Mycelia’s Imogen Heap on Blue Skies, Astronauts and the Intersection of Music And Blockchain

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Imogen HeapImogen Heap is on a mission to create change in the world. Starting with the music world, at least. For too long struggling artists have missed out on profits due to industry fat cats lapping off the cream. Musicians don’t know how to make it big or when and where their data is being used. And the money and power still remain tightly in the grip of a privileged few in their ivory towers.

Well not for much longer if Heap, the inventor of Mycelia, has her way. As a nonprofit research and development “hub” for musicians harnessing blockchain technology to create a fairer music ecosystem, she’s busy laying the foundations for a brighter future.

Believing that musicians should own their data, that payments should be seamless and automatic, and that the music marketplace should be richer and fairer, Heap’s passion is contagious. Find out what she has to say about blockchain and music, the ‘Creative Passport’, and the Mycelia world tour here.

Problems with the music industry are well-documented. Artists unfairly compensated, middlemen and production studios keeping the profits… You’re a Grammy-winning artist. What inspired you to take on the music industry’s woes? Is there one single personal experience that compelled you to take action?

Actually yes! Three years ago, bleary-eyed in the middle of the night as I was breastfeeding our new-born baby, I decided I wanted to be part of the solution rather than adding to the problems as I saw them for the music industry.

I was gearing up to release a new song ‘Tiny Human’ and feeling the pressure of work that goes into that as a self-releasing artist (like the large percentage of the music making community).

Earlier that day, I’d had a discussion with my musician friend Zoe Keating where she introduced me to this thing called blockchain, and we were riffing on ideas for what this could mean for our industry.

So then, in the middle of the night, feeling this fresh hope, excitement and new energy with this new technology, I continued to blue sky imagine a music ecosystem that supported me, every step along the way as best as I could, and I haven’t stopped since.

What is Mycelia and how are you planning to resolve the current situation?

Mycelia is a research and development hub for music makers, driven by a growing community of creatives, technologists and industry champions for the love of music. Our mission, through technology, is to bring to life a music maker database which will help realize a fair, sustainable and vibrant music ecosystem.

To the non-music folks, this ultimately means fairer and faster payments to artists and a richer marketplace from which to build their careers by easing collaboration creatively and commercially.

Why do you think that blockchain technology is the solution for the broken music industry?

Blockchain has the potential to ease the flow of payments and to accelerate and improve collaboration on both a business and a creative level. For too long music makers have been constrained by traditional payment methods and barriers around collaboration. Blockchain can effectively address these problems, simplifying the process all around.

You recently spoke at MoneyConf in Dublin. What financial implications do you think that blockchain will have on the music industry?

Huge time = money cost savings for the admin and accounting sides of the music industry with the slack diving back into discovery, development, and support of new and existing talent.

What’s the single best thing about peer-to-peer technology for musicians and fans?

It is great for connecting music makers in a meaningful way and for simplifying processes around payments, information sharing, etc., etc.

Tell us about the ‘Creative Passport’. What is it, who is it for, and can you give us some examples of its use cases?

Mycelia blockchain passport
Mycelia Creative Passport

The ‘Creative Passport’ empowers music makers to be data organized and ‘open for business’ and-–unique to each user–contains personal information, existing IDs, acknowledgments, works and business partners.

It promotes template smart contracts to speed up payments and encourage meaningful creative and commercial partnerships with the ultimate aim of bringing to life an entirely new artist-led marketplace for the music industry.

With this new socially connected music community, a sharing of knowledge and support layer can also emerge like never before, where we can help each other to tackle the increasing feelings of isolation and lack of hope, which have felt extremely present these last few years.

How did you come up with the idea for it?

 I suppose it’s been bubbling away over 20+ years each time that frustration of how clunky the data and money flow is combined with how unsupportive of music makers the industry felt at various times.

It’s accelerated and been given a focus though over these last three years since I came across blockchain technology, having many hundreds of meetings with movers and shakers of our industry combined with those experiencing similar issues outside music in their own supply chains.

The bit after all this I felt we needed to get done first, was to build ourselves a home and extend out, so the Creative Passport was born.

You’ve previously spoken about creating a service for people that they don’t know they need. Building on a technology they don’t understand… How do you go about starting something like that? How do you turn an idea into a reality?

Mycelia is going on a world tour, giving talks, concerts, exhibitions and workshops to music makers and beyond, to help us convince music makers to put our collective foot forward, building ourselves a music maker layer for the industry.

We are used to developing and creating together, taking risks. We are going to try and convince them we need to do this, campaigning to get involved and make the change.

Unlike many companies experimenting with blockchain, you haven’t held an ICO. What are your ideas and plans in terms of funding?

So far, the project has been self-funded. It’s a non-profit, though individually, music makers will, of course, make a profit, as it’s very important to keep the Creative Passport layer free of VC funding.

We are looking into social impact investment and also models for early adoption from services to receive free access to the database giving them an edge in future. So I have a few companies I am directly championing for investment such as Streemliner, interactive album credits in 3D.

I believe this to be a new standard for discovery and exploration of the existing global music repertoire.

About your year-long tour. A different city every week sounds amazing and also tiring! Can you tell us about it?

We don’t actually start the tour until September. We are planning to cover 40 cities across four continents over the course of the year and will be putting on concerts and hosting workshops, talks and a ‘Creative Passport’ exhibit.

I am super excited about going around the world to share my vision with both music makers and fans and about creating a fairer, more sustainable and flourishing music industry.

Has your music background helped you to be a better entrepreneur? In what way(s)?

Absolutely. Being a musician, you experience so many of the problems first-hand, such as lengthy and complicated payment processes. That experience has given me the insight to develop these new technologies that will ultimately go some way to solving these issues.

What would you say your main motivator is?

Making the music industry a better, fairer and more vibrant place and developing technologies that will transform it from what it is today to what it could be in the future. A music industry that makes business sense for our songs to be a part of.

Finally, if you hadn’t been a musician, what do you think you might have been?

I always fancied being an astronaut when I was very little.

As a Grammy-winning artist, musician, and all-around inspiration, Heap may not use a rocketship in her day job. But that doesn’t stop her from reaching for the stars.

Thank you, Imogen Heap!

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