. That’s starting to feel appealing to many outside of core blockchain speculators and enthusiasts, and we’re already seeing a new wave of consumers using blockchain tech.
Outside of our business, Web3 applications are already winning market share from existing centralised organisations. Talent marketplace Braintrust is already working with employers including Nestlé, Goldman, NASA, Nike and Porsche.
It’s highly likely that initial Web3 usage will on the whole continue to complement rather than replace existing systems, but there is a lot of activity in this space right now, a big second wave of startups, innovation and progress. If we as an industry have learned anything from the past 100 years, it is the capacity technology has to change our entire business in a heartbeat. Ignore it at your peril.
A few of the many companies making moves in the Web3 space that are worth checking out: Revelator (Revelator.com); Sound (Sound.xyz); Audius (Audius.co); and Royal (Royal.io).
Web3 is the start of a decentralised internet, and the music business would be foolish not to prepare for it
Outside of monumental technological leaps, I hope 2022 will bring much more clarity to the ongoing debate around what ‘fairness’ means in the music business.
As conversations continue, wars rage, and the UK government finally gets its head around the issues we’ve been facing, we’re going to continue to see big leaps in the conversations we’ve been having. I, for one, welcome these progressions and I hope, once again, that all parties can be respectful in the quest to have their voices heard.
Content is Queen. Something you’re unlikely to be surprised to hear is the continued growth of content consumption heading into 2022. As more and more emerging markets and platforms come online, content consumption is rocketing, globally. And with it, the continued evolution of marketing and licensing plans. The business is already seeing an increase in new revenue streams across gaming, social and fitness, I look forward to this expanding again in the year ahead.
And finally, as we take our first cautious steps in the new year I hope all businesses will recognise the true impact of the last few years on their employees and artists. The Christmas break was a short one this year and my Twitter feed throughout December was full of industry executives posting their anxiety and burnout levels.
Let’s make 2022 the year we, the business, truly look after our employees’ and artists’ mental health. Maybe also, this year will be the one that some of you learn how to actually use the CC button. Let it also be the year that those of you stuck in an archaic era finally make the full transition to flexible working. We would all do well entering this new year with the pledge that we will be more kind and fair, and still do good business.
Happy New Year.