Finance isn’t just the realm of big banks and suit and tie types. Money touches almost every aspect of all of our lives.
That’s the big promise of decentralized app networks like Ethereum. It gives anyone anywhere in the world the ability to create and use applications that are open and community-owned, disintermediating rent-seeking middlemen in the process.
That said, one of the most promising areas that Ethereum can deliver in is the culture arena. More than ever, artists and creators need new ways to guarantee their finances on their own terms, and Ethereum dApps can deliver such avenues. That’s where Audius comes in.
What Is Audius?
The music industry pulls in billions of dollars of revenue every year, yet only just over 10% of that money gets into the hands of artists. Even worse, these creators are hardly given any agency as to what happens with their music — from distribution and beyond — after they create it.
It’s time for a change, and Audius is hoping to usher that change in.
How? By serving as a decentralized, community-owned music streaming platform that empowers artists to take control of their music and pave new ways to get paid from, and even enrich, their fans. Audius is trustless, so creators don’t have to worry about being censored for their art as they would on more centralized platforms like Apple or YouTube.
Moreover, Audius is open-source, so developers around the world are free to build atop it and build new kinds of musical experiences however they’d like. And the platform’s data tools can help artists intimately understand their fanbases.
Why It Matters
To date, centralized music streaming platforms have unfortunately proven to be rent-seeking structures that extract as much value from artists as possible. It’s not about the music or the creators for these companies, it’s about the bottom line where profits are concerned. Full stop.
That’s no way to help musicians actually flourish. So instead of making these platforms like they always have, in a top-down manner, what if one was built from the ground up with an artist-first, community-first mindset? That’s Audius. The project’s team want to raise up voices of all stripes, especially artists that have been overlooked or disenfranchised by the traditional music industry, by giving them the tools they need to build up their own communities and finances.
Inside the Audius System
Under the hood, the Audius protocol has several key structural components. These include:
The AudSP decentralized file storage solution.
The Audius content ledger.
To start, AudSP is the file system built on IPFS (the InterPlanetary File System) where artists can upload their music to Audius for posterity. The project’s content nodes then interact with AudSP and facilitate permissioning features thereafter.
Then there’s the Audius content ledger, which can be understood as the totality of the relationships among Audius’s Ethereum smart contracts, the POA Network, and any and all other base layer or layer-two (L2) networks that the Audius protocol will interact with in the system. Accordingly, this content ledger is responsible for facilitating and recording all Audius activities, like when users like tracks or create song libraries.
Lastly, there’s no understating the importance of the new Audius governance system. As a community-owned project, this system is what will allow Audius’s users to decide among themselves on protocol parameters like royalties, fees, token rewards, and more.
Speaking of the Audius governance system, the key that unlocks the whole thing is the $AUDIO token, which was first unveiled in October 2020. As such, $AUDIO is a governance token that’s earned by using Audius and that holders can use to collectively vote on “value-add actions” around the protocol.
“Artists should control their own means of distribution, and we believe the future of Audius should be dictated by its most active contributors to avoid repeating the mistakes of the industry’s past,” the project explained in their $AUDIO announcement.
Beyond governance, $AUDIO also has security and feature-access dimensions. With regard to security, Audius node operators can stake $AUDIO to secure the project’s network, while artists and fans can stake the token in order to unlock special toolings and perks.
The $AUDIO Airdrop
On October 23rd, the Audius team made a surprise distribution of $AUDIO to the platform’s top 10,000 artists and users so far. Notably, among the prominent artists included in the drop were Zeds Dead, RAC, and deadmau5.
“As an artist, I spend much of my time seeing around the corner to the future of the industry, and Audius is clearly the way forward,” said Joel Zimmerman, a.k.a deadmau5, who has also joined the Audius team.
On the news of the token’s release, Dead Wilson, the CEO of deadmau5’s independent record label mau5trap, added:
“Audius and the launch of $AUDIO marks a huge step forward for the evolution of the music industry and the technology that fuels the relationship between artists and fans. The next generation of artists are flocking to Audius because it’s clearly the future.”
Welcome to Mainnet
To celebrate the $AUDIO release and the coinciding launch of Audius on the Ethereum mainnet, the project held a “Welcome to Mainnet” concert on October 23rd, too.
The Twitch concert wasn’t just a treat for its live performances from deadmau5 and RAC — it also allowed fans who watched the concert to claim a special $AUDIO airdrop dedicated to the festivities.
So we’ve seen where Audius is at now. But where’s the platform going from here?
While the project’s team has lots of development tasks currently on its slate, one of the most interesting ones is adding support for artist tokens (e.g. the $RAC token that RAC just released).
Indeed, we’re starting to see more and more creators like RAC launch their own community tokens. Going forward, Audius plans to go all in on these tokens by giving artists the ability to natively distribute and wield their artist tokens through the streaming platform, e.g. restricting special features to token holders. Audius is also preparing to serve as an artist token aggregator by supporting external tokens from social token platforms like Roll and Zora. Additionally, artists will be able to stake $AUDIO in order to receive premium token support services.
Roadmap for 2021 and Beyond
Audius has big plans for the future, as the project’s whitepaper indicates:
“The Audius community will roll out new mechanisms for content ownership and revenue never before possible, backed by the crypto-native primitives driving the protocol under the hood. As a platform well poised to bridge the gap between crypto and a mainstream audience, Audius will always prioritize simplicity to offer an intuitive user experience grounded in web3.”
Audius may not be the most high-profile Ethereum dApp right now, but it holds huge potential as a “Soundcloud killer” that can empower musicians like never before. Accordingly, the venture can easily be a huge app in the future if the Ownership Economy continues to play out like it already is now.
In the meantime, you’ll certainly want to keep Audius on your radar as an up-and-coming project to watch.