Bitcoin for Musicians: Tatiana Moroz Makes the Case for “Artist Coins” and More

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Tatiana Moroz, a well-known proponent of Bitcoin, is using “blockchain” technology to fund her latest album, for a remarkably low-fee alternative to conventional crowdfunding campaigns.

Singer/songwriter and Blockchain advocate Tatiana Moroz has an enthusiasm for Bitcoin that is infectious.

Even I, a longtime Bitcoin skeptic, find myself nodding in agreement as she talks about its many practical uses:

It is currently an incredibly cost-effective alternative for online music sales, especially when compared to the obscenely high transfer fees of credit cards and PayPal. That much is undeniable.

In the future, it has the potential to act as a seamless platform for online “micro-payments” to artists and creators. (Imagine automatically paying a fraction of a penny for access to this article, or to listen to your favorite songs online).

It even has the power to act as a system for managing, documenting, and even unlocking intellectual property rights that give artists some control over who profits from their work and how.

The more I talk to Tatiana about it, the more I’m reminded that my own skepticism around the long-term value of Bitcoin doesn’t come from it being a bad idea. Rather, my skepticism stems from the fact that it’s clearly a great idea.

My one fuddy-duddy concern is that, if history is any guide, being first to a great idea doesn’t mean you should bet the whole farm on it: Just ask Prodigy or AOL who had the great idea of getting regular people online. Or ask Friendster and Napster, who had the great idea of helping people form virtual social networks with their friends. Or ask Pets.com, who had the brilliant idea of selling commonly-purchased products online at a low profit margin.

All truly great ideas invite competition, and simply being first is no protection of the long-term value of any one enterprise. As more and more of the world begins to recognize that blockchain technology is one of the great innovations of the 21st century—right alongside self-driving cars and the propagation of the internet itself—dozens of useful competing platforms are destined to crop up, and perhaps drive down the price of a Bitcoin.

But I could be wrong. And for now, the open-source Bitcoin platform is the key player on the block, with its price doubling last year, making it stand out as the best-performing currency in the world in both 2015 and 2016, handily beating out the dollar, euro, ruble, yen, yuan—even gold and silver, which had a similarly dramatic run up last year, though on a smaller scale.

Skeptical as I may be, I’m credulous enough to have at least some “BTC” myself, and am currently the proud owner of two (count ’em, two) Bitcoin through a Coinbase account—easily the most mainstream and widely-trusted of the blockchain banks. (Yes, that’s a referral link that will get you some free Bitcoin if you want to try it out yourself. No, I’m not ashamed.)

In addition to the usual arguments in favor of Bitcoin, Tatiana Moroz draws attention to some special use cases, just for musicians. Recently, she has become a proponent for something called “Artist Coins”, and has decided to fund her upcoming album Keep the Faith by selling her own limited-edition currency called “Tatiana Coin” which can be redeemed for music and merch at her own online store. Think of its as crowdfunding without the fees.

Read on below, as Tatiana gives a primer on Bitcoin, and makes the case for why every musician should consider integrating it into their online stores and more.

Before we get too deep into this, I don’t want to assume that everyone knows what Bitcoins are. For the layperson, what the heck is a Bitcoin, and why would anyone want to own or use them?

When I first heard about Bitcoin, I was really overwhelmed and frankly, a little bit bored by the subject. I am not the most technical person and I couldn’t figure out why we needed this “cryptocurrency” stuff.

But soon, I realized what Bitcoin could do, and how it was the most transformative technology since the internet. I also knew it could be a very powerful tool for musicians to take control of their careers. I have a strong passion for making art active in changing our world for the better, and I love teaching people through music how technology can improve our lives.

People use the word Bitcoin to mean a number of things, but basically, a bitcoin is a global unit of digital currency, like the dollar or the euro.  It can be used by anyone with internet connection, or on a really simple SMS phone.

Bitcoin is not a company or a bank—it’s a technology, like the internet.  You can use it everyday to pay for things, and that’s even easier with the new Bitcoin-backed debit cards that are coming out like the ones Bitpay and Shift provide.

But underneath all that, Bitcoin is really just a secure, public network that enables you to send digital money, while also being able to store and transfer other information like assets, contracts, and titles from place to place.

It allows you to transfer value to anyone anywhere in the world in minutes and for pennies, compared to PayPal or big banks or wire transfers. You can literally send a million dollars worth of Bitcoin to someone in Africa for less than a dollar, and it would be there in an hour or two. There is no central bank or point of failure, no government in charge that can devalue your money by hitting “print”.

A lot of people think Bitcoin is anonymous, but it’s not.  It can be used with a certain degree of anonymity with the right precautions, but the benefit to the network—and all of us users—is the transparency of the transactions.

Because Bitcoin transactions are out in the open on the “Blockchain”—a new type of public ledger. It can’t be tampered with, and that makes it really secure.

Since Bitcoin is a lot like cash, the most important thing to remember from a security perspective is to keep your passwords safe.

There are some online wallet services with great reputations, like Coinbase, and they can make things easier and actually help you reset your passwords if you lose them, but there are some Bitcoin fans who don’t like this approach because you’ve given a third party a lot of trust with your Bitcoins, and it’s [potentially] less secure. There’s an expression, “Not your keys, not your bitcoins”.

You make a pretty good case for it. It seems like a pretty ideal and cost-effective way to buy and sell and send money around online, even if you’re changing between currencies.

I also hear the argument that if you wanted to hold onto some Bitcoin long-term, it could maybe be a good hedge against inflation as the quantity will always be strictly limited.

I’ve been a little skeptical of that part myself, but it’s hard to deny that the price sure has been shooting up the past few years! Anyone who has taken that approach is probably doing pretty well so far.

But what are the current uses and benefits of Bitcoin for musicians specifically? And do you think there are any new uses for musicians that could emerge in the future?

Bitcoin can be really great for musicians. One easy example is for “micro-tipping”.  People can’t send an artist 50 cents right now on a credit card, because unlike with Bitcoin, there are too many fees for it to make sense—Visa or MasterCard would take most of it.

However, if you like a piece of content an artist created and have Bitcoin, you can send small amounts really easily—even fractions of a penny to show support.  If you get a lot of tips, it adds up!

Pop Chest [and others] are doing automatic, low cost Bitcoin pay-per-views with videos, and the people on there are making way more than they would on YouTube for the same views.

The problem with this of course, is that not everyone has Bitcoin, but it’s good to be ahead of the curve, and people in the fast-growing Bitcoin community is really supportive of one another.

Another use case that seems to be really popular with labels and publishers, is registering their work and even their payment contracts on the blockchain. This will allow artists to put their songs out with all the splits built-in and paying out in a transparent and automated way.

This should streamline the licensing process and make it far faster and more efficient. Providing a transparent accounting model for artist payment is a huge win to ensure everyone is compensated fairly. I don’t know how sexy that is for artists, but the administration of rights is something that eats a lot of resources in the industry and needs an overhaul.

Then, there is also my own project, “Tatiana Coin”, which is the alpha of “Artist Coins”. We are exploring other ways of using tokenization too, like album tokens similar to MP3s that you can share with your friends without violating copyright.

Interesting. So what exactly are “Artist Coins”, and how and why did you use them to fund your album?

When I met with Adam B. Levine of LetsTalkBitcoin.com in the Spring of 2014, I came to him as an artist, faced with the most obvious problems for musicians: funding and fans.

How do I make sure I can afford to eat, pay rent, and put out good music?  How do I make sure that I am not playing to an empty room? These are universal issues that everyone experiences that we believed Bitcoin could help resolve.

Crowdfunding was already in full bloom by then, but it had limitations. The campaigns only ran for a certain amount of time and the prizes were fixed. If you gave me $50, you get a T-shirt.  If you don’t like the T-shirt, tough luck.  It’s not something you can necessarily re-sell easily.

By creating my artist coin, I have created a personally-branded digital token that can be redeemed for any perk you want.  It’s like a digital gift certificate for anything in my store.

This way, my supporters get flexible tokens and can use them to get recorded music, concert tickets, swag, custom fan experiences, and more. We even have token-controlled access to exclusive content, and pre-sales that are available only for fans who buy the Tatiana Coin. You can also sell the coins, or give them away to friends and family.

In addition to serving as a personalized currency for my own store, the artist coin functions as the “key” to connect to my inner peer-to-peer space where fans can message me directly, and be a part of my inner circle.

I don’t have to build up an audience for Facebook to advertise to and charge me to connect with. There’s no one standing between me and my fans, therefore I can create the art that they want. That art really reflects the community I am a part of and have worked so hard to help create. I set the terms for how much to charge, what to offer, and how to deliver it, and I can be responsive to the requests of my fans. It makes us all partners in a way.

You can buy Tatiana Coins with USD and other fiat currencies, though Bitcoin is the easiest and fastest way to get Tatiana Coin. We are doing a crowdfunding campaign for my new album starting today [February 9th] for 30 days, natively on my site. Our goal is to raise $15,000 to support the new album on a North American and European tour throughout the spring and summer.

What was the process like to get setup to accept Bitcoin and Artist Coin? Do you need any specialized training, or are there easy places where other artists can go to get this kind of thing set up for themselves?

Getting set up to accept Bitcoin is easy. You can check out the various “wallet” software or services to get a Bitcoin address that you can use when you want people to send you money.

I have an easy-to-follow video series on Youtube that walks you through it. “How to get Bitcoins” is one video where I explain it quickly.

To play with artist coins, you need to get a “Counterparty”-compatible wallet.  I like Tokenpockets because it’s easy.

For artists to create their own coin, the Tokenly team and I can help them get set up. (hat’s even a prize you can claim on my current crowdfunding campaign.

The goal is for the artist to be able to use that token anywhere they want and have total control over their fans and finances. We are in testing mode still, with the early beta launching in February, so it’s an exciting time to [get on board].

Would you call this funding project a success so far, and what would you like to see go even better in the future?

Tatiana Moroz is funding the release of her upcoming album, Keep The Faith by issuing blockchain-based “Tatiana Coins”, which can be redeemed for music and merch at her online store.

When we first launched the project in June of 2014, we raised about $10,000 in Bitcoin which we used to fund the production of Keep the Faith which is coming out in March.

So yes, that was a success since I already have a record to show for it! However, at that time, it was really hard to donate.

We now have a new iteration of the concept [to complete the campaign and launch the album] and it’s much easier for anyone to participate even if they don’t have Bitcoin yet.  By the conclusion of the campaign, many more of the features will be available.

Our goal for the [final leg of the] campaign is to fund the album launch and start an educational effort so I can promote these ideas and continue to create content for fans. I will also be touring throughout the year in support of the album.

Tell us a bit about this new album. How and where did you record it, and what were you going for?

Geeky is more my engineer and producer Will Hensley’s realm. Though I suppose getting everyone to sign up for Bitcoin is a bit geeky too!

We recorded in Studio B at Premier Studios in Times Square. Sandy, the owner, has actually been really receptive to crypto-currencies. In fact, I think it’s the first major studio to accept Bitcoin. We had magical and easy recording sessions.

We tracked most of the drums, bass, and guitar in two days for 12 songs. The band never played on my music before, so I guess that’s a testament to their talent. Vocals were done in between travel, but most of the record was ready for mastering within two months of when we started. We ended up getting the album mastered by Joe Lambert, and are thrilled with the results.

The biggest problem was that I wanted to support the album properly, which means I had to wait for the technology to catch up. I really wanted to use this as an opportunity to help onboard other artists into crypto-currency, and the tools we had were still too early in their development to be useful to the average person when we started.

Now we are at a place where we can help others get started, and where they can accept dollars instead of just bitcoin for Artist Coins. Even though we are still in the early stages, I think it can be useful for more many more artists and fans.

Cool. When and where is it coming out?

We start the campaign today [February 9th] for 30 days, and then the digital and physical release will be available worldwide on March 31.

We just released the initial single called “The Bitcoin Jingle” today, and in early March, we will be releasing the single “Safe with You” as well as the title track [“Keep the Faith”].

I am releasing independently, and people can go to http://www.TatianaCoin.com and connect with me there. Of course, we will release on all the online music platforms, but I would love for people to experience what using Tatiana Coin is like.

Thanks Tatiana, live long and prosper.

Justin Colletti is a writer, educator and mastering engineer who lives in Brooklyn, NY.