The vision for this project is about using the best aspects of peer-to-peer file-sharing technology often rightly called ‘super distribution’, and fusing that with the latest technology in digital payment systems, to radically change the way the technology has been applied so that ordinary people actually earn money by becoming the new distribution channel for digital music. In this way, Bittunes deals directly with the Music Piracy problem, with a carrot not a stick, rewarding artists fairly, and allowing users to potentially earn 5-10x profits on song purchases. To achieve this will not be easy, but the end result could be nothing short of revolutionary.
Looking more deeply, Bittunes is in many ways a social music sharing & earning web-service, that has been carefully designed to cater to three different target groups in the independent music sector, Artists, Fans and Service Providers (small Indie labels, recording studios, film & video production services etc) In Bittunes these groups are known as Music Makers, Music Movers and Music Managers, respectively. By providing a platform for these different groups to cooperate and interact we hope to stimulate new levels and types of collaboration between them. After all, when fans can share in the success of bands they follow, and benefit financially, by distributing them, it represents the ultimate collaboration.
The music industry has been constrained both by its structure, and by the technologies used to record and distribute it over the past 100+ years. Archaic copyright rules neither protect musicians, nor do they recognize the unique social properties of music. The fundamental nature of what music is, industry greed, and improper use of modern technologies to try to restrict how music is played and used have contributed to falling sales, and artists being ever more poorly compensated in order to protect the business models of the big labels.
Bittunes was created to address these problems and leverage the power of the internet and p2p technology to create the first global independent music market that puts control back in the hands of the musicians and their fans, and rewards rather than penalizes the network for helping to spread the music to everyone who wants to hear it.
A digital currency is basically a form of electronic money that is an alternative to the normal paper currencies that National Governments use, which are commonly known as ’fiat currencies’, because they are backed by Government fiat, this is like a decree. However, its useful to point out that even ‘fiat currencies’ are traded electronically, Governments and Banks don’t ship tons of bank notes around the world, obviously. Digital currencies are not the same as ’virtual currencies’ in ‘virtual economies‘ that are used by gamers to pay for virtual goods. Digital currencies are very real.
Currently Bitcoin is the most established ‘alternative digital currency’ or ‘alt currency’ and we believe it has a great future, so Bitcoin has been the main focus for us in terms of integrating digital micro-payments into a new content super-distribution system. However, Bitcoin is not the only alternative digital currency, there are literally hundreds.
Alt currencies are different because they are not backed by Governments nor are they part of the Banking system, but these factors in many ways are part of their strength and long term potential. Effectively Bitcoin is already a global currency system that allows trading of products and services without restriction from any where in the world, and this represents a massive advantage in terms of breaking down existing barriers to entry for consumers and suppliers, from all countries.
At the moment Bittunes uses Bitcoin as its primary operational currency, but we intend to support a wide variety of alt currencies as the project progresses. Basically we think its sensible for us to be ‘digital currency agnostic’ and support the currencies that are in popular usage by our members.
To make the system simpler to understand, we denominate all music tracks in $US, so that pricing of songs is not confusing to buyers. Bittunes determines the exact exchange rate to Bitcoin ‘on the fly’ at the exact moment of purchase.
The Android Application
As part of the first stage of the Bittunes project we wanted to make a mobile application that could demonstrate the key features of the system and allow people to experience buying independent music tracks and earning royalties using Bitcoin as the enabling currency.
To achieve this we were obliged to develop on the Android rather than the iOS platform, because Apple have been consistently rejecting apps from the App Store that utilize bitcoin as a payment method. The Android platform, on the other hand, while more complex to develop for in many ways, (because more devices and screen resolutions must be catered for) has impressed us because of Google’s more ‘open’ philosophy and their lack of restriction in relation to integration of alt currencies.
We have spent many months developing the Bittunes Android app, which is now available in private alpha test version on the Google Play Store. If you have a compatible Android device and are interested to join this initial group of users, please contact us.
The app itself has many features. It allows users to register and set up an account in either of three user classes, Music Maker, Music Mover or Music Manager. We have also enabled messaging between users and an ‘Offers & Requests’ system to encourage collaboration and provision of services between members, as well as many other features.
Each of the three user types can purchase music tracks (using bitcoin) that have been approved in the system, and once a track has been purchased each user who has purchased a track will start to earn royalties as percentages of bitcoin, when new purchases of that track occur.
The Overall Top 100 player on this web page shows tracks in the system that are starting to be ranked by existing users based on their quality rating of the song. However this player, (like the player in the Bittunes Android app) also displays ‘Royalties Paid’ in percentages of Bitcoin. On the Overall Top 100 player on this web page we also include ‘System Rankings’ which show some of the meta information used to determine ranking.
The user base is currently quite small as we have been wanting to get the system as good as possible before opening it up to the public, so the low total royalties reflect that small user base. Once this website and the application are fully functional and available, the user base, transactions and royalties paid will grow rapidly.
Importantly, as the Bittunes platform develops to its final stage of a widely distributed P2P network, supported by the app and the Bittunes website, the position in the buying order of early buyers of tracks will be maintained as a key determinant in the royalty allocation algorithm. This effectively means that it will be a very effective earning strategy for buyers to ‘back’ a particular track that they believe will achieve significant sales, by purchasing that track. This will ensure that they will be likely to earn more distribution royalties for that track if it does sell strongly in the future.
- Chinese Songwriter ZhangZhang
talks about his music, being independent,
and sings about Bitcoin.../more
- What Your Favorite Streaming Service
Is Actually Paying Artists….
(via Digtital Music News) .../ext-link
- Simon Edhouse talking at the Rainmaking
Loft in London about Bittunes, during
Fintech week, on 31st March .../more
- The Bittunes Android App is on Google
Play in private alpha test mode. If you’ld
like to join, contact us .../contact
- Big Brother is in your Spotify: How music
became the surveillance state’s Trojan
horse (salon.com) .../ext-link
- Anthony and Alex from Pludo talk about
the making of their totally self produced
Frenemies video .../coming soon
- Some general background about the
context, ideas, strategy and team behind
- A Turnaround for Bitcoin at SXSW
via dealbook (NYTimes) .../ext-link