Data Nightmares, Blockchain Dreams: Viberate Is Giving Control Back to Artists and Standardizing Key Music Data
“The whole data situation is just nasty,” explains Viberate co-founder Vasja Veber. “You can’t develop anything using the current data in the live music business. It’s just too unstructured. It’s also hard to keep information updated. Standardization is our only way forward.”
Viberate aims to standardize and map the entire global ecosystem for live music, becoming something akin to IMDb, a single, verified and artist-approved source for music information. To accomplish this, the Ljubljana-based startup uses a carefully calibrated mix of crowdsourcing and curation, and blockchain, incentivizing contributors and supporting artist control of assets and information.
“Blockchain has become the long overdue catalyst for the music industry to update its policy and business models toward music-makers and to provide quicker and seamless experiences for anyone involved in creating or interacting with music,” notes Viberate advisor, blockchain advocate, and musical innovator Imogen Heap. “Anything that involves music-makers being independent and having space where they can reach out to anybody who wants to make business directly with them is a really positive thing.”
Viberate allows musicians, music professionals, and fans to add profiles of artists, agents, venues, and festivals to the platform. These entries are then curated by a team of around 80 curators, located around the world. Each artist is assigned an individual ID and their profile is updated automatically as social and other content surfaces and catches on. Fans can search by their location or favorite artists, and venues and festivals have a one-stop source for verified info. To speed search and discovery, Viberate will use blockchain to put locally relevant content on users’ computers in return for compensation in cryptocurrency.
“The vision is to become a standard in the music industry, embedding our data into bigger services that provide streaming music, ticketing, and other vital experiences,” says Veber. “In the end, we want to serve any platform or service that has to do with artist data. They can embed our venue and artist data and know they are up to date and relevant. From an artist perspective, with your Viberate profile, you can be sure every ticket vendor has the same verified, accurate data, data you can control.”
The struggle for data and for better approach to the live music business is where Viberate began. Veber was working with Viberate co-founder Umek, a DJ and dance music artist with a strong following and numerous awards under his belt. He, Veber, and Matej Gregorcic (now Viberate’s CEO) wanted to compare how Umek was faring compared to other DJs on socials and other platforms, as well as live, but couldn’t find a simple way to do this. So they built one.
“We were investing a lot in ads on Facebook, and by a lot, I mean a quarter million dollars in 1.5 years. But we didn’t have any useful metrics to show what we were getting for that investment,” recounts Veber. “So we decided to set up a website that measured online popularity for DJs. We started with 1,200 manually entered DJs, seeing how many likes and followers and so on they had. We opened it up eventually and had 30,000 profiles in 18 months. We saw the need was there and we decided to keep going, expanding from the dance music scene.”
This relatively simple desire to map popularity in a single genre soon morphed to embrace and address a range of problems in the music business. “In recent years, the consumer side of music went through a revolution,” remarks Veber. “The tech improvement is constant for listeners. Yet on the B2B side, behind the scenes, it’s all spreadsheets and scattered information, especially in live music.” The Viberate team longed to create a friction-free marketplace for live music, complete with blockchain-powered escrow, but to do that, they had to tackle the data nightmare that plagues live music.
The data project took on a life of its own, as Viberate found the perfect balance of user input and expert curation to ensure quality and scale. “We use a mix of crowdsourcing and curation because you desperately need both,” notes Veber. “There’s no way we can know about every artist in, say, Finland or every venue in Medellin. We have to curate every entry, and we decided to invest a lot of effort and money in it.”
To enhance this process, Viberate plans to use blockchain technology to increase speed and accuracy, rolling out this new element in 2020. A distributed ledger like blockchain precludes tampering and allows geographically relevant information to be stored closer to the people most likely to need it. Users will be compensated with tokens that can be used to unlock discounts and other perks.
At the center of it all is data ownership, a concept that has increasing importance in a world reconsidering copyright, IP ownership, and data use. “We’re giving data back to artists, to let them control things,” reflects Veber. “We can give sourced, approved, artist-controlled data to various platforms, publishers, and services. This offers crucial protection under regulations like the EU’s Article 17. You can use this data and know you have the permission to do so, as it’s been cleared by the artist via Viberate.