Singer Imogen Heap on the future of Spotify and the music industry in the digital age

British singer-songwriter Imogen Heap is on a mission. The Grammy award-winning artist is looking to revolutionise the music industry for the digital age to ensure that singers and musicians get a fair deal in the age of free streaming amid the back drop that saw Taylor Swift pull her catalogue from Spotify.

Heap, who is renowned for being inventive (she received her Grammy for engineering a pair of smart music gloves) is currently working on a new project named Mycelia, which represents singers and musicians to ensure they are paid fairly. The collective uses block chain technology to introduce transparency and clarity, and every detail of the song from who produced, sang or played it to the data on consumer downloads is available.

“I wanted to do an experiment and see what tech was out there in regards to block chain technology and immediate digital payment cryptocurrencies, so that when somebody buys a piece of music and plays it in the future there will be no need for a middle ground,” said Heap at the Design Indaba 2016 conference, referring to her recent track Tiny Human.

“Mycelia is the future architecture for the music industry looking at how we can open up commerce business flow between artist and fan and how we can get feedback data. Basically what is lacking is a standard for ethics – commercial and technological – for the music industry to work within.”

Heap’s project comes at an interesting time for music. Taylor Swift (incidentally Heap co-wrote a song on Swift’s 1989 album) famously pulled all of her music from Spotify in 2014 and penned an article for the Wall Street Journal explaining the move, which the singer said was down to music streaming services not appropriately valuing her art and hurting music sales.

In an interview with The Drum last year fellow artist Pharrell Williams praised Swift and the “great thing” she did for music in challenging the payment models of streaming services, adding that Apple’s new decision to pay artists will force other corporations, and record labels, to “face that standard”.

So does Heap think that Spotify has a future, given the recent movement among singers and musicians to battle back against its payment models? “I do yes. I’ve been talking to Spotify, obviously they can’t exist without the music and the amazing thing about Mycelia is that it’s the creative voice so we are not the competition, we are not iTunes, we’re not labels, we’re the source and everybody wants to deal with the source.”

“[I want to] take away power from the top down and give a steering to the artist to help shape their own future.”

While Mycelia is yet to launch – Heap is currently working to achieve charity status for the concept – 7Digital and Omniphone are on board and a three-day hack will take place in April this year exploring block chain technology and digital payments.

Natalie Mortimer

Natalie is The Drum's fashion, design, luxury and food & drink reporter.

Tweet her @nataliemortimer

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