Maelstrom Brings DJ Mixes to the Blockchain
a.k.a. Producers rarely get paid when DJs put their tracks in a mix. Is Web3 the best way to get them compensated fairly?
During the past year or so, a sort of crypto mania has taken root across nearly all facets of culture, electronic music included. Fueled by enthusiasts’ utopian promises (not to mention quite a bit of speculative fervor), words like NFT, DAO, blockchain and Web3 have crashed into popular discourse, and while not everyone is happy about it—after all, both crypto technology and the culture around it are riddled with problems—the momentum around this “revolution” continues to grow.
A few days ago, French artist Maelstrom announced that he would soon be bringing something new to the blockchain: the Ensemble Mix. Created in partnership with the Sound platform and Friends with Benefits—the influential music-oriented DAO and social club of which Maelstrom is a member—it’s 14-track DJ mix that includes music from Surgeon, Boys Noize, Bergsonist, Space Dimension Controller and several others artists of note. At first glance, that might not seem remarkable, but Maelstrom describes the project as the first “on-chain” electro/techno DJ mix, and has set it up so that all revenue from the mix—which will theoretically come via sales of an affiliated, limited-edition NFT series—will automatically (using blockchain technology) be split between himself and all of the artists whose music appears in the tracklist.
Will this work? Has Maelstrom created a viable new model for artists to get paid for their work? The answer to that likely depends how people respond once the mix goes live this Thursday, but regardless of how many NFTs are sold, the stated point of the Ensemble Mix is to shed light on the compensation disparity between DJs and the producers whose music they play. Complaints about this disparity have grown louder in recent years, especially as DJ fees have skyrocketed and producer royalties have plummeted, the latter largely due to the poor economic returns provided by the streaming economy. Maelstrom wants to “rethink the relationship between DJs and producers as an interdependent one, instead of just a transactional one,” and sees this mix as both a Web3 experiment and a way to kickstart an overdue conversation about economic sustainability and equity within the electronic music sphere.
His intentions certainly appear to be noble, and given the novelty of Maelstrom’s approach, I wanted to find out more, so I reached out and asked if he’d be up to talk about the Ensemble Mix in greater detail. He agreed, and over the course of a lengthy discussion, he expounded on his objectives, explained how the project came together and laid out how it will work on a technical level. Aside from that, he also addressed aspects of this endeavor that some observers might find objectionable, such as the relatively high price of his NFT offering, the potential scalability of on-chain mixes and whether or not crypto technology was actually necessary to accomplish his goals and bring the Ensemble Mix to life.