Having written and produced four solo albums, including another as one half of Frou Frou, and having taking part in countless collaborations, Imogen Heap is an artists’ artist. She has been nominated for five Grammys, winning two, together with an Ivor Novello, The Artist and Manager Pioneer award and an honorary Doctorate of Technology at the University of the West of England, Bristol. At TED Global 2011 Heap first publicly performed with her mi.mu Gloves - cutting edge gestural music ware she has developed with a team of engineers and scientists. She is also developing Creative Passports, a standard digital ID layer for music makers, and 'Life of a Song', which explores the music industry through the lens of song.
Mycelia is geared towards creating a fairer music industry for artists who fail to receive fair (or sometimes any) compensation, due to the digital mass production of music. What is your ideal vision for the music industry of the future, and what role could blockchain play in facilitating this?
Since learning about blockchain three years ago, we’ve been peeling off the layers to understand how Mycelia can make it easier for music services to do the right thing. Using the latest blockchain technology we have developed what we call 'The Creative Passport' which, unique to each music maker, will enable creators to link and author their works to databases, assist simple direct payments, and share their skill sets and passions toward more meaningful collaborations. By empowering the whole music ecosystem, we are enabling services to work more efficiently and to innovate more rapidly.
Some argue that musicians are losing out at the expense of middle men, advertising and corporate greed. Would compensating musicians mean that we would effectively cut out the middle men, and many people could lose their jobs as a result? Does shifting the balance within the music industry mean that inevitably someone will always lose, or do you think we can feasibly find a way to make the industry a fair space for everyone?
Like all new technologies, the introduction of automation and AI in working environments will mean some jobs become less necessary but, in equal part, new jobs with different skill needs will emerge. It’s is not something that is either unique to the music industry or to our time. What is essential is that we ensure that we keep the dialogue open and that, collectively, we move together towards a fair, flourishing and transparent music ecosystem, from which ultimately everyone will benefit in the long run.
What is essential is that we ensure that we keep the dialogue open and that, collectively, we move together towards a fair, flourishing and transparent music ecosystem
You released your single 'Tiny Human' in a completely new way, using blockchain technology, as an experiment for other music artists. How did it feel to take this risk and, moving forward, how do you plan to release other music?
The bigger risk is to sit and do nothing. It’s so much more rewarding and fun to be working in and on things we believe in. I wanted to put my foot forward and to add to the swell of positive futures in sewing a seed for an alternative way to distribute payment; horizontally as opposed to vertically.
I wanted to be a musician developing alongside those shaping our future business space, as we too have an opportunity to reimagine this industry, knowing the issues at hand at a very real level. In terms of releasing other music in the future, I will continue to embrace and experiment with new technology. This isn’t necessarily the easiest to track for my fans but it’s a long-term game towards better connection and I’m lucky to have them bear with me over the teething problems.
Your single Tiny Human is about your experience as a new mother, and the struggles and triumphs associated with this. How have you navigated the challenges of early motherhood?
I certainly wasn’t prepared for motherhood, as most aren’t. And I am about to deep dive into more challenges as a mum, in taking my family on the road for a year, so that I can connect up music makers with Creative Passports of their own, through giving talks, leading workshops and performing shows. My primary concern is the well-being of everyone on the road with me, as everything stems positively from that.
You’ve spoken about how technology can help to create a more equal footing for women in the music industry. How do you think the relationship between women in music and technology could evolve in the future?
If our skill sets, passions and past works become open and verified for people and AI to see and search (on the individual's terms and authorship), it will bring us closer towards an equal footing in work and play, facilitating better creative and business collaboration. This applies to everyone in the music industry.
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