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Is the world ready for a music streaming co-op?

Among the various personal interests that I don’t write about on the blog is music. I dabbled in music journalism during and shortly after my student years, traveling round the Midlands to review gigs and interview bands. I particularly enjoy discovering new music. Nowadays that mainly happens online, and mostly on Spotify.

I always resisted Napster and their ilk, so Spotify was something of a revelation when it came along. Here was the infinite bank of music that the illegal file sharers were enjoying, but legitimate and with the full backing of the record labels. I’ve been a paying subscriber since it launched in Britain in 2009, and it remains one of my favourite things about the internet.

Except that a couple of years into the Spotify story, it emerged that artists weren’t getting paid properly after all. The payments from streaming were tiny, and none of the other streaming services was any better. It was obviously an improvement on stealing music, but streaming certainly wasn’t developing into a sustainable revenue model for the industry.

Things have improved since then, streaming has matured a little, and things are certainly more transparent. But whether artists are getting a fair cut remains contentious. Some think it’s a fair exchange for the access to a wide audience, and that fans will still pay to own the music and support the artists (true in my case). Others, including high-profile artists such as Radiohead and Taylor Swift, have taken a stand and limited the streaming permissions for their music. All sorts of other streaming services have launched, and some claim that they pay better rates, such as Tidal or Baboom.

resonateSo far, nobody has quite cracked it in my opinion. But one person who thinks they have the solution is Peter Harris, a musician and web developer. His idea is for a open-source, co-operatively owned streaming service. It would be owned by its members, musicians and fans alike, and prove “that we can arrive at a greater level of prosperity if we collaborate instead of compete.”

That’s the noble vision behind Resonate. The plan is to operate a stream-to-own model, so that royalties increase the more a fan plays a song, until they eventually own it. That makes it cheap to play a song once, but by the time you’ve played it ten times you’ll have effectively bought it. An interesting idea.

Now, Resonate doesn’t exist yet. It’s in development and has a long road ahead of it, even before we get to the point of negotiating a catalogue of music and wooing enough users to make it viable. But it’s a worthwhile project and I’ll keep an eye on it. Those with an interest in music and experience in open source development might even want to volunteer and help to build it.

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