Laptop on cabling

Tim Wright, Director, twintangibles

Remember how Netflix scuppered Blockbuster or how mp3 changed music distribution?

Well, it's all about to happen again. This time it's not the arrival of the internet that will initiate the change but Blockchain and Crypto which will disrupt the creative Industries.

Are you ready?

At Xponorth we are planning to show that the world of blockchain and crypto tokens is not just a wild west of fraud and exploitation. On the contrary it offers real promise for an industry needing solutions to digital challenges and new possibilities to create novel value.

The arrival of the internet gave creatives the ability to engage more directly with the audience: the principle of disintermediation, meaning we can now conveniently sidestep the agents, intermediaries and gatekeepers that once held sway in the value chain between creatives and their audience. Now that has many advantages and opened up a whole range of new business models and broadened the sector out to a range of new participants. But it has also brought a dark side. Piracy, low investment from the old agency intermediaries, sometimes tiny payments for extensive material usage.

With the emergence of what some refer to as the “fourth industrial revolution” all that might be about to change. Blockchain, or distributed ledger as it is also known, is the next step. It is the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies and it offers the possibility of radically changing our notion of how we create, manage and monetise our ownership of creative material, and it permits us to all have a stake in the way a whole industry is run. This is in part because it depends on us to make it work.

Blockchain is nicely described by Klaus Schwab as “a shared, programmable, cryptographically secure and trusted ledger which no single user controls and which can be inspected by anyone” This pithy description speaks of the transparency, trust and shared nature of how the technology works as a partnership with all participants to securely record activities.

Typically these activities, whatever they might be, are determined by what are commonly referred to as “smart contracts” which are programmed into the blockchain. And while smart contract in a cryptocurrency might simply define and record a transfer of value between participants they are, in fact, capable of doing a great deal more. As such these tools allow us to build shared and sophisticated transactional ecosystems which allow us to collectively and securely do “stuff” in a verifiable way.

Now that might sound a bit theoretical but have a think about what it might enable.

What if you could securely finance and track the usage of each single frame in a film and ensure that the creator received their royalties as it was consumed? Well, that is essentially what DreamCoin is trying to do.

Or how about a free streaming service that only served you ads if you wanted them but paid the bands as you listen? That is what Peer Tracks is trying. On the subject of monetising adverts, but without intermediaries like Google getting a slice, how about working with peoples’ willing attention using a Basic Attention Token or using the Adex decentralized ad network?

Could your fine art collection become a significant source of cost efficient loans using a platform like Maecenas?

Perhaps we could fund the development of a new game with a specialised cryptocurrency offer (an ICO) and that the holders of these cryptotokens could trade them and buy special features in the game as it goes live? Well that is what Age of Rust are doing with Rustbit tokens and GameCredits are trying to roll out for all games.

Or how about you had a “digital container for verified profile information, IDs, acknowledgements, works, business partners and payment mechanisms for each music maker.”  Well that is what Imogen Heap is trying to do with her Creative Passport at the Mycelia project.

These are just a handful of new innovations in the creative sector but the common feature of all of these is that they are made possible by blockchain and the technology that springs from it and the new ideas it can enable.

Of course, these have huge implications for the sector as well as extraordinary possibilities, and it could shake even further the model of IPR management and agency models which have grown up to support, and depend upon, what has for so long been the art of the possible. They also offer the promise of resolving some of the conundrums that the initial digital disruption brought with it.

How will it all go? I can't tell you for sure. But, for me, that is the exciting aspect of it. It's all up for grabs and the digitally savvy creative, the cryptocreative, will be the one that thrives in the future creative industries.

If you want to learn more about this we will be exploring it all at Xponorth in Inverness this month at the session  “What The Blockchain? Cryptocurrency and ICO’s Mean for the Creative Industries”.

With a fantastic line up of contributors, I shall be trying to manage the enthusiasm and probe the expertise of the panel which includes Paul Dilorito: Director of Innovation and Partnerships, PRS for Music / Martin Beaton: Cyber Security Cluster Co-ordinator, Scotland IS / Jamie Gilmour: Director, Rightsbridge /Liam Bell: Research Fellow, Edinburgh Napier University.

Why not join the debate and see if you want to be a cryptocreative?

06 June 2018