The web3's user-friendliness barrier for music
0xe612
July 13th, 2021

Setting up a Decentralized Autonomous Organisation (DAO) is a clunky affair when compared to more centralized variants. But maybe that's the point?

I was recently asked when DAOs will feel more like installing an app and there are definitely accessibility hurdles to be overcome for these organisations to become a common phenomenon in music. Here's my thoughts.

Firstly, I do think we'll see DAOs become mainstream, but not until some of the least user-friendly aspects are resolved. Setting up wallets, gas costs and treating mobile as an afterthought are 3 points of friction that come to mind. I'll dive into them here.

Secondly, the point of a DAO is to organise as a group on your own terms, using your own tools, and participating in the value you generate together. Part of that value may be represented as shares in the project (in the form of tokens) and part of it may be cash (in the form of cryptocurrency). That's complex and usually requires all sorts of documents, contracts and perhaps even notaries. So in that sense, the expectation to make DAOs as simple as installing an app is unrealistic, but further maturing of tooling will definitely make things easier.

Wallets

In order to participate in DAOs you'll need a 'wallet'. I recently recorded a 10 minute how-to, that actually turned out to be 30 minutes long, which highlights some of the complexity well.

This wallet allows you to participate on the blockchain utilized by the DAO. It lets you make transactions, interact with smart contracts, send and receive tokens (incl. NFTs), as well as cryptocurrency. It also functions like a single sign-on that you can use to interact with blockchain-based tools, platforms, and communities.

There's a way around the wallet requirement: you could do things 'off-chain' for people without a wallet, which means the organisation centrally records transactions & what people are owed without writing it to a blockchain. Whoever has a wallet can move all their assets 'on-chain'. Many tools, like Collab.land, already do this by recording your tokens alongside a user ID such as your Discord account until you withdraw them to a wallet that has a blockchain address.

🔮 I expect Facebook to eventually integrate wallets into their offering. This means that people would be able to open a wallet on the social network and be able to use Facebook's one-click login on web3 platforms too. This will remove a lot of friction from the space (although I really don't think you should be using Facebook).

🔮 I also expect banks and financial tools like PayPal & Cash App to eventually have wallets for Ethereum & other popular blockchains. They're already doing Bitcoin.

Gas costs

Shortly after I published my video about how to set up a cryptowallet, the transaction fees (gas costs) on the Ethereum network climbed to around $50. That means that even if you're trying to perform something that's free of charge, you may still have to pay $50.

Gas costs have recently been a lot lower, but no matter the sum, it will take education to explain to people why certain interactions require money on an internet where everything has always felt like free. It depends who I'm explaining it to, but I tend to explain that instead of selling your data to advertisers in exchange for a service, you pay the network directly to process your transaction and host all the data. But how does a musician explain this to their fans?

Here, too, doing certain things 'off-chain' can help cut costs, but decentralization gets sacrificed.

🔮 Ethereum's transition to Proof of Stake will help a lot. I also expect ecosystems around other blockchains like Tezos and Flow to mature, which have both found their own ways to keep gas costs low.

Mobile as an afterthought

Mobile phones are the world's most important personal computer. For most people around the world, they're the only real personal computer they have access to; that's just theirs and doesn't have to be shared.

Unfortunately, many web3 projects highly prioritize the desktop experience. It's understandable why: that's the environment in which builders are creating, so especially in this early stage it's hard to expect everything to be perfect on mobile phones. There's a thin line between afterthought and neglect however and if we're serious about onboarding people to web3, we have to do a lot better on mobile.

🔮 The size of the opportunity of making the web3 accessible to the mainstream will drive organisations to prioritize mobile. Currently, a lot of the pieces are still being put in place, but I expect a period of growth to follow especially once some of the other clunky aspects mentioned in this article get ironed out. That's when the web3 goes mobile.

What does it mean for music?

My guess is we're about 1.5 to 2 years away from things like NFTs and DAOs going mainstream. The biggest obstacle is user-friendliness. DAOs don't have to be as easy to install as an app, but right now it will be hard for artists to onboard their audience to a fanbase DAO. While artists with 'crypto native' fanbases may be able to gain traction with a DAO, the barriers will remain high for most other artists. What those artists could do is tap into creator economy trends and tooling in order to set up the foundation of their community in a more centralized way and then extend it with web3 aspects that may not appeal to everyone straight away. The same goes for event organisers.

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Photo by Martin Fennema on Unsplash.

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