Mycelia: a chance to build a distributed metadata commons for/with musicians

This is a thing that came up at #tuttle last week and I’m ashamed that I haven’t written it up yet, but here it is.

Mycelia is Imogen Heap‘s name for her project to reboot music production and publishing as a “Fair Trade for music environment with a simple one-stop-shop-portal to upload my freshly recorded music, verified and stamped, into the world, with the confidence I’m getting the best deal out there, without having to get lawyers involved.”  That quotation comes from the first of two articles published last month on  If you’re at all interested in the music business, you should read them both.

My interpretation of it is this – artists will have a way to share their work while retaining control over credit for the works; the assignment of rights of copying, distribution and sale; and how payment by listeners makes its way fairly back to those who made the work.  It implies to me a blockchain-based smart contract platform (don’t worry too much about what that means, the important bits are it is not centralised, transparent and very hard to tamper with and which can have rules embedded in it about eg ownership, rights, payment etc) for metadata about music.

It’s a distributed metadata commons for musicians (and possibly a model for other artists too).

That’s great.  As long as it’s musicians doing it for themselves.  But they are not the only actors in this scenario.  Music Industry Professionals (the ones who have been running the business side of things rather than the creative) stand to lose out here.  Again.  The involvement of the old-skool corporate music biz raises the fear of a tragedy of the Mycelia commons and hard-coding of 20th Century practices into our new fair network-based thing.

I believe that this thing needs to have the chance to grow without commercial interference from corporations, so I’d like us to discuss how that could happen.  How can we defend, govern and manage this emerging metadata commons?  What sort of licencing could or should apply to re-use of the data, for example?

I’d like to get some people together to talk this through (yes probably in one place at the same time and that means London) and take the thinking forward as soon as we can, and preferably before this event at the end of September.

I think we need:

  • Working musos who have successfully ridden the first wave of disruption;
  • Lawyers with an interest in music rights;
  • Academics looking at new models for creative industries;
  • Representatives from organisations interested in open data and digital rights; and
  • Technology experts who get how this might all hang together.

Is that you?  Can we get together soon?  Get in touch.  I’ll be looking for a venue and trying to set a date over the next week.  Could you provide a venue?  Great!

Do you understand this better than me?  Where are you writing about it?  If you haven’t written anything yet, could you please write something and link to this post?

Thank you, lovelies.


Why is this a thing, why does something so cool need defending?  Because it’s open and most vulnerable to influence by vested interests early on.  When we started #tuttle it was like “everyone come along and be part of it, you can do whatever you want” and so some people be like “woah there’s this great open thing where I can do whatever I want so I’m going to hard sell my shit and use this thing to capture new customers and their eyeballs forever!”  and so we had to establish that even though it looks like there are no rules, there are some things that you need not to do in order to let the commons bloom and continue to be fruitful for everyone.  That’s what I’m aiming for here, not fighting anyone, but setting up some expected norms as defences against the natural urges of capital.