Rapper Lupe Fiasco says cryptocurrencies are like 'baseball cards,' but that blockchain can 'revolutionise' the music industry

Chris Weeks/GettyLupe Fiasco.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, rapper Lupe Fiasco compared cryptocurrencies to speculative commodities like “baseball cards,” while expounding on the ways blockchain technologies could “revolutionise” the music industry.
  • Fiasco noted how artists could use blockchain applications to skirt the low payouts that streaming companies like Spotify have drawn criticism for.
  • He joins artists like Gramatik and Imogen Heap in exploring the possibilities of blockchain as a source of income for artists.

Rapper Lupe Fiasco has had a notable history of contention with the corporate structures of the record industry. But like a growing number of musicians, he sees blockchain technology as a form that could revolutionise the music industry by helping artists profit off their work to a greater degree.

In an interview with Business Insider this week, following his participation in a technology summit with Autodesk, we asked Fiasco if he had any thoughts on the subject of cryptocurrency.

While he referred to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as “any other kind of speculative commodity” – comparing them to collector’s items like “baseball cards” and vintage troll dolls that one could accumulate money through over time – Fiasco zeroed in on blockchain technologies as an application that could specifically benefit artists.

“People are going to find a way to speculate and value things no matter what it is. I mean, whether it was troll kids, or flowers, or baseball cards, or it’s digital currency, you’re always going to have that regardless. And I think there’s going to be a time to win in that and then a time to lose in that,” Fiasco said of cryptocurrency. “But I think the difference between those things, the cryptocurrency, specifically bitcoin now, is that the technology and the implications and applications for the blockchain side of it is going to be so massive.”

He went on to describe how blockchain could “revolutionise music” in its ability to pay artists more money, and he contrasted it with the approach of Spotify, the streaming giant that has drawn criticism for its low payouts to artists.

“It’s a disagreement that I’ve always had with Spotify, which was, they’re saying, you can never get rid of piracy. And that’s the reason we can charge .00000 nothing for a song, and completely devalue music,” he said. “But then you have blockchain technology coming around, where you say, ‘Ah, now we’re able to kind of reverse that process,’ by implementing a blockchain strategy when it comes to licensing music.”

A BI Intelligence report from November describes how the company SingularDTV is working with musicians to utilise blockchain, in order to “tokenize” their intellectual property (their music) and turn it into a direct financial asset through blockchain apps. The process potentially allows musicians to bypass middle-men like record labels in raising money to fund their music.

“Artists can raise money through a token launch, which is similar to an initial coin offering (ICO). Here, anyone can buy the tokens upfront,” writes BI’s Robert Elder. “The majority of the windfall will go the artist, and the token launch platform-provider (such as SingularDTV) will retain a service fee.”

The producer Gramatik signed on with Singular DTV’s tokenization program in November, describing it as “something artists have been dreaming about since the beginning of time, to be free of gatekeepers, and to communicate freely.”

The singer-producer Imogen Heap has also written extensively on the subject of blockchain and music in an essay for the Harvard Business Review, published in June.

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