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Bronze Level Contributor
Audius Rallies EDM Artists, Crypto VCs to Back Vision for Music Payments on Ethereum

(Krys Amon/Unsplash)

Music is back on the blockchain. 

Audius, a streaming service that connects music fans directly with artists, has raised $3.1 million in a strategic round co-led by Multicoin Capital and Blockchange Ventures, with participation from Pantera Capital and Coinbase Ventures. 

Audius has now raised a total of $8.6 million as the platform prepares for prime time, having grown in less than a year to over 250,000 monthly users and 40,000 artists. EDM artists seem to be the site’s burgeoning specialty with notables including RAC, deadmau5, Lido, 3LAU, Zeds Dead, Mr. Carmack and REZZ all signed on.

The blockchain use case for music is a familiar one: the inequity and tardiness of the revenue model of streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify.

“It shouldn’t take a year and a half to get paid, and it’s just crazy that the people creating the music only take 12%,” Audius CEO Roneil Rumburg said in an interview. “After this extreme time delay, the artist just gets this check, so they don’t actually see who’s listening to them. There is no visibility because the artist doesn’t own their own data or their audience.” 

The Audius P2P network allows artists to be paid in full by their fans, directly and instantly for every stream with the ability to cash out daily or hourly if they want, Rumburg added.

‘Fair trade’ but for music

Ethereum-based Audius picks up the mantle carried by ConsenSys-backed Ujo Music and groundbreaking projects like Imogen Heap’s Mycelia, which the artist described as “fair trade” music.

Indeed, folks such as Jesse Grushack, co-founder and CEO of the now-shuttered Ujo Music, have helped and advised Audius, as has Ujo’s former artist-in-residence, André Allen Anjos, better known by his stage name RAC, a Grammy Award winner who has remixed the likes of New Order, Lady Gaga and the Kings of Leon.

Anjos, who worked with Ujo for over a year and released an album on Ethereum, said the problem was the complexity of onboarding users.

“We used to kind of joke that it could take like 36 steps to get ether into MetaMask,” Anjos said in an interview. “Just to interact with these systems you needed to go through this crazy setup, and I think Ujo kind of suffered from that. But today, if you go to Audius it’s a pretty similar experience to any other platform, arguably better. That initial barrier to entry is not a problem anymore.”

Audius, which was founded in 2018 by Stanford University buddies Rumburg and Chief Product Officer Forrest Browning, has benefitted from “a kind of diaspora of talent that had already been working on this problem,” said Rumburg. 

“Back in 2016, when these projects came about, was just really early,” he said. “The amount of stuff that [ConsenSys founder] Joe [Lubin] had to build from scratch was just this astronomical ask.”

The Audius team may have built the music player with a user interface that looks and feels like Spotify or SoundCloud, but it couldn’t be more different under the hood.

Decentralized streaming

The network consists of indexing nodes, which provide a discovery service, and content-posting or creator nodes. This intersection of fans, artists and infrastructure providers who host and index content (“stakers” in blockchain parlance), uses both the Ethererum public blockchain (which is where all the staking and look-up nodes are running) and a second, permissioned network where the uploaded content lives. 

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Originally published by
Ian Allison | July 30, 2020

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