The Future of Music

Mar 17 2017
Written by NYU Shanghai

This week, Professor Larry Miller of NYU Steinhardt visited NYU Shanghai to talk with students and faculty about the future of the music industry being reshaped by emerging business models and rapidly changing technology.

In a lecture titled Music, Data & the Blockchain: A Digital Utopia?, Prof. Miller shed light on metadata problems in the music business followed by technological solutions addressed in a lively panel discussion led by Adjunct Assistant Arts Professor Christian Grewell.

Miller said that two distinct copyrights exist in the music industry -- the control of sound recording by record companies, and the control of musical composition by music publishers. With these in place, acquiring permission to use other people’s music becomes expensive, and as a result musicians have a difficult time profiting from their work.

“That’s why more and more music industry insiders are looking to Blockchain technology to solve their problems,” he said.

According to Miller, Blockchain technology is generally used to create cryptocurrency (Bitcoin) and to make smart contracts (Ethereum). It’s used in the music industry by artists, songwriters and producers to assign, track, and write around the permissions of using data, while ensuring instantaneous and reliable payment.

As a music and technology entrepreneur, Professor Miller also works as an advisor and host of Musonomics, a bi-monthly podcast about the business of the music and culture industries.

On Thursday, during his second talk entitled  Musonomics: The State of the Industry, Miller pointed out that the music industry has been significantly transitioning from “ownership of music” to “access of music,” with the music streaming business rapidly booming in both China and the United States.

According to Miller, digital music contributed the largest segment to global music consumption by revenue in 2015. “In the last two years, the world’s largest music company has obtained more revenue from streaming music than physical music,” he said.

“The profit of paid streaming businesses globally will grow from $2.2 billion in 2015 to $12.7 billion in the coming 2020,” Miller added.