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Introducing $STREAM: A new tokenized research framework for the music industry

November 12, 2021

This post is also published on Water & Music’s Mirror page.

Hi there! We’re Water & Music, a newsletter and research DAO on a mission to empower the music industry with the knowledge, network and skills to do more collaborative, innovative and progressive work with technology.

In December 2021, we will be launching $STREAM, a research token designed to incentivize, credit and reward collaborative knowledge-sharing in music, tech and entertainment. We’re excited to share more info below about the context, utility and roadmap around our token, and how you can get involved today.

If you’re already interested (or don’t feel like reading on), please fill out this general interest form and you’ll be among the first to know about our token strategy and future opportunities to contribute to our community at large.

OUR (BRIEF) HISTORY

Founded by longtime journalist and researcher Cherie Hu, Water & Music started its life in 2016 as a newsletter sandbox for sharing critical, forward-thinking perspectives on music and tech. In 2019, we launched our paid membership on Patreon, and have since grown to nearly 1,500 paying members — spanning everyone from emerging artists to startup founders, marketers and C-Suite executives at major music companies.

Our contributor network to date consists of dozens of different writers around the world, and we’ve been early to report on several cutting-edge industry trends — from music avatars and niche streaming services, to several different strands of music and Web3 including music NFT drops, Web3-native music communities and crypto-based royalty payments. What makes our work stand out is our relentless curiosity, our penchant for experimentation, our passion for interdisciplinary thinking and our recognition of constructive critique as a driving force of progress in music, tech and culture.

“Cool,” you might be thinking, “this is just another niche media company.” But from the beginning, we’ve believed that the value of Water & Music’s membership extends far beyond just a catalog of articles or company databases; it’s also about the collective curiosity, enthusiasm and wisdom of our community.

Over the past two years, we’ve intentionally designed our member experience not only around presenting our own original, high-quality research, but also around empowering our readers with the tools to lead their own conversations about the topics we cover. We open-source our research process to members in the form of regularly updated, highly curated databases of startups and deals that members can leverage to shape their own strategies and careers. Our private Discord server has become the daily watering hole for today’s most curious and innovative minds in music, who gather to help each other unpack the latest industry trends, give feedback on new projects and share job opportunities. We curate the most interesting insights from these conversations into weekly, members-only Discord digests, setting the early stages for a more community-driven, crowdsourced editorial and knowledge-sharing framework for the music business.

WHY WEB3 — AND WHY NOW?

The question at the core of Water & Music’s next stage of evolution is: How do we build a media and research ecosystem that allows our community to capture more of the value they are creating, both for Water & Music and for each other? Naturally, this brings us to the wild world of Web3, which has empowered communities like ours around the world to claim a stake in the digital networks they help build.

Over the past six weeks, we had the honor of taking part in Cohort 3 of Seed Club, an accelerator program focused on helping communities build their own social tokens. The accelerator was the best Web3 information firehose we could ask for across topics including community design, DAO governance and tokenomics, and helped instill in us the mindsets of emergent strategy and a bias towards action that are crucial for thriving in this landscape. We have come out of the experience convinced that tokens make sense for where Water & Music is headed, as the implementation layer for formalizing the more collective, collaborative behaviors already happening in our community.

Zooming out, music-industry media has also seen major market consolidation that warrants a serious look at more decentralized, Web3-native alternatives.

In September 2020, in probably one of the most under-reported mega-merger events of that year, almost all major entertainment trade publications in existence — including Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Rolling Stone and Variety, along with major data providers Alpha Data and MRC Data (formerly Nielsen Music) — consolidated under the same holding company, known today as PMRC. It’s ironic how the music trade landscape is facing the exact same consolidation as the industry it’s reporting on, which arguably makes it difficult for said publications to look at themselves in a more critical way.

Just like Web3, the music industry is constantly shifting, experimenting and breaking its own rules, and it deserves a media ecosystem that can do this dynamism justice. We believe Web3 can serve as the rails for a wholly different set of incentive structures for music-industry media and education — one that incentivizes quality over quantity; that rewards curiosity and skill-building over “expertise” or seniority; that better reflects the diversity and ingenuity of its readers; that puts artists and creators at the center; and that encourages more transparent, fluid knowledge-sharing in a historically opaque, exploitative and low-paying business.

$STREAM AND COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH “SEASONS”

Water & Music’s Web3 strategy will span both fungible and non-fungible tokens.

The main pillar of our framework will be $STREAM, a “research token” that represents high-quality, tangible contributions to our larger project of collaborative research, knowledge-sharing and community-building in music and tech.

At the outset, the $STREAM token will have no inherent financial value. Rather, the token will function primarily as on-chain credit for contributions across our Discord server, editorial and research verticals, in-person events and more. Over time, token earnings and ownership will carve a path to governance for our most active contributors, who will have a say in the future of our collective research agendas and of the Water & Music DAO as a whole.

We are currently piloting Season 1 of a new collaborative research format, in which we work together with members of our community to assemble the definitive, foundational syllabus on a particular trend in music and tech. In a somewhat meta turn of events, Season 1’s theme is about the current state of music and crypto; we currently have over 30 of our members opted in to collaborate on research across multiple different working groups including music/web3 tooling, NFT royalties and contracts, generative music NFTs, fan sentiment analysis and fan onboarding case studies, covering skills including interviewing, writing and data analysis/visualization.

All contributors to Season 1 of our collaborative research will receive a launch airdrop of $STREAM in early December, which is when we plan on publishing the results of our work.

Given our existing community history and growth journey leading up to this point, we will also send a $STREAM airdrop in December to the following people:

  • Writers and researchers — people who contributed guest articles to Water & Music in the past, and/or are helping us put together our collaborative reports today.
  • Moderators and discussion leaders — members who have led high-quality discussions about the music industry and guided/onboarded new members in our Discord server.
  • Longtime supporters — members who have supported Water & Music financially from its early days.
  • Current and former team members of Water & Music — people who have helped guide the higher-level strategy of the organization as a whole.

In the near future, we also plan on dropping limited-edition NFTs (using tools like Mirror’s Editions) around the debut of each season, which will allow a wider range of outside stakeholders to be recognized on-chain as supporters of Water & Music’s mission. Funds from these NFT sales will be distributed among core contributors to our research and community projects.

We are still in the process of designing this framework, and would love to hear any feedback you might have on these initial concepts. Please email us at hi@waterandmusic.com or mention us on Twitter.

PRELIMINARY ROADMAP

  • Nov 12 (today!) — Seed Club demo day + Hello World post launch
  • Dec 6 – 10 — Season 1 premiere week + genesis NFT drop
  • Week of December 13 — Retroactive $STREAM drop to research contributors and historical community members
  • Early January 2022 — Season 2 research launch

THE $STREAM TEAM

Our current team ushering Water & Music into this new era includes:

  • Cherie Hu (founder/publisher) — Longtime music/tech writer and researcher, excited about building systems that promote experimentation, foster interdisciplinary thinking, break down industry silos and lower the barrier to learning.
  • Alex Flores (tech) — Full-stack developer interested in the future of collaborative knowledge exploration/synthesis, info visualization and decentralized organization structures.
  • Diana Gremore (research) — Live music industry professional with an agency/promoter background, now focused on creating technology to change the way the live music industry works with data; excited about the challenges and opportunities in Web3 PR, URL<>IRL connections and decentralized organization structures.
  • Kat Rodgers (community) — Varied background across music journalism, social media management and management consulting; passionate about community-building as a driver of change within the music industry, in both fan communities and industry-facing circles.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED TODAY

The most direct, although probably least Web3-native, way to support Water & Music right now and get to know our voice and community better is to sign up for a monthly or annual membership on our website. This will give you access to our private Discord server, as well as the many exclusive articles and newsletters we send every week distilling music-tech trends in an accessible, concise voice.

That said, we understand that you might not be mentally ready or financially able to pay a membership fee upfront, especially without first earning our trust.

With that in mind, we invite you to fill out this general interest form if you’re interested in staying up to date with our token strategy, upcoming collaborative research seasons and NFT drops and opportunities to get involved in our community. Identifying information on the form like ethnicity, gender and location are 100% optional, but will be helpful for us as we look to recruit and curate a diverse range of contributors for future research seasons, especially those who might need financial aid.

Thanks so much to everyone who has supported us so far, and we’re thrilled for everything that’s in store! ✌️