Why Tim Exile thinks blockchain can unlock new genres of music (and musicians)

David Harrington
May 25, 2023
“We’ll get a groundswell of new music and formats” — Tim Exile

Blockchain helps people coordinate over the internet. Tim Exile just asked 'what could this mean for music?' He tells David Harrington why web3 can elevate musical collectives and empower new types of artists. All by reinventing how music gets made.

From garage bands to karaoke, music has always been an inherently social activity. But the modern music industry operates in a top-down fashion. Consumers and everyday musicians have little say in who and what gets given the limelight. Record producer and performer Tim Exile is planning to completely change that model.

“The music industry developed in an era when there was a global culture forming and people wanted access to that,” he begins. “Today we have the opposite problem: people are constantly bombarded with things vying for our attention. What we need are new local hubs to create cultures with meaning, depth, and intimacy.”

A highly successful musician in his own right, that vision prompted him to found Endlesss, a collaborative music app that puts the focus on creating music with others rather than listening to it alone. The former producer's ultimate goal is to revolutionise the creative process, opening up new opportunities for artists at every level of skill, passion, and commitment.

One of Tim's biggest inspirations comes from his desire to challenge the view that music should be created, distributed, and heard in a linear process. In the traditional music industry, a record company picks an artist, works with them to produce the music, and monetises it via album sales and concerts. The only role for the listener is a passive one (and a paying one).

“What we need are new local hubs to create cultures with meaning.”

— Tim Exile, founder, Endlesss

“We live in a world of creators where people on YouTube and TikTok are documenting a living creative process,” Tim says. “In doing so, they build a community of those following along with them as they embark on their journey. But nobody has really built a platform like that for music. You simply get to consume the final content.”

Indeed, what makes Endlesss different from other platforms is how the music gets made. Musicians can access Endlesss on desktop or mobile and join virtual “jam sessions,” use beats other artists have made, and collaborate in real-time to produce tracks.

“Endlesss is fundamentally a skill and relationship-based platform,” Tim explains. “We’re building a place to make music in minutes. And our focus is on making that experience as fun, frictionless, and rewarding as possible. What we excel at is allowing people to collaborate and ideate in real-time.” With the company's Beat Machine, which lets musicians collaborate through a beat-making arcade machine, you can even do it in person.

Musician and singer Imogen Heap uses an Endlesss Beat Machine, a collaborative music making arcade machine which Endlesss hopes will becomes a fixture of every studio and every event.

Endlesss now records around 20,000 listens per month, with users creating over 250,000 'riffs'. And whilst the platform is used by professional musicians like Imogen Heap and FHUR, Tim is equally interested in the more amateur side of the spectrum. “Hobbyists are probably the biggest opportunity for Endlesss,” Tim continues. “So let’s create a tool that allows these hobbyist musicians to make a piece of music, end to end, in one day. They can get their music out there, start improving their skills, and build new relationships. And we’ll perhaps get a groundswell of new music and formats.”

With a focus on simplifying high quality music production, Endlesss is built for the hobbyist. Most musicians, Tim explains, are time-poor, having to earn a living at a day job or hustling in the gig economy. Much like TikTok makes it simple for video creators to make appealing videos, with easy cuts and music overlays, Endlesss does for musicians. The music platform’s Beat Packs, for example, let artists create songs faster with re-mixable effects, and can be created by other users, building a network effect that makes Endlesss better as more musicians use it.

“Our goal is for musicians to be able to embark on the entire musical process.”

— Tim Exile, founder, Endlesss

Track Club is a group of music-lovers who met on Endlesss and jam on the platform every week. They turn those jams into playlists of completed tracks, embracing the possibilities of collaborative music-making. “Our lives became connected through music,” they share. “Though most of us have never met, we share moments of elation in rooms that never existed.”

For Tim, collectives like Track Club are exactly what Endlesss is designed to elevate. “Our goal is for musicians to be able to embark on the entire musical process. Ideating, recording, arranging, mixing, and even promoting,” he says. “And to make each part of that process more efficient, streamlined, and magical, so that the whole thing feels fun and the output is incredible.”

This carefully crafted model gives hobbyists the opportunity to upskill in all areas of their craft, making a connective tissue upon which new relationships and opportunities are built. An amateur football player, for instance, can easily go to a club, join a league, and advance as far as their potential takes them. Endlesss seeks to provide similar opportunities for musicians.

“Music has always been a way of expressing myself. Endlesss has represented another means to access music wherever I am” — FHUR, musician.

At its core, Tim sees the Endlesss community as a group of ardent hobbyists who jam together online. They share their sessions, make music, and even put tracks on the market. Monetising this kind of collaborative music again goes against the industry norm. Songs made on Endless could have double-digit individual contributors: distributing income and royalties would be difficult no matter how much there was to split, and is virtually impossible at scale.

Whilst hobbyists have jammed with their friends for millenia, it is always small groups of tightly managed teams that succeed in the $50bn music industry. One of the main reasons is that it is harder to manage the contributions, rights, and royalties of a larger group. After all, most of those royalties are still managed with paper and pen.

Endlesss turned to NFTs to make music made on their platform different. Music has always led the arts when it comes to digital innovation, and by tieing Endlesss songs to a blockchain, it isn't just the song that is digital, but the metadata about the song, like contributors and royalty rights. When a piece of music is licensed in the traditional industry, pen and paper contracting means it can take months for the money to actually reach the artists. Putting that process on the blockchain can turn those months into minutes.

And what's more, Endlesss songs are not tied to the platform. As digital assets on the blockchain, they are owned by the artists, not Endlesss, setting artists free from reliance on a monolithic platform. By making it easier for those groups to coordinate and distribute their income, blockchains make it easier for completely new forms of music groups to scale up. In tapping into this opportunity, Endlesss aims to completely reshape what the art of music-making looks like.

“If Endlesss is wildly successful, in ten years' time, music will be seen as a social skill,” predicts Tim. “It’ll open up learning and cultural opportunities and give value to people every single day, not just the privileged few involved in the music industry. At a certain point, pros might even take notice and discover entirely new ways of creating music that influence the mainstream.”

Musicians can make as much music at a high enough quality as they like, but if it doesn’t get heard, that effort is for nothing. In the modern music industry, discovery comes from the platforms, mainly Spotify and Apple Music, that excel at identifying what comes next. The problem, Tim explains, is that these discovery channels optimise to keep you paying attention.

“Today, tech companies use big data to decide ‘what’s next’ for us on our timelines,” he reflects. “They’re not incentivised to help us build meaningful skills or relationships. And they only serve content, not interactive experiences.”

Inside the Endlesss app, which lets users create music together and share it with the world.

Tim hopes that Endlesss can become a better ‘What’s Next’ engine than current social media and music platforms. As the platform develops, feeds will be full of music that connect with the listener’s preferences, but also music that offers the chance to collaborate with those artists (just like Duets on TikTok let even amateur creators play a more active role). These collaborations will then become available on the marketplace, and the cycle continues, and expands.

“It’s a very natural economy. In our community, we found that even small microtransactions really helped people cement relationships, build trust, and foster creativity,” Tim says. “We designed our incentives to be more around helping people develop skills and relationships, using web3 technology to accelerate people along their path as an artist.”

Endlesss is a very different web3 music platform, one that unlocks new avenues of creativity and collaboration. For every musician or producer, amateur or otherwise, Endlesss has removed many of the obstacles that they face in traditional music – allowing them to collaborate, create, and prosper in ways that were never before possible.

“We designed our incentives around helping people develop relationships, using web3 to accelerate people along their path as an artist.”

— Tim Exile, founder, Endlesss

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David is an independent writer working at the intersection of decentralised technology, culture, and commerce. His writing has been featured in media outlets such as Forbes Technology Council and Tech in Asia, and he loves telling unique stories about the transformative potential of web3. His current interests include decentralised science, NFT sports collectibles, and creator-owned economies.

Image credit: Endlesss.