A Napster in the Blockchain age

Imagine if Napster was built today, but this time it was legal and used blockchain to create a decentralised platform to share and sell music.


Napster was a roaring success when it first launched due to its easy ability to share music (illegally) and more importantly get music. It has since been overtaken by iTunes initially and now through subscription music services such as Spotify and Apple Music.

With services such as iTunes and Spotify however, you cannot share your music like you could back when you had cd’s, and although I subscribe to many services, I’m not a fan of the model as in the long run you never end up owning anything.

What follows are my thoughts on what a decentralised music platform could look like in today's world and how it would benefit both music lovers and those who create music also.

Customer (Music Owner’s) Journey:

  1. First step purchase a song or album and enjoy it.

  2. You want to share it with a friend. So you send it to them. The copy leaves your collection and arrives in theirs. You cannot listen to it, the same as if it was a physical cd.

  3. But let’s build in a smart contract. The album/song you have given has a smart contract built in saying it will be returned back within 7 days. Boom, never have to worry again about losing my “cd” and I own the music too rather than subscribing to Spotify where I lose my entire music collection the minute I end my subscription.

Customer (Music Borrower’s) Journey:

  1. Sign up and find my friends on the platform.

  2. Request the rights to a song/album they have (borrowing from friends has a $1/month subscription, to borrow music directly from artists is free)

  3. Once rights given, listen to the music. After 7 days the music is returned back to the owner.

  4. Buy the album from the artist directly and listen to it permanently.

Musicians Journey:

  1. Upload latest songs/album

  2. Create 1,000 copies of it. To reward most loyal fans the first 10 copies are given for free to whoever downloads it, next 90 are given at $2, the next 400 at $5, finally last 500 at $10.

  3. The artist can issue copies of his album to prospective fans for 7 days as well to see if they like it. If they do, they can purchase it, if not its feedback for the musician.

  4. Start marketing their music via the platform. The more fans and listens you have the greater the chance of getting discovered.

Platforms Journey:

  1. For every music album that’s sold they make a cut of the revenue.

  2. For every song/album that is listed on their platform they take a small listing fee that is tied to the number of copies created.

  3. For every customer on their platform that listens to borrowed music from friends a nominal $1 per month subscription fee to cover costs. First 5–10 albums borrowed would be free to listen.


For Music Lover’s

While the overall market for subscriptions is growing rapidly, soon customers will realise that the cost of subscriptions is much higher in the long run. Imagine running into some financial trouble or if prices are raised, and realising the Spotify monthly cost is far greater than you can afford. You automatically then lose access to your music collection.

With purchasing you at least know that you own the music forever, and regardless of your circumstances in the future, you will be able to listen to your favourite music however you choose to and wherever you want to.

For Musicians

The life of a musician is very tough. In the US musicians receive only 12% of industry revenue, with the industry heavily geared towards megastars. The long tail of musicians simply do not end up making a sustainable income.

By creating a platform where musicians can offer discounted rates to loyal fans, and offer their music album for free, with the knowledge it cannot be replicated by the customer they will be able to create and generate a very loyal fan base while giving customers the ability to purchase from them directly as well.

Other potential markets where this could be replicated:

  • eBooks

  • Movies/TV Shows

  • Apps and or subscriptions e.g Medium, the Economist, Games

  • Airline Tickets and other tickets in general

  • Credit Cards ( share with a person to spend a specific amount at specific stores)