Are you excited about the future of music tech? We certainly are…
Emanate are a company that has made it their mission to set the new standard in the way artists and listeners create and consume music.
They are an audio exchange designed to enable producers, distributors, and influencers in the music industry ecosystem to connect via blockchain based smart-contracts.
They are a company who has been on Producer Hive’s radar for quite some time now, as the problems they set out to solve are ones we currently face ourselves: particularly that of the inefficiencies of music royalty distribution and the lack of transparency therein.
We reached out to Emanate to have a chat about the platform they are building, and their plans on how they intend to improve the pitfalls of an industry that is quite arguably lagging behind when it comes to music royalties and distribution.
We hope you enjoy the interview.
Let’s start with some brief introductions. Tell us how you got into blockchain and how the idea of Emanate spawned.
Sean: My name’s Sean Gardner I’m a co-founder of Emanate and I’m a been a passionate, electronic music lover for about 15 years. Aside from my passion for music making, playing music and listening to music, I’ve built up a career in marketing and technology — everything from websites and apps, through to virtual reality and augmented reality.
The opportunity to work on this project means that I get to combine experience and passion to create something that can make a difference in the world.
I’ve known Jimi here for about 10 years and he was the first person that I really spoke to about these ideas when they were coming together.
Jimi: I’ve been a musician for the last 12 years professionally doing everything from production, engineering, curation, radio playlisting, podcasting and touring.
As Sean (Gardner) said, we’ve been friends for a long time and he actually got me into blockchain personally. He made me aware of the technology and gave me a couple of links, and I dove down the rabbit hole. But, more importantly — further spotlighted the pain points I was suffering in the music industry.
He had some ideas around how this technology could really help, make a difference in the lives of musicians in terms of getting paid, collaborating with trust and registering their intellectual property.
Sean: Yeah. So like for me I was sort of loosely aware of Bitcoin as a technology since about 2012, but didn’t pay much attention to it until about 2016. It was only then when I really started to hear about these other cryptocurrencies like Ethereum, and when I started to realize that there was more to it than just currency.
The ideas that initially formed Emanate were ones I had for a long time, but they didn’t really seem possible until I started reading up about smart contracts and the possibilities of microtransactions.
In 2017, we initially thought we would build the platform on Ethereum, but it was really when we started looking at EOS that I think things started to accelerate and come together — as we realized how much decentralized governance would become an important part of this platform.
And yeah, from there it was really just interesting times around the launch of the EOS main net and just kind of seeing how it would all come together.
Jimi: Another thing about EOS that should be mentioned is the free transactions. That was a big factor in our decision — you can’t send micro payments around if the fees are too high. It just doesn’t make any sense.
How would you explain Emanate to someone on the street who has no idea about blockchain?
Jimi: We’ve tried to evolve the dialogue over the last year and a bit. It’s all about digital trust. I guess one quick way to look at it is that the Internet gave us communication, online shopping and revolutionized connection.
Fast forward and we now have decentralized technology — meaning there’s no one entity that operates in network and participants all work together to agree on a certain outcome.
What (blockchain) does for artists is it allows value to be sent in a trustful manner — and add smart contracts and digital contracts on top of digital assets and you’ve got something pretty exciting.
How are you implementing smart contracts to the Emanate model?
Sean: There are a lot of different contracts used and there will be more added over time. It’s an incredibly complex beast, but I think the one that needs to be understood is that when a piece of music is published on Emanate, it’s set it in the code as to what their share is of the payments that come through, and all the parties on the network agree to it.
So, rather than trusting some third party to collect that revenue and then split it up accordingly, it’s executed by the code. And yeah, that obviously enables things to be much faster, enables things to be transparent or completely fair, borderless and then free of trust.
Only 12% of music recording revenue makes its way to the artists. And that’s not just because of middlemen. In fact, some of those middlemen are necessary — the problem is that the system is incredibly inefficient.
So when this can be executed in code and managed by code and automated, without any geographical barriers, then more money can get to the artists and also to any middlemen that are adding value in the process.
Emanate’s been a project that really piqued my interest as a producer and musician. With releases and collaborations out on various platforms, it’s really difficult to keep up with what I’m owed, what my collaborators/remixers are owed, and tax becomes a nightmare.
Jimi: It is sort of improving, but it is an administrative nightmare. Record labels get paid by the distributors or the platforms but have to figure out where the money goes. How does it break down? Who’s been paid what?
Remittance statements come in with pages and pages of plays — it’s a headache. And as I said, it’s improving, but it is nowhere close in comparison to what we’re building.
Sean: Over time, the plan is for Emanate to integrate with more and more music services. You’ll know about any plays that have come through Emanate because your music is hosted there, and that it’s being paid according to the agreed splits (whether that’s a single play from a person listening on their iPhone or whether it’s a small licensing deal or if it’s being consumed through some other third party).
Jimi: I really feel like the convenience will be a very attractive feature. With an automated ecosystem, there’s nothing to think about — you load up your wallet on your smartphone and you can update that and check your plays and balance in real-time. And that’s just something that’s never been done before.
Will labels will be able to leverage the Emanate platform as well? It seems like a frictionless step for the independent musician to jump on board Emanate, but how would labels make the switch?
Jimi: There’s no real switch. Labels offer a lot of value in terms of community and tribe and culture. If a label has artists that they’re releasing music through, they’re just added to the smart collaboration contract, which will allow them to set the royalty splits.
Sean: We also hope that labels will be able to set a slightly lower percentage because there will no longer be as much administration involved. They might have a certain deal that they’re happy to work through for traditional monetization streams, but when it comes to plays that come through Emanate, it’s pretty low-touch for a label. So again, it should be better for them and it should be better for the artist.
How does Emanate’s digital token economy intend to function?
Sean: So we realized pretty early on that way we’re going to need two tokens — because we didn’t want to create a scenario where the volatility of the cryptocurrency market impacted an artist’s ability to predict what they were going to get paid.
So there’s an internal token that just carries value around the ecosystem, and that internal token represents the amount of subscription fees that have been collected through accounts on the network.
We refer to it as MNX token at the moment, but really it’ll just be represented as a dollar figure on the platform.
So MNX is somewhat of a ‘stablecoin’?
Sean: Yeah, but it’s an internal stable coin. The important token is the EMT token, and is what gives artists access to the network. They’ll need to stake their tokens in order to get access.
Users will be able to use it for voting on different proposals and different issues within the ecosystem. It’s fixed supply and will allow for growth when more and more people come to the platform. It really enables the economy to work, so artists will earn the internal stable coin — and we’ll give them the capability to swap that for EMT in the early months.
And then over time we’ll also provide them with a service for cashing that out straight into their bank account if they want.
What do you do in the case of bots manipulating plays? This is prevalent in existing music platforms and poses a problem for everyone involved in the supply chain. How does Emanate intend to combat that?
Sean: Yeah, it’s something that we think about a lot. Preventing it flawlessly will be an ongoing battle.
In the early days we’ll have quality control over which artists actually come onto the platform. And in order to actually ‘game’ the system, you’d need to create artists accounts as well as creating listeners accounts.
It’ll be easier in the early days when we have more visibility over the total traffic on the network. Once we scale up, there will be a need for more complex solutions, but over time we’ll be able to make distinctions between natural listening patterns and bot plays.
Also, one of the ways that manipulation can be prevented is by having a staking requirement for listeners, so that it becomes harder for people to spin up a bot network.
It will be an ongoing challenge and yeah, we’ll have to implement a number of different ways to prevent it.
What’s does the roadmap look like in terms of scaling up? How quickly or how slowly are you rolling it out for artists to be able to upload their music and sign up as artists?
Sean: It has to be a delicate balance of attracting enough attention, getting enough listeners, getting enough artists who have heaps of quality music. And yeah, controlling how we scale up.
One of the major things we’re testing with the Alpha platform is how we can make use of distributed storage. At the moment, on the demo, the files that you’re playing there are just on a central server that we run. They’re not on IPFS, but we will be trialing that over time.
And in the long run, we’ll use a global network of computers and servers that are networked together to form an Emanate IPFS, where music producers like yourself could be posting a node and earning rewards on the side.
We foresee that the evolution of distributed computing networks and storage networks will help us to scale up over time so that we don’t end up with just one massive bill for the whole network that’s designed to be distributed.
Let’s talk about the partnership with the popular musician-collaboration app, Vampr. What’s the plan there?
Sean: It’s really a dream partnership in terms of an audience because artists have come onto Vampr in order to find work and collaborate with each other within the music industry. Vampr does a great job of connecting those artists with each other in a really simple way, based on interests and what they’re looking for across the globe — but it sort of stops there. And at that point where it stops is exactly where Emanate starts.
And that is providing the plumbing for those collaborations to come together. At the moment you connect on Vampr and say “hey, thanks for connecting, we should do something together.”
Within a few months time that workflow will be, “Hey, Sean, you’ve connected with Jimi. Do you want to access his files now?”. And you’ll simply click get started.
You might sign a basic agreement and then you’ll instantly have access to his stems, acapellas or other collaboration parts.
So, yeah, enabling that rapid collaboration while also being a platform to publish that work and have the payments split almost instantly, Emanate will provide the community with a way to seamlessly interact with one another.
And then we give them a global currency that can easily be shared around and cashed in-and-out easily, and used in a variety of ways — whether they are collaborating or getting artwork, mixdowns or engineering/mastering work done.
Jimi: Another cool thing, especially with the collaboration aspect is that if you don’t have the cash upfront to pay for a film clip or some artwork or design, you could enter the collaborator into a contract and work out a deal to pay later. It’s up to the participants to negotiate the terms, but essentially you could be offering up some of your earnings to that contractor in exchange for their services.
Aside from blockchain, what are you most excited about for about the future of music tech?
Sean: It will be interesting to see how much of that sort of video game or VR environment is right for live musical integration and different types of performances. There was the Fortnite & Marshmellow collaboration recently and that was a massive success.
As these integrate, and as more and more people get interested in the space, then we’ll see niches forming where instead of it being 10,000 people, we’ll see 10 million people tuning in.
And is Emanate in any way or form looking to explore the ‘live performance’ avenue?
One of the things that excite us about Emanate is not just creating recorded collaborations, but being able to use the platform for live performances.
I can see a space evolving where live DJs, like those who perform Ableton live sets could benefit from Emanate.
In live sets there are specific sounds, and loops and samples that rise up through the community that become popular and gain traction over time. They don’t necessarily have to be completed tracks — it could be just one acapella that gets really popular over the course of a few weeks and is played out at hundreds of different venues a week.
Once this technology has matured a bit more then we can create a new type of live performance experience where artists get credited for these kinds of sounds.
Jimi: I think too, like from where we’re sitting, what’s really exciting is the opportunity for younger artists to have a lower barrier to entry, having more opportunity to get a better start.
I think Emanate could reduce friction on creativity, as many artists are often arm-wrestled into chasing hyped genres just to get work — it’s just not healthy. I’m excited that there will be more honest art in terms of music that’s getting made and acknowledged and rewarded.
We live in a golden era of content creation. Anyone can easily get content up with just a mobile phone, and self-distribution has never been easier. Unfortunately, there’s still that one core component of it all that needs to catch up — fair and transparent royalty distribution. So it’s great to see you spearheading that.
To wrap it up, is there anything you wanted to announce or plug?
Sean: We’re gearing up rapidly towards launching out our alpha platform. So, we are looking for artists. We’re also looking for people to just come and join our community and help us, and help us to actually manage the onboarding process.
Emanate is a platform that will become more and more decentralized over time and more and more distributed over time. So you don’t have to necessarily work for our company in order to work for Emanate.
Just come onto our Discord (join here) and tell us what your skill set is and how you want to be involved. More than likely, we’ll be able to find a role for you.
So yeah, don’t sit back and think “Emanate seems like a cool project, I can’t wait until it’s been released”. Come and actually be a part of it.
What are your thoughts on blockchain’s capacity to disrupt the music industry? We’d love to hear them in the comments below!
If you’d like to find out more about Emanate, head over to their website, and/or follow them on their social media channels below: