In a world of confusion and chaos, it is rare to come across a site that is easy and has the user in mind from the start. If you are a start-up e-commerce store or an indie artist, it is tough to sift through the myriad of companies claiming to offer the best venue and lowest price to sell your products or digital music. Sometimes you get lucky and run into an option that is easy and well built, and when you checkout Liberty Music Store at libertymusicstore.net, you’ll find another word that may floor you, free.
The Bitcoin Music Store for Artists
Liberty Music Store is currently a one-man weekend hacking project designed by its owner Mikko Ohtamaa. What started as a proof-of-concept project, showing the adaptability of Bitcoin with online digital content sales has turned into a Bitcoin Store for artists.
When I asked Mikko why Liberty Music Store, he replied:
“I wanted to do something in the Bitcoin space. It was driven mostly by my curiosity towards the upcoming virtual currency revolution. On my travels, I met some interesting artists with mind-blowing ideas and here we are.”
The site makes it incredibly easy for any artist who wishes to sell their own music, on their own website and accept bitcoin. The product is 100% working, though it may need a little work to make it ready for the masses. Since the site is not fully ready, Mikko has decided to keep registration private for now. He is currently looking for any indie music artists or even those in the mainstream to come aboard as beta users and try it out. After a few more artists join, and add the bitcoin music store to their site and make some sales, Mikko hopes their comments on usability will help him put the finishing touches on the site. Personally, I wanted to try the site out, so I went to buy a song from one of Mikko’s debut artists, YESConnie – from the “High Vibes Volume I” album. You can take a look at what the store looks like and sample the music here.
It's Not iTunes
What struck me was the simplicity, and this is, of course, one of the benefits of bitcoin that people are starting to see. I did not need to sign up for an account, or enter my credit card number. What makes it even better, is knowing that the artist is getting the entire payment. There is no worse feeling than buying from iTunes where the indie music artist is lucky if they get 10% of their songs purchase price. Sound crazy? According to the National Association of Record Industry Professionals here , sometimes an artist might get as little as 3-4 cents from a song purchased on iTunes. Bitcoin and Liberty Music Store is where an artist can level the playing field. By contacting Mikko and getting the Liberty Bitcoin Store on your site, you can keep every bit of the price you charge. What makes that even better, is there are no minimums. You could charge $0.25 per song, and you don’t have to worry about PayPal or Credit Cards stealing, I mean taking, any of the purchase price. I thought Mikko put it both eloquently and bluntly in our conversation when he said,
“As a hacker I find Bitcoin to be "money with an API." If you have worked with payment providers, you will find that they have a tendency to screw over the little guy. Having less dependency to centralized big players will ultimately democratize the world more: it will enable innovation which wasn’t possible before because anything related to financials required considerable resources to get started. Now bitcoin can disrupt the industry and is good for the consumers: more selection, more competition, reaching more developing markets. Liberty Music Store is a manifesto of this. Without Bitcoin, one lonely nerd could not have come up with an iTunes competitor in his basement.”
Buying was as simple as it can get. It is obvious that Mikko is attempting to knock the barrier down for artists to do indie music sales. You can listen to an audio sample of each track effortlessly and the prices are listed clearly as well as the price for the entire album. See below as the stores look very clean.
To sample some of the music yourself click here. Then when you’re ready to pay, Mikko’s two-click system goes to work and could not be easier: click the payment link next to the song, it opens your wallet and then you accept the purchase. The download starts automatically after this. No sign ups. No hassling with credit card numbers. Seen below, The QR Code is there as well as the pay to address. You can click to pay from your wallet or just copy the address, and that’s all! The download is ready for you.
Mikko tells me the process is just as simple for the artists as well. Upload a ZIP file containing your songs. Name your price. Then you'll receive the HTML code you can put on your site. It is a code that you copy and paste, then drop in, same as a Facebook “Like” button, or embedding a video in your status update. On top of all that it is naturally 100% transparent, 100% open source, available on Github here. So far, Mikko is working with two artists who are piloting the store. Check them out, sample some free songs and checkout the process from Liberty Music Store!
The First Two Musicians Add Liberty Music Store To Their Sites
So, who is next? Are you an indie musician, part of a band or have friends that need an easy way to get their music out there and maybe make some bitcoin in the process? Contact Mikko soon so you can get in on the beta testing.
Contact Mikko Ohtamaa
You could have your site populated with the Liberty Music Store in no time at all and be sending your family and friends the links to your tracks just as fast. Innovation is cool, but when innovation is combined with the idea of leveling the playing field and giving you the same chance as Lady Gaga at selling your digital tunes, it’s amazing. Think of it this way, if you charge $1.00 per song by joining with Mikko and LibertyMusicStore.net, it will take Lady Gaga selling 10 of her songs on iTunes, to make what you will make selling one song on your own site.
Here was the rest of my conversation with Mikko Ohtamaa:
CCN: When did you get involved with the internet and what led you to start exploring bitcoin?
MIKKO: I have been doing programming since I was a kid and started to do web development around 1995, so I have kind of hacker background. Regarding Bitcoin, I think we all share one of these stories. I first heard about Bitcoin back in 2011 at a technology conference from my German friend who was into cryptography. He made me an offer to build a Bitcoin mobile wallet app for around $10,000 USD for the research purposes. The payment, of course, would have been in Bitcoin. Regrettably I was too busy. If I had accepted the offer, I would not need to work today or ever again. I started to work with Bitcoin full-time since the first big Bitcoin bubble in 2013. A friend of mine was running a Bitcoin business, its popularity had just exploded and there was a need for helping hands.
CCN: Why music? Do you have a background there? Do you slappa da bass?
MIKKO: I am totally tone deaf, can't sing, can't play. But this is the second time getting myself involved with digital music consumption. The first was around 2000, when ringtones of the mobile phones were in the height of their bubble. Like then, I am here to help with the programming talent, not because of my musical gifts. The music industry is infamous for its superstar culture. However, at the other end of the spectrum we have a lot of indie artists who find it difficult to commercialize their production. I believe Bitcoin is a catalyst here which could help to give those indie artists more opportunities to make some income. Bitcoin definitely makes it easier to send and receive payments globally and this will be a killer in digital content business - think the part "no signups, no credit card numbers".
CCN: Where did you find your first two artists? How did they find you? Had they heard of bitcoin?
MIKKO: I met the Tatiana Moroz in a Bitcoin Meetup in San Francisco, as she was a visiting guest star presenting "The Bitcoin Song" - we had a shared car ride back to the hotel and discussed a lot of things on the way. Later she contacted me to see if I'd like to help her with a Bitcoin store. Tatiana is also running a campaign for "TatianaCoin" - to build the first crowd-funded artist cryptocurrency. A real interesting concept which is still taking shape and we plan later to make it possible to purchase the albums with TatianaCoins, as well as Bitcoin.
The website has been out there about a month, so there aren't a ton of sales yet. However, I take as a good sign that YESConnie found the store and contacted me even before it was properly published .He had followed the links from Tatiana’s Store. Also, there is already a third artist who is preparing to get her own store up. She probably found me from the BitcoinTalk thread. Both artists were familiar with Bitcoin beforehand. In this stage of the adoption, I believe Liberty Music Store will attract only artists who are into Bitcoin already. The knowledge about Bitcoin is building up fast, but I am looking forward to the moment I can help artists who are not yet that aware of Bitcoin, but see how it can be superior for their indie sales. Liberty Music Store is now looking for more artists who are brave enough to dive in the world of Bitcoin and see how it plays for them.
CCN: So tell me how your site works and how it integrates with the artists sites?
MIKKO: I have a lot of web development experience, so both the store building process and purchase process are as simple as possible. The registration is not open yet, as I am creating the user accounts by hand. Mainly because at the moment I am using the cheapest possible server to run the site, as I didn't want to have too much upfront costs on my personal purse. So if you want to open a store, please drop me an email. When you have your user account opened, you can start uploading your albums and songs. For an individual song, you just upload the MP3 file. For an album, you upload a ZIP file containing all MP3 files and other content like lyrics as text, you wish to sell as a download. Then you set the price for the items and give the Bitcoin address where you want the payments credited.
After setting up your store, you'll get an HTML code which you need to place on your website. If you have ever placed Facebook Like Box or Google ad banners on your website, the process is totally the same: copy-paste the code on the page where you wish the store to appear. If there were any sales in your store you'll get the payments every 24 hours, no minimums, no waiting for weeks.
CCN: Any other projects in the works?
MIKKO: I am currently working full-time as CTO in one of the Bitcoin exchanges, which has been around for quite a while. Liberty Music Store is my weekend hacking project. I didn't do it for money, I mostly did it because when you have enough skill you need to spill it somewhere while hoping to make an impact in the world.
The source code in Liberty Music Store is open source. It's for others to study to build their own Bitcoin-based products like one for selling eBooks perhaps. It's for the ultimate transparency, so that the world can themselves check things such as security, because amateurish Bitcoin services have caused a lot of damage to the reputation of the industry. It's for reusing in the other contexts. E.g. the currency converter was adopted by using this website. The open source serves as a personal business card for me as well.
I appreciate your time Mikko and wanted to say thank you for looking out for the little guy. You developed a product with real world implications and I hope you hear from some great talent very soon and I’ll check back with you in a month or two and see how the beta is going. So, musicians… Get in touch with Mikko and get your store setup to easily and quickly sell your tunes for bitcoin. If you get your store up, come back and comment, I’d love to check it out. Goodbye iTunes, hello LibertyMusicStore.net.
Images courtesy of: LibertyMusicStore.net, yesconnie.com & tatianacoin.com