Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



School of Music

Director of Thesis

Armen Shaomian

Second Reader

Jane Lippencott


One of the most pertinent opportunities within the music industry, and many other industries as well, stems from the use of blockchain technology. Blockchain’s core technology, which enables smart contracts and non-fungible tokens (NFTs), could be used to restructure and decentralize the music industry to be in alignment with the best interests of artists - the individuals responsible for driving the success of this industry.

The current system is outmoded. It evinces a disparity in the level of information held by artists and intermediaries (i.e. labels, publishers, and streaming services) and this disparity enables intermediaries to deduct egregious fees that in many cases do not serve the purpose of benefiting the artist (Taghdiri 2019, 173). Such fees may have been originally created for necessary reasons (before the internet and mobile device proliferation decreased the difficulty of distribution to fans, for example). However, fees to intermediaries are too high relative to the share of an artist's earnings in today’s day and age. Further, royalty payments are often not received for lengthy periods of time, delivered to the wrong party altogether, or never delivered to any party at all. In addition, artists will have little to no information related to the calculations behind their royalty payments, which leaves them without any other option than to blindly trust the intermediaries.

Blockchain presents opportunities for the music industry in the following ways: (a) universal transparency amongst all parties; (b) automatic execution of payments; (c) the removal of unwanted third-party intermediaries; (d) increased royalty payouts for content creators (Taghdiri 2019, 174); and (e) the ability to create non-fungible tokens. This technology is still not fully ready to become the new normal, and the various barriers to adoption are just as important to consider as the potential upside of adoption.

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