FEATURE: Linebreak Records – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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We caught up with Simeon Soden to find out what has inspired his variety of exciting projects…

I’m an electronic musician primarily, but I’ve always had an interest in generally just making things. I have a specific interest in using coding for music and visual purposes and exploring new ways of distributing music. I’m also a PhD student who is researching blockchain for music distribution and possible uses in larger music organisations. Aside from Linebreak, my other musical projects include two-piece, Badger, solo project ako and band Mausoleums, as well as co-running Kaneda Records and Northern Electric Festival.

The initial spark that got me interested in blockchain was Imogen Heap’s Tiny Human single that was released using the blockchain on a platform programmed by what is now called Ujo music. A couple of things caught my interest about this project; firstly, the idea that artists could receive fairer payments immediately and, most interesting for me, the idea that music could be presented in new formats, not limited to stereo audio files as is the case with current distribution practices. Ujo’s platform provided the option to purchase ‘remix stems’, alongside traditional stereo files, which allowed people to not only listen, but make their own versions of the single. It opened up whole new avenues for me, music could be interactive; the audience and their actions could become a determining factor in the music itself.

The blockchain itself, at its’ inception was born out of a yearning to create a new system, primarily for moving money, outside of the of the existing institutions – with total automation and immutable public record replacing more opaque trust relationships to banks and other financial institutions whose avarice by this point has been proven. This removal of third parties and trust is often referred to as ‘decentralisation’ and it is certainly a seductive idea for a few reasons. Whilst it is fair to say a lot of the early media coverage of blockchain featured the more salacious or downright illegal activities (Silk Road etc.); there is a genuine sense of wanting to use it for good amongst the development community and there is an almost wilderness like sense of possibility and exploration – a lot like the internet before it got so relentlessly commercial.

The autonomy and immutability are born out of the blockchain’s topography. Unlike traditional networks, the blockchain is not centrally hosted on servers. It is ‘decentralised’; every person using the network hosts the network. Every person using the network has a copy of a record of every single transaction ever made, known as a distributed ledger, which acts in place of a centrally held database as with traditional networks, and every copy of the ledger is subject to scrutiny against every other copy making it hack resistant. Once transactions and data are stored in the blockchain it is completely unchangeable, and publicly accessible, offering complete transparency, which in itself is quite an interesting prospect for society at large.

This decentralisation offers opportunities to disrupt not only financial institutions, but also pretty much any current system. Just as digital file distribution completely disrupted the music industry, totally changing how people engage with recorded music; blockchain looks set to enact similar change. I’m not 100% sure exactly what this will look like but the most robust idea, it seems to me is, is fairer and more direct and instantaneous royalty payments and a more cost effective way to receive micropayments. Blockchain is potentially advantageous as currently third parties are necessary in both of these processes, and these third parties take a slice of the pie (a pie which has shrank at an alarming rate over the last 15 years due to various economic factors). Other features of the blockchain mean you can apportion and manage complicated payments autonomously which is useful for situations like payments to collaborators, so it could save a lot of administration. It is also truly international in its scope. I can wire money to anyone anywhere with the same ease as any other transaction (with no exchange rates or borders to negotiate).  Coupling this with the ease of transmission of digital audio via the internet could form a powerful tool for musicians, especially higher profile players who operate at in international level and have to negotiate the difficulty of working across international borders.

Linebreak Records was founded as a sub-label of Kaneda Records, existing to distribute music beyond the normal internet and on the Blockcahin. The project seeks to explore these potential advantages: instant royalty payments, micropayments with lower or no third party fees and the freedom of presenting music in new formats including interactivity. As well as how the blockchain may facilitate new ways of working as record label. The initial release is a 2 track single from my solo project ako, when purchased for Ether on a ‘pay-what-you-want basis’, a download for MP3/WAV is unlocked. The donation also unlocks the opportunity to download remix stems of the single which give the people who donate the chance to participate in the project by releasing their own remixes.

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