Blockchain’s Impact on Creators & Entertainment

Conference: Digital Entertainment World 2018

I didn’t get a chance to spend as much time at this conference as I would have liked, but the sessions that I sat in on were ?. My world’s basically interesect at the corner of technology and entertainment, and Digital Entertainment World had a plethora of panels and sessions around these topics. My brain was all OMGOMGOMG ENTERTAINMENT AND TECHNOLOGY AND CRYPTOCURRENCY AND ARTISTS AND CREATORS AND… *ded*.

The difficult thing about this conference (as it is with most) is there are sooooo many tracks running at the same time, that you always have to forego something you wanna see in order to catch something else. As such, I spent the majority of my time this year in the RightsTech side of things to hear how blockchain is effecting the entertainment industry and being utilized.

First, I have to say something about CryptoKitties. If you’re not familiar with it, CryptoKitties is a game where you can basically buy and breed cats (digital assets) that have particular genetic makeups that are unique to yours. Your cat lives on the blockchain, and it’s make up is encoded in the smart contract. There’s been a ton of kitties being sold for thousands (and hundreds of thousands) of dollars because they’ve essentially picked up value as a collectible; ala what you may have seen manyyyy years ago with things like beanie babies. I won’t go into too much detail here, but the talk with the founder, Mack, was super interesting because he talked a lot about the idea of crypto collectibles and digital assets.

Cryptocurrency has become a mainstream term the past year, because of the soaring prices that Bitcoin (the OG in the space) saw, even though it’s been around for many years now. I actually remember when it was first publicly discussed – my friend and old colleague Ryan were sitting in our office working on SEO stuff, when we “Bitcoin” starting hitting Reddit. It’s been a wild ride since then, but I think it’s important to note that a lot of people know what cryptocurrency is, but don’t really understand blockchain and smart contracts. It’s OK to not have all the technical knowledge in the world — as long as its broken out in a way the public can understand, it can open their eyes to a place beyond the “get rich quick” cryptocurrency hype they’ve been hearing.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled program! The “Does Hollywood Need Blockchain” was an extremely interesting one, because it really shows value and purpose for a particular niche industry, but in a way that impacts the individual and not necessarily the business. The panel consisted of…

  • Jim Helman, CTO, MovieLabs
  • Amorette Jones, CEO, Pivotal Entertainment
  • Steve Stewart, CEO & Co-Founder, Vezt
  • Ron Wheeler, SVP, Content Protection and Technology Strategy, Twentieth Century Fox

It’s no surprise that studios, distribution companies, retailers, labels, agents, managers, and every OTHER middle man in the entertainment industry takes a cut of what a creator or artist makes. Musicians don’t have access to their data and yet their label takes X percentage. Indie filmmakers can have exponential costs and sometimes aren’t really in control of their own vehicle.

I talked about how “starving artists” are a myth, and part of me thinks (knows) that the gatekeepers don’t want artists and creators to have access to their data and direct connections to their fans, because once they start handling the business side of things, there will be a lessened need for the middle man.

Blockchain can help change that, so that the majority of the power is back in the hands of the creator/artist. Some quotes/thoughts from the panel:

“We need to reward others for their data. Community and creators ARE valued.” – Amorette Jones

On the music side, I was really excited to hear about Vezt. I grew up around music and bands (fun fact, I tried to started a music marketing company in my late teens and was going to move to LA and manage bands) and I constantly watched how hard it was for my sister and her band, along with friend’s bands, to get music out there and continually build an audience. All that has changed in the past decade +. Vezt can essentially allow microfunding for musicians; they can set the price and put 1% of their song out there so they can actually profit. Eventually, song rights can be monetized in a way that hasn’t been possible. At some point, we can put money back in the hands of the artist by using blockchain to track royalties, so that artists aren’t waiting 8-10 months for them.

There was also discussion around gatekeepers and intermediaries. If we can disintermediate and have less middlemen, there can be a stronger connection between the creator and fan. As Amorette Jones said, “Data helps with continuous feedback on what to produce. They currently don’t have direct consumer data.”

“Content is king, but data is the keys to the kingdom. Creators do not have their consumer data. Vezt allows the creator to be connected to the consumer/fan.” Steve Stewart.

What struck me most about the conversations on the panel were three things:

  1. The artist/creators right to consumer data.
  2. Gatekeepers often have their thumbs on artists/creators because the gatekeepers bogart data and have more insight into it than they do.
  3.  Using blockchain and/or smart contracts can help for tracking purposes, auditing purposes, data purposes, and also expediting value and payment.

I wish I could write more on this topic, but I ended up leaving to beat traffic (because, driving 12 miles for over an hour did not seem fun to me).

What industries or sectors do you feel that blockchain and smart contract technologies can make the most impact in? Do you have any companies that you’re currently interested in?

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