Imogen Heap is using digital currency tech to change music

The principles behind Bitcoin could shake up how artists sell songs.

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Keystone/Peter Klaunzer
Keystone/Peter Klaunzer

Imogen Heap is no stranger to using bleeding-edge technology to perform music, but she's now using it to change how you buy music. Her Mycelia project not only lets artists sell music directly to fans, but uses blockchains (the same technology behind digital currencies like Bitcoin) to get the kind of data that would normally require the help of a label. It'd include credits and usage rights, and could track things such as where and when people play a given tune -- if a song is really popular with Australians, you'll know it without asking anyone else.

Heap doesn't see Mycelia as a complete replacement for existing music streams and sales (she's talking to Spotify about it), but she does believe it could upturn the industry. Artists would handle the sales and data themselves, limiting the labels to marketing. In effect, you'd have more control over your music career.

The technology is a ways off (there's a hackathon in early April to help get it going), and how well it works is up in the air. Just how much data will musicians get, for example? How easy will it be to implement? We've reached out to Heap for more details. If it does work as promised, though, it could help indie artists make a living while resisting the temptation to make a deal with a major publisher.

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