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Taylor Swift, Streaming, Ascribe, & Why My Music Is Free – Bitcoin and the Arts #7

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This is another Bitcoin and the Arts podcast with John Stuart!

To kick things off this month, John will spend some time chatting about Ascribe. It's a new service that uses the Bitcoin blockchain to manage intellectual property. It also claims to protect copyrights by crawling the internet for illegal copies of art. John will explain how it all works, what he thinks about copyright in general, and why Ascribe might not be very effective in the end.

Then for the second half of the show, John will touch on Taylor Swift and her open letter to Apple. She's upset because the tech giant will not be paying artists anything for the first three months of operation for Apple Music. John will share his thoughts on streaming music, how Bitcoin could enable a revolutionary new way for artists to profit, and much more. Enjoy!

Leave a comment and tell us if you think a service like Ascribe could really protect copyrights!

And remember to tune in the first Saturday of every month for more Bitcoin and the Arts!


  1. John – I love the podcast. A few quick points:

    I understand any artist struggling with the idea of someone else distributing his music and not giving him credit. Anyone who does this to any kind of artist is an asshole. But being an asshole shouldn’t be a reason to use government force against someone. This person would be a liar and a scumbag, but not a thief of “property.”

    I think that in reality, we wouldn’t see a marked increase in this kind of behavior in a world without IP. How many people go around pretending that they wrote Charles Dickens books, or “Amazing Grace”, or fashion designs (which can’t be copyrighted)? If an artist wants to be sure to get credit, all he has to do is document his work process enough to be able to demonstrate that he made the work first. Then anyone who misrepresents the work would be exposed as a fool as well as an asshole.

    From what I have read, Apple pays slightly higher royalties than Spotify in both the pay service and during the free trial period (two different rates), so I think your criticism there was off-base. Originally Apple was not going to pay anything during the trial period, but this is a period during which Apple wouldn’t have been earning any money either (they don’t have ads like Spotify or collect user information like Google). Partially as a result of Swift’s public letter, Apple now pays during the free trial period.

    • Thanks for listening and thanks for the thoughtful comment!

      I definitely wouldn’t push for using government force in any IP related situation, so I hope that I didn’t come off that way in the podcast. The question of theft when it comes to taking credit for someone else’s work for me is more about whether or not that person was using someone else’s work to make money for themselves. I don’t think hearing an mp3 that you didn’t pay for is theft or that saying offhand that you wrote a song that you didn’t write and then leaving it at that is theft. But the situation is more complicated when someone sells someone else’s work without their permission and makes money for themselves on it.

      I would tend to agree with you when you say that there may not be a marked increase in stealing credit, but the Charles Dicken’s and “Amazing Grace” examples maybe not the strongest because they already have strong name recognition. It would be near impossible to plausibly take credit for either. If anything, increases in taking credit from people has more to do with the internet and the free flow of information than it does IP. I agree and also believe documentation and proof of work are truly the best way to handle the situation, which is why I think people like Ascribe.io offering the services that they do are important. We can expose the fools and asshole without appealing to courts.

      I can’t speak to the differences in royalties paid between Apple and Spotify. If Apple does pay more than Spotify, I’m fine with that, but I’m also fine with Spotify paying less if that’s how they want to run their business.

      I’m afraid I may not have been clear enough in what I was saying about Apple, as I don’t think I meant to be quite as off base as you might have taken it. I did not mean to imply that Apple was making money during the free trial period. If it’s free, then no one is making money. The issue is that they are making customers. They offer a free trial in the hopes that more people will adopt their service and pay them later. The problem with that is that Apple makes money from their service on a subscription basis, but artists make money per stream. So if 1,000 people all listen to Taylor Swift’s song during the trial period and then start paying for a subscription after the trial ends, Apple has only lost money for the trial period, but Taylor loses money per stream. If those same 1,000 people pay for subscriptions, but don’t stream a single Taylor Swift song Apple still gets paid, but Taylor wouldn’t get paid for her streams that helped Apple get the customers in the first place. What I’m getting at is that for Apple, customers are more valuable than streams. I don’t see what Apple did as directly stealing money from artists. I see it as Apple using artists’ products to draw in long term customers. I don’t have a problem with that as a business strategy, but it is more beneficial to Apple than it is to their artists (although, yes, I understand that the more customers paying for the service, the more potential streams an artist can get) and I don’t have a problem with someone like Taylor Swift wanting to pull her music or convince Apple to change its policy because they feel as if they aren’t being treated as equal partners in the deal. I’m glad that Taylor and Apple were able to come to an agreement about the terms of the service without intervention from government.

      Thanks for the listen and for the comment again. It’s very helpful for me to see what people agree and disagree with me on and to see where I may not have been clear enough in explaining myself. Let me know if anything I said here made more sense.

      Thanks again!


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