Even though multitudes of blockchain use-cases have already been conceptualized, it’s estimated that innovators have hardly even scratched the surface.
Blockchain has made its way into a myriad of industries–banking, real estate, even fantasy football; now, blockchain is blossoming in the music industry.
Viberate is a platform that spreads across various aspects of the live music industry–musicians and fans create profiles that booking agents and venues can use discover and hire talent; audience engagement metrics are built into the platform, so agents can see how well a musician is performing online.
Fans who create content on the platform are incentivized with VIB token rewards; venues and agents can also pay musicians using smart contracts and VIB tokens.
We sat down with Vasja Veber, co-founder of Viberate, to talk about the future of the platform. Here’s part one of our interview.
Tell us about Viberate and how the platform works.
Vasja Veber: It all began a couple years ago. We decided to set up a simple website for DJ metrics because the founding team consisted of two music managers and one D. He’s actually the world famous techno DJ Umek, and my partner and I have been managing him for the last 10 years.
A couple of years ago, we decided to set up a website that could do some basic social media metrics. The reason for that is we wanted to see how our DJ was performing in online popularity compared to the others. We worked on it for a couple of months, put it online, and manually entered 1,200 DJs.
Then, we opened up a database so anyone could add new profiles, and it actually took off. In a matter of one and a half years, we ended up with 30,000 user-generated profiles, so people really liked the service. So I said, “Okay, let’s do a business out of this, let’s make a business.”
So, we went and raised $1 million in seed financing and we renamed the website “Viberate”. The extra “e” derives from riding the vibe. We renamed it because we didn’t just want to focus on electronic music anymore, we wanted to go for all genres. The platform actually started as an analytic service, and we actually developed an analytics engine that analyzed around 5 billion data points per day from social media.
We’re measuring [all] audience engagement. We’re not just measuring how many likes you have on Facebook, or how many followers you have on Twitter, but also how your audience is engaging with your content. So if you put a video online, it will measure each like, each share, each comment, everything that was going on with the content. In the end, we can see how each artist is performing with their online popularity, and we do that on a daily basis so we can also measure trends.
Right now, Viberate is actually a platform for live music. Later on, we’re gonna start plugging in different business models. One of these will be a booking service, much like Airbnb is for real estate–we’re gonna do that with music.
This is where blockchain comes in. Here we’re gonna utilize smart contracts, so artists are gonna be protected with an escrow done with a smart contract. We’re also utilizing blockchain right now, because like I said, the database is actually crowdsourced, so anyone can participate, anyone can add new profiles. Artists, venues, events, everything is user generated.
Now we’re paying people with our own cryptocurrency–we’re doing that. So if you start adding profiles on Viberate, you can earn vibe tokens. That’s how it works right now.
What attracted Viberate to blockchain technology? I know Viberate didn’t start as a blockchain platform.
VV: went to Silicon Valley for four months (we are originally based in Slovenia, Europe.) I went there for four months, and I was just exploring the scene there, raising some money, and we were also looking for a partner to help us do the whole booking system. We actually found a company, and they actually warned us that if we wanted to do an escrow, we would need lots of licenses from different central banks and different authorities–it depends on the country.
Escrow is one of the main things we wanted to introduce to the music world. Why is that? One of the biggest pains musicians have–especially small ones– is payment. They usually get screwed over by promoters if they don’t sell enough tickets, or vice versa, the promoters will get screwed over by the artists. If they don’t pay upfront, then the artist just won’t show up.
Introducing escrow would solve a lot of those pains. We wanted to do that but we found out that if we wanted to do this in dollars or euros, for most major markets it would be a big, big hurdle. A couple of friends who were really into blockchain said,”you know, you could do this using smart contracts on the blockchain.” From there, we just dove deep into it.
We studied the whole thing and we saw that this is it, and we have to do it. Then the ICOs came, and it was just another good reason to do it. I’m gonna be honest, it was much easier to raise such a big amount of money with the ICOs then just going through VCs, it also gives you much more control over your own company, which was not the case if you got a big VC investment from a company.
That was also one of the big motivations. If I’m honest, raising money is probably the number one motive for 99.9% of the ICOs. Anybody who’s gonna say that they went through the blockchain for any other reason primarily, is lying.
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What’s the difference between Viberate and something that’s not based on a blockchain (i.e. Gigtown, which is another online booking service)?
VV: The thing with those services is that they offer the technology for booking an artist, but they have the famous chicken-and-egg problem. This means that if you don’t have artists that are willing to book their services through the platform, you’re not going to get buyers. If you don’t have buyers, you’re not gonna get the artists. This is why we first wanted to offer a good service. This is why we went into statistics.
First, we wanted to offer a good service for everybody in the industry that they could trust, and then we were gradually gonna offer services such as booking. The second thing is that we’re not just lining up artists and giving them a chance to book their gigs through a platform–we rate them.
This is really important because if you’re looking for an artist, you cannot help yourself with just the name of the artist. There’s no way for you to determine how popular this artist really is. This is how we differentiate the whole database. We can tell you who’s good to book, and who’s not good to book. This is what other services don’t have.
FM: There are a few other blockchain platforms that have features similar to Viberate–there’s CreativeChain, which is a platform for managing contact rights and digital distribution, and then there’s a couple of event-booking blockchain platforms, like Blocktix and Aventus. What sets Viberate apart from those?
VV: Well, there’s one big difference between them and us. We operate in the live music segment, and they operate in the recorded music segment. We divide music into two different parts; this is recorded music, what you listen to on the radio, your downloaded tracks, and the revenue here is generated by copyright. We don’t work in the recorded segment at all–we wanna stay out of it.
We only focus on the live segment which means booking gigs, renting live musicians. This is the biggest difference. You also mentioned that there’s also a couple of ticketing services, that’s also true. There are some similarities with those, but we are operating on a wider segment. They’re just focusing on tickets, and we are focusing on artists, on venues, on events, the whole live music ecosystem. The ticketing is just a small fraction of that ecosystem.
What reason do musicians, booking agents, and venues have to use the Viberate platform? How are they incentivized to use the platform?
VV: Well right now we’re just introducing new features, so as a musician right now, you have a good chance–a good pitch. For example, let’s say that you play the guitar and you have a Youtube channel, your numbers will start going up. There’s people spotting you, liking you, and your numbers will shoot up.
You’re generating 20,000 or 30,000 views on Youtube per day. We can measure that, we can catch that, and we can show this on your profile. So you’re gonna go up the chart, and if you wanna pitch yourself to a music label or a promoter, you can just send them your Viberate link, and you can just say, “Hey, my popularity is really rising, check my Viberate profile. You’re gonna see that my numbers are really shooting up, so I’m getting hot, why don’t you book me?”
So those metrics are automatically integrated into the profile?
VV: Right on the profile for labels, or booking agencies, or vice versa because booking agencies and labels are always after good musicians. I don’t know if you know, but Justin Bieber was actually discovered on Youtube. His manager was just browsing through videos and he saw this little kid playing guitar on Youtube and he said, ”okay, this guy is gonna be big because he’s getting some recognition so I’m gonna sign him up,” and it was a golden ticket.
The whole philosophy around music metrics is that in the 70’s and 80’s, agents, music managers, and label executives had to go out each weekend and scout bands. Stars were discovered in pubs and clubs. Nowadays, they don’t do that anymore. They’re just on the internet looking for who’s generating views, likes, shares; who’s getting some traction in terms of online popularity. This is what we bring to the table right now.
Later on, we’re gonna introduce additional features–I mentioned booking services; the goal is to become the biggest electronic booking service in the world. This is gonna be a big opportunity for smaller artists, because they have some problems with exposure right now–they don’t get discovered.
We’re gonna give everyone a chance to get discovered and to be booked online. If you’re looking for a wedding DJ, you can go online. If you wanna check who’s available near you, or within your budget, you can negotiate a deal.
You’ll actually be able to execute a payment through the platform, and you’re gonna be protected by the smart contract. The artist is gonna have to come to the event, they’re gonna do their job, and then they’re gonna get the money.
Other than that, we’re gonna introduce fan clubs. This is still very early in the brainstorming phase, but this is gonna be something for the fans–we’re gonna have global fan clubs. This is something Facebook wanted to do with their pages, but they just screwed everything up, because now we have to pay them a lot of money to even get out there. If you don’t do that, no one’s going to notice you.
[On Facebook], you have to take care of all the content, and we have all the content. We aggregated content from external sources, so it’s gonna be easy to set up fan clubs for the artists you love. [For example,] Coldplay is going to be able to have fan clubs all over the world.
So Coldplay Germany is gonna be really hot, because if Coldplay plays there, the promoter’s probably going to want to be connected with the owner of the German fan club, because this was the best target group to advertise the concert to.
This is also another business opportunity for the fans, because fans are gonna be managing fan clubs. It’s interesting right now because stuff just keeps popping up, because the service got so much more traction. For instance, before we started paying the contributors, we got around 30 contributors a day. Now we get over 2,000 a day.
There are 2000 people signing up each day for the service?
VV: No, no–we get more than that. We get 2000 new profiles added by the people.
I see, so new musician profiles.
VV: Yeah, but sign ups also went up, so I think that by the end of this year we’re gonna have way over 1 million people sign up for the service.