As interest in blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and initial coin offerings continues to explode (despite a recent pullback in the price of bitcoin), celebrities keep rushing in. Paris Hilton, boxer Floyd Mayweather, NFL player Richard Sherman, and rappers from The Game to DJ Khaled to Young Dirty Bastard have all launched or promoted ICOs.
Add Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Matt Sorum to the list.
The former member of bands like Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver is launching Artbit, a live concert hosting platform and payment solution for artists built on top of Hashgraph, a distributed ledger platform. On a distributed ledger, records are immutable, which is why blockchain has caught on for digital collectibles and other smart contracts.
Artbit’s aim is for artists to get paid directly and automatically, to a cryptocurrency wallet, without an intermediary. Up-and-coming artists can post music and host live performances on the site, and fans can watch and engage there, “while generating micro-income for both the artist and the curatorial public,” according to Artbit.
Artbit says it will also use some form of gamification and augmented reality, but is light on details. Of course, there will also be a cryptocurrency involved, called Artbit, and an ICO or “token sale,” but the group is not discussing the ICO at this time.
“My interest is in cutting the middleman,” Sorum tells Yahoo Finance. “That’s been something on artists’ minds for years. There’s all these people you got to pay along the way. With blockchain, imagine if you bought a song online for 99 cents and that money was automatically distributed straight to all the contributors—the producer, all the writers of that song. With this technology, the money can go into everybody’s wallets automatically, it doesn’t go into a bank account where somebody’s making all that money and interest.”
Sorum adds that Artbit won’t just be for musicians, but “artist, dancer, painter, whatever form you’re in.” Artbit hopes to launch by end of 2018; the artist Shepard Fairey, known for his Obama “HOPE” poster, is an informal adviser to the company and will DJ an Artbit event at SXSW this week.
If all of this makes you somewhat skeptical, you’re not alone: the SEC has repeatedly warned consumers about buying into a token sale or ICO, and has specifically cautioned against celebrity-backed ICOs. And many ICOs have fizzled or, worse, turned out to be outright scams. But money raised through such offerings has continued to skyrocket regardless.
So how did Matt Sorum become enamored with crypto?
For the legendary rocker, it’s about addressing an equity issue he sees in the music business, especially with streaming services. “As we all know, platforms like Spotify, only a very small percentage of artists can even make money on that,” he says. “Any new or young artist has really got to work really hard to even get on the front page of a platform like Spotify—and even at that point you can’t really monetize your art. With Artbit, we’re going to have direct access, people are going to be able to get online right away, not be served a bunch of ads, and have a direct community to be able to monetize their craft now, with no middleman, direct payout, with a wallet, with crypto, and a community that’s safe and secure, powered by Hashgraph.”
He’s also observed a common theme shared by many of the hottest tech companies today, and wants to apply it to his own industry.
“This whole crypto economy, this is the future,” he says. “To me it’s like the new rock and roll… Cutting out the middleman, they’ve done it with Airbnb, they’ve done it with Uber. The community is running the world now. Direct source. Traditionally what’s happened in music for decades is that the artist is the last guy to get paid. At Artbit, we’re going to make it the first guy to get paid.”
Daniel Roberts covers bitcoin and blockchain at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.