How Blókur shortens the long, long wait to get paid as a musician
The London based start-up provides a data hub to clear music rights faster. Much, much faster than today.
For the fan music is all about emotion. The sound, the voice, the feelings. Millions of fans listen to the songs they love.
Creating music is about emotion too: Multiple years of practising to be any good, then a long struggle to get attention. For some creators, there is success – they become national or international stars.
But here is a hard, cold truth: The business of music is not about emotions, it’s about money and..data. Only when there is data there will be payouts. But, the music business and contracting for creative work is a world full of complexities. Performing rights for music can be split up between band members, publishers, distributors, even investors.
As a result, there are huge amounts of data flowing back and forth. But only if the data is complete, correct, undisputed and checked the creators will get paid. Between the release of a song and the payment up to two years can pass.
How could this be changed? Enter Blókur, one start-up in this very particular world working on finding a solution for this.
We talked to Phil Barry, founder and CEO of Blókur on how to change this.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and your background?
PB: “My name is Phil Barry, and I am the founder of Blókur. I grew up dreaming of being a rock star. I spent all my childhood writing and playing music, and at the beginning of my career I was lucky enough to spend almost a decade as a professional recording artist.”
Every day I would get up, go to the spare room in my flat and write songs 10 hours a day, hoping that I would catch a break and be able to pay the rent or, even better, afford to record my first album. Eventually a break did come – one of my songs was used in a TV show all around the world – but I had no idea that it would take me two years to get paid.
I have since experienced the same thing over and over. I founded a small record label and saw it happen for the 20 artists I collaborated with. I played a very small role in the release of Thom Yorke’s album Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes via BitTorrent. And more recently I have collaborated with Imogen Heap and Massive Attack. It is always the same story.
In the end I came to the conclusion that while we have created brilliant ways of distributing content and information around the world thanks to the internet, we have not achieved the same revolution in the way that value flows back from consumer to creator. Blókur exists to close that gap.”
Please describe what your company offers as an introduction
PB: “Blókur helps musicians and music companies to get paid what they should, when they should, by ensuring that their rights are accurately represented. Blókur is a data hub that contains the definitive global rights picture for millions of songs, and delivers corrections and enriched information to societies and other income sources. The company currently works with about fifty music publishers of all shapes and sizes – from the biggest music companies in the world to small independents
Blókur is a data hub that contains the definitive global rights picture for millions of songs
We also make it easier for the users of music – whether they be digital streaming platforms, TV companies or video games producers – to identify the writers and publishers behind the music they use – to maximise income for rights holders and creators and save everybody a lot of time and effort.
How many people work at the company?
PB: How Blókur shortens the long, long wait to get paid as a musician “12 – 11 in London and 1 in Nashville, Tennessee.”
How is the company funded (bootstrap, VC, business angels, public
PB: “In the beginning we received a grant from InnovateUK, and now we are backed by venture capital.”
When was the company founded?
Who should onboard to your platform today and what are the benefits?
PB: “Anybody who works with music publishing rights, either as a creator or publisher, or as a user of music.
Our platform helps take the pain out of making sure the money gets to the right person, for both sides of the transaction.”
What technology is most important in your set-up?
PB: “Underpinning our platform is a unique matching technology that treats every song as a web of relationships between writers, publishers, artists and recordings. That means fewer duplicate song registrations, fewer missed conflicts, and more income for our clients.
And once your catalogue is on the platform, we can start to generate commercial insights about your music. Blokur Performance matches your songs to digital charts around the world, to let you know how your catalogue is doing over time, and help you to know where your music is most popular so that you can predict where you should be earning royalties.”
What will be needed for more mainstream Blockchain projects?
I think the most urgent need is for a better user experience. Very few people use a specific tool or platform because of the underlying technology. Instead, we need to build platforms that are first and foremost useful and that second are just as easy to use as Twitter or Google.
What is the strongest aspect of Blockchain (in our opinion). What is the
PB: “Blockchain’s superpower is in getting a group of people to reach a shared understanding of the facts without any one authority adjudicating. The number of scenarios in which that is useful are limitless. But we need to see more platforms, products and projects that focus on delivering value to the user, and less on the particular characteristics of blockchain.”
“I believe that by upgrading the engine of the music industry – rights, licensing and royalties – we can bring about a transformation in music, but this time for the benefit of creators and creativity.”
What is your big goal with Blókur for the future?
PB: “If we draw an analogy with finance, in that industry we have seen a huge explosion in technology and automation over the last fifty years that has led to a once-boring industry expanding massively and rapidly, with more jobs and more value being created. I believe that by upgrading the engine of the music industry – rights, licensing and royalties – we can bring about a similar transformation in music, but this time for the benefit of creators and creativity.”
Photo of Phil Barry via Blókur website
Photo by Tomas Anton Escobar on Unsplash