5 Questions about money and music rights in the metaverse

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This article was originally published on hypebot.com

Pardon the alliteration, but music in the metaverse is a mystery to most. Jocelyn Seilles of independent music copyright management solution Bridger asks and at least partially answers 5 questions key to understanding music’s next chapter.

By Jocelyn Seilles, General Manager at independent music copyright management solution Bridger

Let’s be honest: No one knows what the metaverse is – yet. But we already know it has potential for artists, labels, publishers, and other rights holders, and we know it will impact how royalties and revenues will work in the future. Though the nature of the metaverse is still unfolding, we are already at a point where we can start to ask the right questions, even if finding solid answers is no easy task.

First, a simple definition of the metaverse as it currently stands: The metaverse is the loose name given to most, if not all, web3 tech, from blockchain/NFTs/crypto/DAOs to VR and other immersive environments. It tends to be active, collective, and not purely grounded in audio. In this way, it differs significantly from the internet we know. In other ways, it may be more similar to current models than we think.

Here are five simple questions we’ll need to answer before we can really talk seriously about money for artists in the metaverse.

1.How will people use music in the metaverse?

At the moment, no one knows. This question will be important to answer, however, if we want to sort out things like rights and royalties in this new space.

A lot of current uses in web3 resemble non-metaverse uses: Music lovers attend events together, listen to music, and purchase recorded music and music-related items. Yet new capabilities and approaches will likely lead to new formats, with new uses that are very hard to predict and imagine. VR, for example, has already led to experiences that blend physical movement, game mechanics, and music. When we consider how blockchain/NFTs and more advanced virtual or mixed reality are evolving, it’s not hard to picture music weaving tightly into a wild array of cool new uses.

This is really exciting, on one hand. Many web3 uses feel additive, meaning they don’t necessarily take away from other, existing income streams that are already flowing. On the other hand, this can also seem daunting, as no one knows what kind of music or artist will flourish, what sort of financial relationships will emerge, and what the artist-fan relationship will be like.

2.What new sources of revenue will emerge?

This is the fun part. Some new money will come from better capturing usage and from more traceable administration of rights and splits. Certain aspects of usage reporting promise to be much easier, faster, and more automated through Web3 protocols. Some new revenue may come from metaverse answers to older formats, such as metaverse concerts, that can be priced lower and purchased by way more people at once. Some may come from totally new use cases yet to come, as we talked about above.

All of these sources will depend either on direct payments or royalties. Though many radical fans of decentralization question when there will be anything except direct payments, it’s reasonable to assume that royalties will still be part of a new web3 world. These royalties are connected to IP rights.

3.Will we need a new set of rights for the metaverse?

Rights let people use intellectual property such as your recording or composition, and many of the uses we imagine for the metaverse as it currently stands already exist. It’s not hard to imagine expanding the concept of an interactive stream, a sync, or a performance to fit new uses. (For a full list of rights and the terms associated with them, see our recent glossary.)

Why not rethink rights, since we’re in the middle of what feels like a huge tech transformation? We don’t think a bunch of new rights are necessary to handle future metaverse use of music. We don’t need to add an additional layer of complexity with new rights. It’s been decades of struggle to keep money flowing through responsible rights-administering institutions and organizations to artists, and we’ve started to reach a viable global system. That system, despite what some may believe, could transition fairly well to embrace metaverse uses.

4.Will the metaverse need a sheriff?

There are those passionate about web3 who feel strongly the system will organize itself, based on the very nature of web3 tech. But every Wild West needs a sheriff, right?

What many web3 enthusiasts may not realize is that the system governing rights and royalties as it stands is already highly decentralized, and legacy institutions that are centuries old can make this work. There is no single global body that calls the final shots in this system of collective music organizations and performance rights organizations. It’s a carefully balanced network of relationships.

Let’s say we decide the answer is no, we don’t need a sheriff. We’ll simply improve and expand what we already have. Then we bump up against a gnarly question: what’s the jurisdiction in the metaverse? Current copyright law, the legal framework for rights and royalties, is country based. These laws differ significantly.

Yet the metaverse defies clear national boundaries. For example, if a company based in London licenses a track from an artist in Turkey represented by a German label and a Swiss publisher, for users who are mostly based in the US, what jurisdiction is used to determine who gets paid how for what? What entities would be involved in a legal battle over this license?

This jurisdictional question, as wonky as it sounds, suggests we may need to consider some central body to help us deal with conflicts. Will we need a body like ICANN or some other neutral party to make the final call on thorny disagreements or rights abuses?

5.What should artists keep in mind as all this emerges?

One of the more exciting aspects of web3 is the intensive involvement of artists and creators in shaping the space, from finding new creative ways to use the tech to helping build the very infrastructure. That means as an artist, you have an opportunity to make this emerging world one that achieves your goals, that allows you more transparency, that gives you more appropriate levels of power. So, experiment. Find a Discord server or DAO that fits your interests and creative direction.

Keep learning about the less sexy sides of the metaverse, too. Make sure you’re collecting everything you’re due in web2, building the relationships that will ensure whatever transitions or disruptions may come, you’ve already established the right connections.

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