jaak blockchain

Music and metadata: is blockchain the answer?

JAAK founder Vaughn McKenzie on the EY Startuo Challenge and how blockchain technology could streamline royalty payments to rightsholders in the ever-expanding digital music market.

Anita Awbi
  • By Anita Awbi
  • 23 Nov 2016
  • min read
‘We could be looking at a technology that truly transforms the music industry,’ tech entrepreneur Vaughn McKenzie says of blockchain.

Alongside two other co-founders Viktor Tron and Fred Tibbles, he runs a small and agile company, JAAK, which helps rightsholders convert their repositories of media, music, metadata and rights into ‘smart content’.

Their smart content idea automates much of the admin and manual effort involved in managing, maintaining and delivering music across the digital supply chain using smart contracts and verified transactions on the blockchain.

The concept came on leaps and bounds this autumn at the EY Startup Challenge, which saw PRS for Music mentor JAAK for six weeks on the ins and outs of digital rights management from a collecting society perspective.

We recently caught up with Vaughn to learn more about the challenge and hear how blockchain could streamline royalty payments to rightsholders in the ever-expanding digital music market.

What were your experiences of the EY Startup Challenge?

The EY Startup Challenge was a unique experience. Not quite a startup accelerator, nor a corporate incubator, the team behind the EY Startup Challenge created the perfect environment for open innovation and collaboration between startups and big companies. Looking back, it's incredible to see how much progress was made in just six weeks - imagine what we could do in 12.

What did you learn from the process?

Discipline. It's easy to become too focused on parts of the business where we have a particular strength or interest but a great product won't get very far without a solid sales and marketing plan.

The mentors provided by EY and their clients helped us consider how our product will be viewed by the market and find gaps in our solution.

What challenges did you encounter?

Our team is still small so working on the challenge without losing momentum on day-to-day development proved difficult.

What’s next?

We're currently in discussions to launch a pilot of JAAK which will serve as a proof-of-concept for a future music industry able to move data and payments around in real-time.

What benefits will your platform bring to the industry?

Our flexible, low-cost licensing model removes the barriers to entry for innovators, developers and startups to build new music experiences, unlocking new revenue streams for rights-holders.

With every organisation in the industry able to instantly connect to, and move payments around a real-time music metadata network, the cost savings in both time and admin would bring about a new level of profitability for artists, writers and rightsholders.

There’s a lot of speculation around the potential applications of blockchain for the music industry. What are its limitations and potential?

The blockchain represents a huge step forward in how we update large systems of data. On one hand this could lead to royalty payments that take a few days to clear rather than a few months. On the other hand we could be looking at a technology that truly transforms the music industry.

How crucial is good data to a system like blockchain?

Systems are only as good as the data they run on - and blockchain is no different. If the music industry adopts the technology at any scale we'll need to improve the way we capture, curate, and transfer data.