Now and perhaps more than ever, the digital landscape has somewhat ironically devolved into a Wild West – a virtually lawless land complete with its own sheriffs, declared outlaws, and screaming bystanders. Where conservative regulators tip their ten-gallons to some music services as the future of distribution, perception of music on the internet is also largely tinged with piracy and the notion that music is about exposure for many – not profit for a few. Pirates have many faces, but the composite sketch has been made to look something like BitTorrent, the open-source protocol used for peer-to-peer file sharing. As a result of its dedication to a laissez-faire digital market, BitTorrent has been pinned with perpetuating illegal downloading.
HYPETRAK got the opportunity to speak with Matt Mason, Vice President of Marketing at BitTorrent, who is at the forefront of shifting this perception. While still maintaining its ethos, the company is poised to improve on the existing system by introducing two products: Sync and Bundle. Sync is designed to, ambitiously, sync digital files across various devices. On the other hand, Bundle is a bit more adventurous: a service created to allow musicians and filmmakers to release a larger amount of their own work than they can on the existing mediums. In explaining the future of the company, Mason had a lot to say in regards to musicians’ expanding freedom and the relationship between the internet and the music industry. Enjoy excerpts from the poignant conversation below, then head over to HYPETRAK for the full interview. Stay tuned to HYPEBEAST for our own interview in the coming days.
How do you evaluate the rise of streaming music services?
We’ve seen a fantastic amount of innovation in the music industry — especially in the last five years. It was really tough for awhile in this business. A lot of people just had no idea what the business model was going forward. It really took people awhile to figure out how to react to the emergence of the digital landscape. It really took people awhile and I think that is one big reason why piracy played such a big part of the early days of music on the internet. It was the only option. Thankfully, things are changing and we have so many great ways for consumers to find music legally on the internet now. The streaming services have definitely been at the forefront of that — whether it be YouTube, Rdio, Spotify or Pandora. Streaming has basically become this important piece of how music is consumed today. The only negative aspect about that is while it might work great for consumers, it is not really clear if this is a fully developed business model for recording artists. You start various artists such as Thom Yorke, David Byrne or many others come out speaking against streaming. Services clearly don’t make enough money for an artist.
Where do you see BitTorrent in this market structure?
Our type on the internet is, there is not going to be a one size fits all-take business model for music on the internet the way there was with Tower Records in the ’80s in the real world. On the internet there is a different business model for every single piece of digital content. We understand our role in this world. We don’t want to build platforms as points of centralization where we can control how you speak to your fans or act as some kind of middleman. Our technology is about doing the opposite. It’s about connecting people directly to each other without any central point of interference from us.
Is this the main role of BitTorrent’s new product Bundle?
Absolutely. It made so much sense for us to build a product such as Bundle where the bundle puts the artist directly in connection with their fans. Artists can set the price of how fans either download or stream content from a Bundle. Although the product is still in a very early stage, its road map for the coming year is: streaming and pay-gates inside Bundles. All of these different ways that artists will be able to interact with fans should be up to the artists themselves or the owner of the bundle where the content sells, because they understand better than anybody the right way to connect with their fans. It is also worth pointing out that we don’t own any of the collected data. It is all owned by the artist. If you offer a mixtape and fans have to type in their emails to get the mixtape, for instance, we won’t have a look at them. These go all to the artist. Our job basically is to be a layer between artist and fan and get all potential elements that could be between out of the way. Make ourselves invisible and let fans and artists connect with each other as efficiently as possible.