The Journey of a Musician

Ryan Jones on His Musical Path, the Blockchain and Why it’s Time for the Music Industry Revolution

No two musicians walk the same path, but those who choose to put their creations out into the world ultimately face a similar set of obstacles along the way. Then again, that’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it? 

As humans, we embrace the tales of ordinary people who worked, and worked (and then worked some more) until finally getting their big break. After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

But those stories are only worth telling if they have a happy ending, and unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case for 99% of musicians today who are playing a losing game against an opponent who’s been stacking the cards for decades. 

That’s where Ryan Jones comes in. As the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of projectNEWM, his story isn’t just another classic tale of beating the odds – it’s the story of an underdog with a bone to pick… 

“There’s gotta be a better way.” – Ryan Jones

The Overture: Hearing the Call

Ryan’s story begins like most musicians’ do – with the discovery of a passion for music and the desire to learn how to play an instrument. 

I was about ten years old when I went to my mother and said, “I want to play piano.” It was very random for a kid growing up in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Telling your parents that you want to play piano instead of, say, some kind of sport, was… well, it was different. 

But soon enough, it became clear that music, for Ryan, was more than just a hobby. He joined the school choir and orchestra, and by the time he was in high school, began playing gigs at the local library bar on the weekends while learning how to read lead sheets from none other than Chalmers Davis, the renowned pianist for Little Richard.

Ryan’s path solidified in college where he did his undergrad and later earned a master’s degree, in music education – a path that, in his opinion, was the safer of two routes in terms of musical careers. 

The path of a musician can be weird if you go the performance route or you’re gigging and whatnot. The income isn’t necessarily guaranteed. So the much more safe route would be to go into teaching. It’s typically a state job so you have a guaranteed income and retirement. So that was what I did, and I loved teaching – I did it for five years. But I quickly realized that my passion was in the actual music-making and not fully in the teaching side of things.

The Interlude: Inspiration Takes Form

Ryan’s revelation would take him to the University of Southern California where he began his second master’s, a conducting degree in choral and sacred music. During that time he started doing studio work and performed with the likes of Elton John, Take 6, Barry Manilow and others, and connected with some of the leaders in the industry. 

It was around this time when he first discovered the concept of cryptocurrency, or as he thought of it back in 2012, “digital magic internet money.” A few years later, Ryan began learning more about, and investing in, Cardano, but it wasn’t until 2018 when the potential of the blockchain to disrupt more than just the financial sector became clear.   

Around 2018/2019, I got really serious about putting some stuff onto a platform to get my creations out, but I didn’t find a venue that I wanted to put them out on. I was looking at digital for streaming and I also looked at self hosting and I was just going, none of these options really appeal to me. And I thought, there’s gotta be a better way… 

And with that simple thought, an idea began to take shape. Ryan began connecting with his friends in the Cardano community to brainstorm the viability of a new kind of blockchain-based music platform. It was around this time when Ryan met Florian Sorg, now Co-Founder, Co-CEO and Chief Financial Officer of projectNEWM, who would transform the spark of an idea into a sustainable business model.

 

The Crescendo: Taking on the Big Bad Wolf 

To fully comprehend the revolution that is projectNEWM, you first need to understand what musicians are up against in the music industry today. 

When it comes to success in the music industry, distribution is the name of the game. But how do you get your music in front of the world? Well, unless you’re signed with a label who would take care of the distribution process for you, you typically have two options:

  • Self-host, and self-promote your music
  • Hire a distributor to get your art to as many people as possible

Take the second option and you’ll not only pay the distributor for their services, you’ll also need to join with a Performance Rights Organization (PRO) who – in theory – will take charge of tracking down the royalties that are owed to you. If they’re successful, you’ll receive just 50% of those royalties, with the other half paid to the PRO for the service. If they’re not successful, your next best option will be hiring a lawyer to sue for your royalties (which will likely cost more in legal fees than you’re owed in the first place). 

So what about option one? According to Ryan, if you’re not willing to sign with a label, the odds are stacked against you there too. 

We have an ambassador at projectNEWM. He’s an independent artist, not signed with any label. He made it onto the top 40 for the country charts and was climbing. And then low and behold, the next week he magically disappeared from the charts. It wasn’t because he just magically fell off the charts within four days. He was taken off of that playlist because he was cutting into the profit margins of another artist who happened to be signed with another label. 

With options like these, it’s no wonder that musicians dream of signing with a label. But they often realize late that a record label contract comes at a higher cost than they thought –  their music rights, and ultimately their control of who they are and what they can produce as an artist. 

Like many musicians who’ve spent years trying to make it in the industry, Ryan realized that you can’t win against the people who make the rules. So he decided to do the only thing that could level the playing field – he changed the game. 

The Finale: Building the Digital Future of the Music Industry 

The first thing you need to know about projectNEWM is how it got its name. The project gets its name from the term neume, a musical notation which represents a signal for one, or a group of, successive musical pitches. But more importantly, the neume was a predecessor of modern musical notation – it created the foundation of what musicians use today in composition. In much the same way, projectNEWM is laying the foundation for a NEW Music industry. Clever, no?

But what does the future of the music industry look like? Well, for Ryan the vision is clear – the future is digital. I know what you’re thinking, “duh, music is already digital.” And it’s true, CDs are relics of the past and we have digital streaming platforms that let people play music anywhere. But you see, when streaming platforms pay, on average, $ .00318 per stream, less known artists (or those that don’t fit the “mainstream” mold) aren’t able to make a living. 

That’s why projectNEWM is turning the tables on this skewed system to prioritize all artists, and empower them in a completely new way by creating a music streaming marketplace where artists have the option to fractionalize the Mechanical IP rights as NFTs that can be bought and traded by their fans. 

Photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

We’re aiming to empower musicians by putting the power back in their hands and then doing something that’s going to facilitate organic growth with both their music-making as well as their communities, and to me that’s a pretty special combination.

Every musician’s journey is unique, but much like a symphony, each movement in Ryan’s story represents a smaller part of the greater whole – when brought together, they create a masterpiece.

Ready to join in the NEW Music revolution? Learn more about projectNEWM here.

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