SoundCloud on the blockchain? Audius raises $5.5M to decentralize music • TechCrunch


Audius needs to chop the middlemen out of music streaming so artists receives a commission their justifiable share. Popping out of stealth right this moment led by serial entrepreneur and DJ Ranidu Lankage, Audius is constructing a blockchain-based various to Spotify or SoundCloud.

Customers pays for Audius tokens or earn them by listening to adverts. Their pockets will then pay out a fraction of a cent per track to stream from decentralized storage throughout the community, with artists receiving roughly 85 % — in comparison with roughly 70 % on the main streaming apps. The remaining goes to compensating whomever is internet hosting that track, in addition to builders of listening software program shoppers, certainly one of which might be constructed by Audius.

Audius plans to launch its open-sourced product in beta later this yr. Nevertheless it’s already discovered some highly effective buyers that see SoundCloud as weak to the cryptocurrency revolution. Audius has raised a $5.5 million Sequence A led by Normal Catalyst and Lightspeed, with participation from Kleiner Perkins, Pantera Capital, 122West and Ascolta Ventures. They’re betting that Audius’ token will develop in worth, making the stockpile it retains price a fortune. It may then promote chunks of its tokens to earn income as a substitute of charging artists immediately.

Audius co-founders (from left): head of product Forrest Browning, CEO Ranidu Lankage, CTO Roneil Rumburg

“The most important downside within the music trade is that streaming is taking off and artists aren’t essentially incomes some huge cash. And it may take three months, or as much as 18 months for unsigned artists, to receives a commission for streams,” says Lankage. “That’s what crypto actually solves. You’ll be able to pay artists in close to real-time and make it totally clear.”

The large query might be whether or not Audius can use the token economic system to crack the chicken-and-egg downside of getting its first creators and listeners on a platform that is perhaps much less functionally sturdy than its conventional opponents. There are a whole lot of shifting components to decentralize, however there are additionally loads of disgruntled musicians on the market ready for one thing higher.

From Sri Lankan hip-hop star to serial entrepreneur

Most startup guys don’t have Billboard charting singles on their bio, however Lankage does. Born in Sri Lanka, his hip-hop songs in his native tongue of Sinhalese had been the primary of the language to be performed on the BBC and MTV. He received signed to Sony and even went platinum, however left the label looking for higher management over his work. After going to Yale, he utilized his music enterprise data to construct a Reddit for dance music referred to as The Drop with Twitch’s Justin Kan again in 2015.

The 2 teamed up once more on a video model of Q&A app Quora called Whale, however that fizzled out too. Lankage’s subsequent enterprise Polly, a polling tool constructed as a complement to Snapchat, impressed the now super-popular Instagram Tales polls and questions stickers. However after an acqui-hire by Reddit fell through, he returned to his old flame: music.

“I’ve all the time been keen about constructing instruments for creators,” says Lankage. However this time, he needed to give attention to serving to them flip their artwork right into a occupation. He teamed up with CTO Roneil Rumburg, an engineering accomplice at Kleiner Perkins who’d construct a crypto pockets referred to as Backslash, and head of product Forrest Browning, who’d bought his software program metering startup StacksWare to Avi Networks.

Their purpose is to construct a blockchain streaming music service the place listeners don’t have to know blockchains. “A consumer wouldn’t even know that they’ve a pockets,” says Rumburg. They’ll simply hear an advert each every so often, get a subscription, or pay per stream. Since Audius is open sourced, builders will have the ability to construct their very own listening shoppers on prime, which may concentrate on discovery of sure varieties of music or provide their very own cost schemes.

“I’ve identified Ranidu, Forrest and Roneil for a very long time, and have all the time been impressed with their potential to mix artwork, know-how and enterprise collectively,” says investor Niko Bonatsos of Normal Catalyst. “In Audius, they carry collectively all three expertise, with a deep technical coronary heart and a compelling answer for a really large market.”

Tokens, not document labels

For starters, Audius is specializing in signing up impartial digital musicians. These are the categories that is perhaps standard on SoundCloud however truly must pay for internet hosting there whereas not getting a lot again because of the platform’s weak monetization choices. Don’t count on U2 and Ariana Grande on Audius, not less than not but. However the startup may differentiate by providing entry to content material you may’t discover elsewhere.

To get artists on board, Lankage tells me Audius plans “to make use of token incentives.” These prepared to leap on first earlier than there are a lot of listeners may get a bonus allotment of tokens that is perhaps price extra if they assist popularize the service. And the place artists go, their followers will observe. Audius is hoping artists will share its hyperlinks first as a result of that’s the place they’ll earn essentially the most cash.

Audius has additionally lined up a legion of big-name advisors to assist it develop its blockchain product and artist relationships. These embody Augur co-founder Jeremy Gardner, EDM artist 3LAU, EA co-founder Bing Gordon and extra it may’t announce simply but.

The linchpin of Audius would be the consumer expertise. If the system feels too sophisticated, listeners and artists will keep elsewhere. A DJ would possibly earn extra per stream from Audius, but when Spotify or SoundCloud provide higher methods for followers to subscribe to them and generate extra performs long-term, they’ll nonetheless direct supporters there. But when Audius can disguise the nerdy bits whereas fixing the music trade’s issues, it has the potential to be one of many first mainstream shopper blockchain initiatives that treats the tech as a utility, not only a new inventory market to guess on.



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