Imogen Heap failing to catch all the money raining from the skies, on The Blockchain.

Imogen Heap doesn’t make the blockchain hype make sense either.

The big name in recent “blockchain” (Bitcoin) hype is Imogen Heap. As far as I can tell, it’s still the case that nothing about this is going to work.

(Rocknerd passim: blockchain hype, another blockchain hype.)

The particular snake oil they’ve sold Heap — who is not a stupid person and has considerable bitter experience in music industry fuckery — is Smart Contracts. These are in fact the worst idea ever, for a number of reasons, which is a separate rant. (Dr Strangelove is the story of an unstoppable smart contract going wrong.)

In this specific case the snake oil is that smart contracts on the blockchain (which in this case is the Ethereum blockchain rather than the Bitcoin blockchain, but that doesn’t matter) will mean that Heap will be paid a penny shaving every time someone looks at her music.

Problems with this:

  • Nobody in the extant music industry has any interest in this working.
  • If you strike out as an independent with this, you cannot get the hashing power to protect against the people who would fuck with it, whether for business or lulz.
  • Try to work out how to actually buy a copy (or whatever right to a copy you’re buying) of “Tiny Human”. (Answer below, but I urge you to go looking first.)
  • They’re promising digitally controlled “limited edition” releases with this mechanism, but DRM still literally defies mathematics.
  • This will not scale ever ever ever. (c.f. Bitcoin again.)

How to buy the song, since there is no easy guide available: it’s nearly fucking impossible to actually buy this song, and involves buying Bitcoins then exchanging those for Ethereum. The instructions look easy, but the trick is that even getting hold of the Bitcoins involves either sending stupendous amounts of government identification, dealing with crooks or both. Once you’ve done all this, you get a download key.

(Note also that the purchase process is ridiculously buggy even if you understand all this cryptocurrency bafflegab.)

The fatal flaw here is that we already have endless filesharing networks that are vastly easier than this. Remember, iTunes and Netflix made it by being easier even than those. You could also do what everyone will do and play it on YouTube.

Unsurprisingly, sales figures for “Tiny Human” are unavailable. Update: I was wrong, they’re fully available. $95.81 in sales! (HT FlacidPhil at Reddit) Update August 2016: $121.54. (Go here, click “Licensing”, click “Distributions”.) Also, it appears not to be for sale any more. At this point Heap’s probably wishing she’d just put it up on Bandcamp.

Update: This post has been expanded into a chapter in my book Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain.

3 thoughts on “Imogen Heap doesn’t make the blockchain hype make sense either.

  1. Yep, this is what I get when I go to the front page, go through to the song and try to buy a copy. At this point she’ll be wishing she’d just uploaded it to Bandcamp, people actually pay money there occasionally.

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