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Audius Enables Direct Payments to Artists

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Audius, a blockchain-based streaming platform, launched its music marketplace in beta on Wednesday (Nov. 1), meaning that its user base — which has ranged between 4 and 7 million in recent months — can now send direct payments to their favorite artists. 

“We were a marketplace for engagement and attention,” Roneil Rumburg, co-founder/CEO of Audius, tells Billboard. “But talk to any artists — what’s top of mind for them is, ‘How am I going to pay rent next month?’ This feature allows them to make the following they have a financial asset. There’s a structure to monetize via Audius now rather than just building a fan base.”

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More than 40 acts, including RAC, Matt Ox and Cheat Codes, will participate in the beta program, which Audius hopes to roll out widely in the first quarter of 2024. Artists can set prices for fans to stream a previously unreleased demo or download stems to participate in a remix competition, for example. And fans can pay artists more than that price if they’re particularly excited about an offering.

“What we heard [from users] is they were looking for a deeper way to engage with artists,” Romburg explains. He likens allowing them to tip extra on top to “the behavior pattern you see from the folks who buy vinyl even though they don’t have a record player at home — they want to support that artist.” (Users are further incentivized to support artists via a matching program: If an act sells access to a track for $1, for example, that act and the purchaser each get 1 $AUDIO tokens, which helps them gain more voting power on the community-run platform.)

Implementing a monetization option has also allowed Audius to build new bridges to the traditional music industry for the first time. “This monetization feature set saw fairly broad buy-in,” Rumburg says. The platform is partnering with DistroKid, allowing a large number of independent acts the option to put their music on Audius, and Beatport, an important hub for the dance music community. In addition, Audius is announcing its first set of label partners, a group that includes EMPIRE, Nettwerk Music, Circus Records and Anjunadeep, among others.

Rumburg cautions that “the way the deals with the labels coming on are structured, it’s not like their whole catalog gets shoved into Audius.”

“Uploading the same music that’s available everywhere else probably wouldn’t work,” he continues. “Where we’ve had the most success is when artists are sharing weird, different things that they probably wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with their broader fan base. Something like sharing early draft versions of future content to get feedback — the most highly engaged part of the fan base loves that s—.”

But under the new deals, Romburg adds, “When content is shared on Audius that’s owned by a label, the payments will flow correctly.”

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