Cherie Hu’s recent Extended Play article “An overabundance of music NFT platforms — and scams” is well worth a read, diving deep on how some new startups in the space are engaging in increasingly shady behavior to try and stand out from the pack (or justify their VC cash). It ends with this sage bit of perspective-
Amidst an overabundance of music NFT platforms, a commitment to building for this trifecta of longevity, transparency and mobility will already be a significant competitive advantage.
Naturally this got me thinking about if/how we here at Infinite Catalog are building for those things, which thoughts are as follows:
I’m sure most business owners think/say “We’re in it for long haul!” and mean it. I certainly do, and I’m frequently wrong. So instead I will frame this around how what IC does is super basic: if a person or organization earns money on an ongoing basis, and owes another person or organization a share of that money, that’s IC. Our background is in music so we focus on royalties, but at bottom, that’s all we do, and I don’t think that’s ever going to be solved 100% – it’s more like that calculus thing of getting closer and closer to the wall, but never reaching it. So our longevity is baked into the problem we’re attacking. Or at least I hope it is.
Speaking of baking things in, transparency has been part of IC from the jump. Years of prior royalty accounting experience taught us that the problem with transparency is mostly just that it’s hard to be transparent, even when you want to be (and almost everyone we ever speak with is trying to be more transparent, but struggling to do so). Just dumping a ton of raw data into an artist’s lap isn’t actually helpful, nor is sending them 90-page PDF summaries. You need to give them the context and the tools to dive in without drowning.
So, we give those tools to the catalogs, so that they can give them to the artists, thereby helping them become the catalog-services companies they are at heart anyway. Even catalogs that do life-of-copyright deals need to report how it’s going… even if it’s a full buyout, you’ll need to report to your investors and/or want to use the data to maximize your investment, and you’ll need to share this data accordingly with your team. With that in mind, it’s not even really about transparency per-se – it’s about ease-of-harnessing-big-data-for-insights, whether that’s for a royalty statement bottom line or analytics.
This one feels most relevant to a discussion within a Web3 framework. Mobility in this context means a user’s ability to move from one platform to the next in a relatively painless manner. To give a basic example, if you use DistroKid to distribute your masters, how easy is it to move your whole catalog over to Tunecore, or vice-versa? Not that easy! (Late breaking update – AIM has unveiled a Digital Distribution Switch Code for distributors, because again, this is not easy).
In Infinite Catalog’s case, that means making it easy to export unified data and use it for other purposes (like analytics or BI) – that can also mean making it easier to switch to a competitor. If we had big money investors they might not like the sound of that, but we don’t – first and foremost we’re here to be part of the solution for the overall community, and as the AIM initiative above reveals, this ease-of-mobility is absolutely about making things better for the benefit catalogs and artists.
So like longevity and transparency, mobility is fundamental at IC – you can export your unified transactions (either as a catalog or an individual payee) and take them wherever you like. Taking the long view, this just means we are required to stay on the cutting edge of providing the best royalty accounting software + service money can buy. Like the Cherie quote says at the top, allowing for mobility is a competitive advantage, not a flaw. In 2+ years no one has ever switched to a competitor, so for now at least, it feels like we’re exactly where we wanna be.