The Opus Foundation’s mission is to create a decentralized music-sharing platform that provides listeners with greater choice while providing fair market value compensation to artists. Using smart contracts and peer-to-peer storage, Opus aims to cut out the major middlemen (i.e., the monopolized distribution platforms), so as to empower artists and change the way people pay for music. Opus will offer a free-market system wherein prices are set by the artists, who are incentivized to come up with viable pricing schemes (for example, by charging more for higher bit-rate or mix-ready versions). The platform is beta-ready and a demo is available (for use with MetaMask). A non-blockchain simulation-demo is also available.
Opus’ solution is comprised of four layers: an API layer which interacts with 3rd party players to decode and deliver music tracks; an Ethereum-based business logic layer which handles all the transactions; a directory layer, which is a JSON database that stores all the hashes of tracks available on the network; and an Interplanetary File System (IPFS) peer-to-peer storage layer. The smart contracts store the user decryption keys, reference file hashes to the IPFS storage, and the business logic. Leveraging the speed and redundancy of IPFS, Opus says it can scale and deliver thousands of tracks per second. This throughput is achieved by encrypting music tracks on the fly and storing them permanently on the IPFS swarm, while only the decryption keys and file hashes are saved immutably on the smart contract. Thus artists can monetize their content by selling permanent access to their IPFS music files and decryption keys directly to a fan’s Ethereum contract.
Additional governance mechanisms are planned, such as an Opus DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) treasury funded from a small percentage of each sale, and a bounty system that allows artists to pay a small amount for people to share their tracks (from which playlist-makers can benefit). The OPUS Foundation does not take any money – 97% of the revenue is received by the artists. The purpose of Opus DAO is to allow people to vote on monthly proposals that develop the Opus platform.
Opus, which is situated on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, was founded by CEO Bokang Jia (previously founder and lead developer of Armageddon RSPS gaming), CTO Chenhao Xu (previously software developer at HackAD), and COO Mateusz Mach (also co-founder and CEO of Five App). The website lists other core team members as well, saying they are all “geeks and programmers at heart,” but LinkedIn profiles are somewhat harder to find. The website also says that the company is now hiring to expand its team. Opus says it received a seed round of funding in December 2016, but will reject additional VC and series A funding due to the foundation’s core philosophy and objectives.
Opus is not the first to consider that the music industry could benefit from some decentralization. There are non-blockchain initiatives such as BandCamp, PledgeMusic, or Resonate, and PledgeMusic cofounder Benji Rogers has even introduced the idea of a codec and player tied to a blockchain, called dotblockchain. There’s also Bittunes, which uses bitcoin as its primary currency and lets users profit from the peer-to-peer file sharing. Peertracks is another music platform that leverages the use of blockchain technology (MUSE), and LBRY is a similar-but-different blockchain-based solution applied to all kinds of digital content (movies, videos, music, ebooks, etc.). There’s also Ujo, which collaborated with the double Grammy winning artist Imogen Heap (who also has her own related project, Mycelia) on a prototype track to showcase the platform’s novel modular approach to ownership and compensation. Oh, and there’s Voise, which completed an ICO recently, and aims to distribute 100% of the revenue to the artists (charging for premium platform services instead). And there are more. But considering how vast the music industry is and can be, there may be room for everyone, at least until a particular standard is massively adopted.
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