Irony can be cruel: A deaf Beethoven (who was perhaps angry at his disability) composed his greatest works while unable to listen to his own genius. In Vienna in 1824, Beethoven could only see (but not hear) the opera's standing ovation after listening to Ninth Symphony.
The $19 billion U.S. music industry can also be cruel. An executive, often acting alone, would choose which artists everyone should listen to by selecting (speculating) who could entertain our eardrums. With a top-down approach that involved art more than science, execs often got it wrong. Resulting in unpaid artists, unsold cassette tapes, and bankrupt labels.
Decentralized Approach to Finding Top Musicians
"Decentralization is a better approach to finding musical talent rather than relying on one or two decision makers," says Walter Afanasieff, Founder and President, of ISINA, a Los Angeles, Calif.-based talent agency. "A team of experts who specialize in a niche can uncover potential pop stars, and they can become mentors who guide these promising but inexperienced artists through the crazy journey of stardom."
Talent scouting (known as artists and repertoire -- or A&R), as well as marketing cost record companies $5.8 billion each year, according to IFPI, an industry association. Music publishers seek investor returns on all that capital. And that makes scouting and talent development crucial parts of a rapidly-changing business where streaming and digital now dominate.
ISINA's talent scouts believe that decentralization and mentorship are more constructive than seeing what sticks. The company's blockchain platform lets users choose which 30 singers, instrumentalists, producers, and DJs are flown to Los Angeles for an all-expense-paid, six-week mentorship program.
'Upvoting' Promising Talent
Music is content. Therefore, think of the outcome as curated content from thousands of users who have essentially "upvoted" their favorite musicians. Once in L.A., they partner with experts who have worked with the biggest names in music, like Ariane Grande, Celine Dion, Selena Gomez, Usher, and Michael Jackson.
There are thousands of applicants who pay $30 to get their work reviewed and voted on. Why do they do it? Because most artists don't have the resources to collaborate with the biggest names in the music business. Thirty bucks can be a golden ticket to LaLa Land if they're chosen to advance to the next stage.
The blockchain ledger immutably stores a weighted-voting system during the selection phase. According to the company, it prevents cheating and falsification of stats (such as fake followers or inflated results).
Transforming Potential Into Global Stardom
Patience pays off, according to Afanasieff, since a few tweaks and adjustments can unleash an artist's potential. "It's not about asking who can sell the most streams and downloads right now. In today's media and social landscape, we believe that organic and collaborative efforts win."
The game has also changed. Rising artists, though unsigned, are already popular on social networks. Despite being amateurs, unsigned artists often have viral videos of their performance on YouTube and elsewhere. And they already bring large fan bases in an era when the content distribution is also decentralized. Digital platforms dominate, and there's a ton of them.
It all makes proper scouting, talent development, and mentorship critical. The mentor-coaches are there to boost existing skills so that the budding singer, producer, or DJ can scale globally.
"Our experts have been there, and done that with the biggest entertainers," says Afanasieff. "Their help is invaluable to young and often naive artists, most of whom are just coming of age, and entering a cutthroat business. When things fall into place, you can almost visualize the raucous concerts and cheering fans from the magical synergy taking place on stage."
Finalists are offered contracts with the firm and partner companies.
Music expresses emotions which can't be put into words. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony: Have you heard it?