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PRS for Music hosts Blockchain debate featuring key industry speakers for series ‘PRS Explores’ 

21 April 2016

PRS for Music hosts Blockchain debate featuring key industry speakers for series ‘PRS Explores’

Yesterday evening, PRS for Music hosted a ‘PRS Explores: Blockchain’ session, with an afternoon of debate and discussion between industry panellists comprising of music industry innovators who are exploring Blockchain technology, royalty collection and metadata.

Chaired by PRS for Music’s Director of Strategy and Digital, Graham Davies, the first ‘Using Blockchain Tech’ panel kicked off with insights from musician/technologist Imogen Heap, renowned for her experimental work with Blockchain, Alan Graham, co-founder of One Click Licensing, Benji Rogers Chief Strategy Officer at Pledge Music, tech entrepreneur/Blokur’s Phil Barry, Internet Music’s Thor Petterson, PRS for Music’s Keith Hill and PPL’s Mark Douglas.

The discussions focused on the technicalities of Blockchain and its various uses, with clear differences in points of views expressed – one toward a belief that it would create a transparent system and the other questioning its value without a link to a robust governing authority to adjudicate over potential copyright ownership disputes.

There was a general agreement that opening up data availability would assist in enabling the tech entrepreneurs of tomorrow, however the usual skepticism around whether this would be in the best interests of all current industry stakeholders.

Blockchain advocate and music creator Imogen Heap said: “Blockchain is about trying to get us all to connect those dots, try to lose the ownership problem so we create an open global music database which I feel the whole industry needs. There’s nothing more important than getting that verified official information up in a global music database that all services could access – if they need any information they have no excuse not to pay somebody – so the Blockchain is where to house that, where to keep that information.”

Chief Strategy Officer of PledgeMusic Benji Rogers said: “We have data issues on the way in but we also don’t bind the data to the track. So if I send an MP3 I can alter it almost completely. The music industry should run a central system, a distributed system where everyone is running in order of the blockchain and every time a work is created, it is dropped into a P2P distributed file storage, attached is the metadata to that song itself and from there you can serve those files. You can essentially create a digital ‘Library of Alexandria’ every time a song is created and because everyone is running the same system, they can corroborate information.”

Keith Hill, PRS for Music’s Head of Operations Change, Research & Development said: “Our data matching is fast scale and is being replicated by societies around the world. We are interested to see how Blockchain can be used to encapsulate the relationship of how information can be made accessible to the music licensing community.”

The second panel session extended the debate with discussion amongst music industry stakeholders on the possible applications of Blockchain and suggestions for developing it further for the music industry, alongside other tech initiatives. Panellists included Beggars Music’s Andy Heath, Omnifone co-founder Phil Sant, ATC Management’s Ric Salmon, songwriters Crispin Hunt and Rupert Hine.

Omnifone’s Phil Sant said: “All discussions about Blockchain are discussions about a tool not an approach.” He added “[the] music industry will repair itself by moving to cloud based systems. You've got to start using the cloud.”

Summarising, Graham Davies, PRS for Music’s Director Strategy and Digital said: “Our first ‘PRS Explores’ event provided an afternoon of extremely interesting debate from a panel of experts looking into the potential of blockchain for the music industry. PRS for Music sits at the heart of the debate representing the interests of creators and publishers, working with technology and businesses using music. It was great to kick off with a packed event which shows great interest in this and other changes happening in the industry. We look forward to continuing the debate."

The majority of panellists concluded that Blockchain was of great interest, and may become a useful tool, however its potential is in enhancing rather than replacing the rights management process.

For a more in-depth look at the event and blockchain, visit M Magazine

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music represents the rights of over 115,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK. As a membership organisation it ensures creators are paid whenever their music is played, performed or reproduced, championing the importance of copyright to protect and support the UK music industry. The UK has a proud tradition of creating wonderful music that is enjoyed the world over and PRS for Music has been supporting the creators of that music since 1914.

PRS for Music provides business and community groups with easy access to over 10m songs through its music licences. In an industry worth over £4.1bn PRS for Music is uniquely placed to be a voice for music and music creators. Collecting £664.3m in 2014, PRS for Music is one of the world’s most efficient combined rights organisations. With over 100 representation agreements in place globally, PRS for Music's network represents over two million music creators.

Panellist biographies

Alan Graham

Originally a music major, Alan Graham became a digital chameleon, working in over 10 profound technologies in his 20+ year career, from digital video, animation, e-commerce, online hiring, presence detection, blogging, mobile computing, RSS, online publishing, etc. He has appeared as an author is Macworld, MacAddict, and several O’Reilly books and blogs. Featured in Wired Magazine (cover story), The Jim Lehrer Newshour, CNET, Slashlot, The London Observer, Being Boring, Lockergnome and the Linux Journal, Alan did the R&D for the first two versions of David Pogue’s OS X Missing Manual.

In 2001 Alan blogged 10,000 miles across the USA using only a wireless Handspring PDA to prove that mobile computing was possible, 6 years before the iPhone.

Andy Heath

Andy Heath is an independent music publisher, who has operated in the alternative music field for most of his career.

In the late 70s Andy formed Heathwave Music, which he owns to this day. In 1978 he began to administer the music publishing interests of the Beggars Group, which became and is now, one of the biggest independent music companies in Europe. He is a director of Beggars Group. Since 1989 Andy has served on the Council of the Music Publishers Association and was the President from 1993-97. He served for nearly twenty years on the boards of both PRS and MCPS.

He co-founded British Music Rights, which in 2008 became UK Music. UK Music represents the public affairs and political interest of the entire commercial music world from record companies to composers. Andy was the founding Chairman of UK Music, a post he still holds.

He was awarded the MBE in January 2009 for services to music publishing.

Benji Rogers

Benji Rogers is currently Chief Strategy Officer of PledgeMusic, the global direct-to-fan company he co-founded in 2008. A public speaker, investor, and musician from London and New York, Rogers co-founded Radiary Creations in 2014 and is an advisor to a multitude of companies, including Dubset Media, Sound Diplomacy, Cords for Music, First Artist Bank, and NoiseTrade. In 2014 he was the recipient of the A&R Worldwide "Digital Executive of the Year" award, and in 2013 he made the Billboard 40 Under 40 Power Players list. He is an instructor at Berklee College of Music, teaching the Music Business Trends and Strategies course for Berklee Online. Recent engagements include keynote addresses and panels at SXSW, Midem, European Culture Forum, SF MusicTech Summit, Canadian Music Week, MMF, BPI, Music Matters, GRAMMY Camp, and many more. In 2015 Rogers accepted a position on the Board of Directors of the Future Of Music Coalition.

Graham Davies

Graham Davies is a member of the PRS executive team leading a small team responsible for understanding customer, industry, technology and legislative changes to solutions that position PRS for Music as a leading digital services company. Graham has extensive knowledge of music royalty administration having worked across numerous parts of PRS over a number of years.

Imogen Heap

Self-produced, engaged, twice Grammy awarded, Imogen Heap blurs the boundaries between pure art form and creative entrepreneurship. Heap has always communicated and collaborated with her loyal following (currently she has over 2.2m twitter followers alone) both on and offline in pioneering ways. She is the founder of The MiMu musical gestural glove system.

As an independent artist, Imogen started to think on how the music industry could be improved in the wake of blockchain technology and smart contracts. So in her spare time, Imogen’s been speaking and meeting up mostly about what she calls ‘Mycelia’ - A foundation from which to create, champion and maintain the ethical, technological and commercial standards required to run a fair trade music industry.

Keith Hill

Keith Hill’s current role is Head of Operations Projects at PRS, and he is responsible for formulating and delivering PRS’s data strategy. Keith has previously worked as an independent consultant on information management-related projects for the RIAA, CISAC and ASCAP and he led the MPEG-21 requirements group to define standards for a multi-media framework. He has also actively contributed to the development of identification and description standards including ISWC, ISAN and DDEX and their subsequent adoption.

Mark Douglas

At PPL, Mark is responsible for all aspects of technology and programme delivery. Leading a team of IT experts, Mark oversees the development and maintenance of PPL’s technology systems. He has played a key role in the development of the SCAPR VRDB2 programme, an international project to improve the flow of data and cross border payments between performer collecting societies.

Phil Barry

Phil Barry is an artist and record company founder turned technology entrepreneur. In 2015 he conceived and led the development of Ujo, a prototype music rights platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. Ujo’s collaboration with the Grammy-winning artist Imogen Heap was the first working implementation of smart contracts for music rights and royalties, and has been a key driver of the recent discussion over the potential of blockchain to transform the music industry.

In 2014 Phil consulted on business model, strategy and customer experience for the world-first release of Radiohead singer Thom Yorke’s solo album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes via BitTorrent, and in a previous life he released three albums as Mr Fogg, collaborating with artists including Olafur Arnalds, Micachu, Valgeir Sigurdsson and John Digweed. Phil has recently founded Blokur, a new company exploring the full potential of blockchain and smart contracts for creative rights.

Phil Sant

As Omnifone’s Co-Founder and Chief Engineer, Phil is responsible for the company’s technology strategy and vision. Phil is one of the leading architects in the digital music industry, an expert in managing the industry’s complex data islands, a regular blockchain commentator and at the forefront of music big data initiatives. Phil is one of the leading proponents for the technology infrastructure underpinning the industry to be moved to the cloud in order to reduce overall technology expenditure whilst enabling transparency and maximising royalty flows.

Phil has a history of repeat entrepreneurship in the technology sector. Having honed his software skills at Rolls-Royce he went on to lead Compaq Computer’s Tiger Team performance tuning client-server applications across Europe. In the early 90s Phil embarked upon a series of successful internet ventures which included the BladeRunner internet platform eventually floating the business on the LSE in March 2000.

Ric Salmon

Ric Salmon is a partner and director at ATC Management. ATC has a roster of over 50 management clients including the likes of Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, Faithless, Benjamin Clementine, along with a roster of over 200 acts through its live division, ATC-Live.

Prior to ATC, Ric founded Harvest Entertainment in 2007. Harvest represented globally established artists such as Seal, Morrissey and Joss Stone, and exciting young talent such as Natalie Duncan (Universal), Sonia Stein (Marathon), Cider Sky and others.

Ric is also currently a senior A+R consultant to Warner Music working across the East West, Rhino and ADA divisions, and through that role is working with artists such as The Corrs, Hunter Hayes, Bette Midler, Rumer, Beverley Knight and many others.

Rupert Hine

Rupert's career as a producer spans more than 30 years and 120 albums. His wide-ranging musical perspective and accomplishments, both commercial and eclectic, made him the obvious choice to write the foreword for the definitive reference work on music producers, Billboard's 'The Encyclopedia of Record Producers'.

As a leader rather than a follower in technology, Rupert pioneered electronic musical instrument interfaces with the fledgling MIDI. Invited by Apple, in the 90’s to help demonstrates the powers of their ground-breaking software engines to the music-worlds creative thinkers. Rupert has consistently championed the incorporation of the digital environment into art and creativity. He is a founder member of the Music Producers Guild and the International MIDI Association. He is also a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences in the U.S.

Thor Pettersen

Entrepreneur and visionary.

Thor was the first to (legally) put music on the mobile phone and the first to integrate mobile music in a social network (Microsoft IM) with partners Sony Music and Microsoft back in June 2004. Reaching 85000 new subscribers a month after launch.

Today his vision of rebooting the music industry is fuelled by his deep understanding of the music industry and blockchain technology. He believes in the simple act of replacing paper proof with digital proof, with savings and efficiency as a result.

More money, faster – to the creators of music…

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