At least since Taylor Swift pulled her music off Spotify in 2014, entrepreneurs have been working on a new generation of music streaming services that compensate artists fairly. An interview with Resonate founder Peter Harris, who is determined to make the music industry more transparent, fair, and inclusive.
Francesca Pick: “Get paid for every play” is one of the mottos of Resonate. What is this project about?
Peter Harris: If Spotify was a cooperative, that would be Resonate — built and owned by the people that use it. We’ve developed a new listing model called "stream to own," which aims to solve a lot of the problems around unfair compensation for artists.
What makes Resonate different from other music streaming services?
First, that everyone owns it. It isn’t like entertainment platform Tidal, where only a small number of super-rich rock stars can call themselves owners. This is about everyone — musicians, indie labels, fans, and the people who work and volunteer to make this happen share in decisions and profits, alike.
Apart from that, we don’t have a monthly subscription, but have developed the stream-to own-model because we think that this is where a lot of the problems arise around unfair payments. Stream-to-own makes it more affordable for fans to experience truly engaging music discovery and will track micro-payments through blockchain technology so there’s no dispute about what got played and what needs to get paid.
How would you like to see the music industry transform with the help of services like this?
The music industry needs to become more open and inclusive, with better tools for artists to manage their careers so they can focus on the art and not have to worry about the business and promotion side of things. A lot of energy and efficiency is wasted by having separate silos for everything. We hope to provide tools and solutions to integrate data, content, and payment flows in a number of ways to make music careers much more sustainable.
You’ve been working on this project for a while now. How did it get started?
Resonate was birthed out of 15 years of stewing on the fundamental question of how to adapt music consumption from scarcity to abundance. Streaming service Napster hit in 1999 and changed the model for music consumption completely, almost overnight. But with all of the services and projects that have come and gone since then, it always felt like no one had designed a system that helps us get back to the unique process of passionate music discovery, while also fairly compensating the creators.
We’ve been hearing a lot about blockchain technology recently, but it seems there is often more myth than talk of real-life applications. How will Resonate use blockchain?
There’s a lot of hype around blockchain simply because people don’t understand it yet. Much like they didn’t get the Internet in the late '90s. At Resonate, we’re going to build a metadata blockchain which will help secure authorship and ownership for creators, whilst allowing other services to increase efficiency, as well.
Resonate is a so-called platform co-op, which is defined as web-based products or services that are collectively owned and governed by those working for the platform or using the service. Your website says you aim to have 70,000 co-owners of your service when you launch. How will this group govern itself and make decisions once you reach this goal?
We plan on using collaborative decision making tools like Loomio to create working groups around key issues, so individual communities can hash out ideas and draft proposals. Although 70,000 people could participate in decision making with such a tool, we doubt everyone will want to stay fully in the loop, because not everyone has time for that. What is key for us is that there is an open access that lets us deal with issues in a truly democratic fashion when they arise and integrate them into the service efficiently.
You’ve just started raising $350K to launch the service. How can people support and be part of this project?
There is lots to do and lots of ways to help! We just launched our crowd campaign calling for people to join as co-owners of the platform and spread the word about the concept. We also have a volunteer channel and a Github account for developers, if you would like to get more involved.
Author Francesca Pick is OuiShare Fest Chair, writer, and project manager. She helps teams working on meaningful projects increase their impact through collaboration and communication. She likes to experiment with new forms of distributed organization and leadership.