March 4, 2014


Music and Bitcoin

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

As one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges has filed for bankruptcy, the future of the digital currency is now in doubt. But that doesn't change the fact that Lily Allen once called herself an "idiot" for turning down a gig where she was to be paid in Bitcoins. Or that Snoop Dogg and Childish Gambino have publicly declared their interest in them. Or that a knock-off bothered Kanye West enough to sue.

Mel B is the first major artist to sell a single with Bitcoin, partnering with to accept payment for her latest, "For Once in My Life.” “I can have my own Bitcoin wallet so if I owe you money, I can pay you just by going online, no matter where you are in the world,” Mel explains. “I can also buy music or whatever it is as long as that thing has its own Bitcoin server too. So I put it on my website.”

But just because Mel B is sold on the concept doesn’t mean that everything is peachy in Bitcoin land. “Mel B is being sponsored by a Bitcoin mining website. Of course she's going to say this is the way we want to accept Bitcoin,” says personal finance expert Carmen Wong Ulrich. “You want to be careful about a system because Bitcoin could be worth nothing tomorrow.”

Maybe a lot of labels are going to say no, or iTunes is going to say no.

Carmen Wong Ulrich, personal finance expert

In fact, how do we know that a Bitcoin is worth anything today?

“Bitcoin is an unregulated virtual currency,” says Ulrich.  “Basically when you put value on a dollar bill, does that paper really have value? No, we put value in it as a society.  Bitcoin is a little bit under the same idea in the sense that someone said, ‘Here's something under a value, it's a currency,’ and people buy into it.”

So how can you get your hands on some Bitcoin? Jonathan Mohan, founder of the networking group Bitcoin NYC, explains. “Right now you could go to an exchange and buy some Bitcoin. You can go to a consumer provider and link up your bank account and buy some Bitcoin. Or meet up locally with people like me, or [go to] the Bitcoin center and buy some Bitcoin in person.”

Mohan sees a strong future for Bitcoin in the music industry. “I think one of the greatest uses of Bitcoin that has yet to happen is being able to facilitate one click purchases,” he says. “If it's meant for an album, it's being able to just click the album, just click the advertisement banner, and just by doing that you're about to purchase the music.”

The digital currency has been around since 2009, but it has many hurdles before it hits the mainstream. “Bitcoin would like to be the new currency,” says Ulrich. “They really would like if pop culture such as famous artists accepted Bitcoin. The trouble is maybe a lot of labels are going to say no, or iTunes is going to say no. It doesn't have any legs yet.” 

So remember kids, be careful what you invest in.

- Segment produced by Jen Icklan
- Article by Alan Noah