Explorations in bringing web3/crypto tech to classical music and media
After a 2(!) year break from writing on Substack I am back. I stopped writing because there were already enough Tech Twitter roundups going around and I decided to only return when I had something more unique to say. That brings us to the new focus of my writing, which will be documenting my own explorations and experiments in using web3/crypto to license, promote, and distribute music, publishing rights and media. I’ll look to leverage and experiment with IP from the classical music publishing company that my Dad started and that I now run — Paulus Publications. Here I’ll document whether it’s possible to turn a classical music publishing company into a forward-looking web3/crypto-native organization, along with everything that entails.
A bit of context
I grew up watching my Dad, a classical composer, as he learned to navigate the media and publishing landscape on his own. At dinner, he would discuss why he switched from publishing his music at traditional publishing houses like European American Music and Carl Fischer to self-publishing.
As someone more business-minded than musically gifted, I was always interested to hear about how the business was going and what changes he was making. As I later went to business school I would help him review P&Ls and balance sheets, but was only tangentially involved in the publishing business. That changed when he had a stroke on July 4, 2013 and later passed away in October of 2014. I subsequently took over running Paulus Publications, which has been a true honor and something I have written about before. As I went through the vast trove of Paulus Publications documents I came across something that caught my eye in particular — 12 pages of detailed notes on why he decided to self-publish.
These notes on a paradigm shift mirrored what I increasingly saw in media more broadly: individuals unbundling from institutions and going out on their own. It fit with one of my all-time favorite quotes from Jim Barksdale, “there’s only two ways to make money: bundling and unbundling.” I’ve seen that at BuzzFeed with video personalities like The Try Guys going off on their own and in media more broadly with writers starting their own newsletters and Substacks.
When my Dad started Paulus Publications in 1997 it was extremely forward-looking to self publish within the contemporary classical music industry. I believe now we are in the midst of another paradigm shift as blockchain technology and the wider adoption of cryptoassets and decentralized finance unlock new dynamics of ownership, collaboration, and exchange for all types of media, music, and IP. Over the coming weeks and months, I’ll be looking to experiment with various ways of value creation, community ownership, and leveraging web3 technologies to automate and improve Paulus Publications.
A few ideas that I will be looking to explore are:
Minting and selling music scores and other artistic artifacts
Fractionalized ownership of music, IP, and licensing rights
Automating royalty splits for arrangements and remixes
New generative audio files based on existing music and IP
Issuing fan/supporter tokens
Other experiments in producing scarcity for digital music files
Automating and streaming employee compensation (via something like Sablier)
Setting up bounty and reward systems to encourage and incentivize marketing/promotion of our existing catalog and IP
Whether a publishing company as a DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) is a workable framework
Minting sets of generative NFTs as tokenized gateway to membership clubs and/or royalty rights
I’m not sure that everything listed above will be possible, but I look forward to figuring that out and sharing my findings with you all. I hope you’ll find it interesting! If you’d like to talk about any of the above, you can get in touch by replying to this email or DMing me on Twitter.