Audius Whitepaper

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Audius A Decentralized Protocol for Audio Content Roneil Rumburg Sid Sethi Hareesh Nagaraj Last Update: October 8, 2020* Abstract The music industry generates $43 billion in revenue but only 12% goes to content artists. Furthermore, artists have minimal control over how their music is distributed and little visibility into who is streaming it. To address these and other problems faced by artists, we introduce Audius, a fully decentralized music streaming protocol built with public blockchain infrastructure and other decentralized technologies. Audius allows artists to distribute to and get paid directly from their fans, and is comprised of the following components: 1. An efficient token economy powered by the Audius platform token ($AUDIO), 3rd-party stablecoins, and artist tokens 2. A decentralized storage solution and ledger for sharing audio and metadata 3. A unique track encryption scheme paired with a programmable mechanism to unlock user-specific proxy re-encryption keys for content 4. A discovery protocol for users to efficiently query metadata 5. A decentralized governance protocol, whereby artists, node operators, and fans are individually and collectively enfranchised in decision making about protocol changes and upgrades The Audius protocol is live today and fully decentralized, operated by a robust decentralized com- munity of artists, fans, and node operators, and serves nearly 500,000 users every month at the time of writing. * Audius is a work in progress and the contents of this paper are subject to change. The most current version can be found at For feedback and comments, please contact [email protected] 1

Contents 1 Introduction 3 1.1 Current problems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1.2 The Audius project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1.3 Traction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 2 Token Model 4 2.1 Audius Token ($AUDIO) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 2.1.1 Audius Token Distribution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.2 Stablecoin Payments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.3 Artist Tokens . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 2.4 Why create a new token? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 3 Content Node 5 3.1 AudSP: A decentralized storage protocol . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 3.2 Upload flow . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 3.3 Content permissioning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 3.3.1 Proxy re-encryption . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 3.3.2 Unlock conditions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 4 Content Ledger 7 4.1 Node registry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 4.2 Social features and fan feed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 4.3 Tokens and governance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 5 Discovery Node 8 5.1 Discovery API interfaces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 5.2 Future work . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 6 Governance 9 6.1 Short-circuiting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 6.2 Enforcing node response accuracy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 7 History and Roadmap 10 7.1 Genesis (05/2018—12/2018) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 7.2 Private Alpha (01/2019—07/2019) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 7.3 Testnet (08/2019—09/2020) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 7.4 Mainnet Launch (10/2020) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 7.5 Crossing the Chasm (12/2020 and beyond) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 8 Community-owned Streaming 11 References 12 2

1 Introduction everyone the freedom to distribute, monetize, and stream any audio content. Music creation and distribution have been dramatically The Audius protocol brings artists, node operators, changed by technology in the last two decades. Creating and fans together in an incentive-aligned way, allowing music no longer requires a team of producers and audio these actors to collectively provide a high-quality audio engineers; anyone in their bedroom can start with inex- streaming experience guided by the foundational beliefs pensive software. Similarly, distributing music no longer that: requires factories that produce physical records and re- 1. Users should be compensated in proportion to how tail relationships for getting those records into stores; much value they create for the network music platforms have enabled artists to distribute their 2. Artists should directly engage with and transact own music. with their fans Though redundant in the age of digital distribu- tion, the network of intermediaries and middlemen that 3. Governance power should be earned by creating formed in the early days of recorded music still persists, value in Audius, and shared consistently between thriving on the back of artists and curators while the user groups contributing to the protocol mechanics of value transfer and accrual are still largely 4. Prices and earnings for participants should be con- obfuscated [1]. sistent, predictable, and transparent In 2017, the music industry generated $43 billion in 5. Access should be democratized; anyone can con- revenue but only 12% of that made its way to artists [2]. tribute to Audius if they follow the protocol rules, As points of comparison, NFL players capture at least and all information is publicly accessible 47% of the revenue generated by the entire NFL [3], and 6. Intermediaries should be removed when possible; NBA players capture between 49 and 51% [4]. Central- when necessary, they should be algorithmic, trans- ized user-generated music distribution platforms have parent, and verifiably accurate succumbed to the influence of legacy institutions, strug- gling to find sustainable business models [5, 6] as existing The Audius protocol allows artists, fans, and node op- institutions reap the rewards of their (and artists’) labor. erators to collectively provide a high-quality end-user music streaming experience without centralized infras- tructure. The protocol is comprised of the following 5 1.1 Current problems components working in conjunction: We see a number of specific challenges faced by artists 1. Audius token, stablecoins, and artist tokens: and fans today: A platform token and shared token economy that 1. There is little to no transparency around the origins aligns the incentives of all participants with three of artist payouts (e.g. number of plays, location, primary prongs of functionality: access, security, original gross payment before fees) and governance (Section 2) 2. Incomplete rights ownership data often prevents 2. Content nodes: A user-operated network of nodes content artists from getting paid; instead, earnings to host content and permission access to content on accumulate in digital service providers (DSPs) and behalf of artists (Section 3) rights societies 3. Content ledger: A single source of truth for all 3. There are layers of middlemen and significant time data accessible within the Audius protocol, anchor- delay involved in payments to artists ing references to content hosted by content nodes 4. Publishing rights are complicated and opaque, with (Section 4) no incentives for the industry to make rights data 4. Discovery nodes: A user-operated network of public and accurate nodes that index the Audius content ledger and 5. Remixes, covers, and other derivative content are provide an easily queryable interface for retrieving largely censored due to rights management issues metadata (Section 5) 6. Licensing issues prevent DSPs and content from be- 5. Governance: A mechanism for modifications and ing accessible worldwide improvements to Audius, which shares control among those who have created and are creating value on an ongoing basis (Section 6) 1.2 The Audius project Put together, Audius creates a protocol where the We propose the Audius project as a solution to these shared success of the platform directly benefits the users problems. The mission of the Audius project is to give responsible for its success. Open-source implementations of all of these compo- 3

Audius Publish Artists content ledger content a content Upload at ad t m ex et en d nt In co Discovery Discover Stream Content Fans nodes content content nodes Figure 1: Audius content lifecycle nents, live and being operated today by the community, artist-specific tokens to unlock additional functionality can be found on the project’s Github page. in future. The protocol will also require end-user facing clients—these enable users to upload content, discover 2.1 Audius Token ($AUDIO) and stream content, and follow one another within the network. The project team has produced an open-source Audius platform tokens (ticker $AUDIO) have three reference client implementation, hosted at prongs of functionality within the protocol unlocked by Any developer may produce and distribute their own staking: client too; many have already. ˆ Security ˆ Feature access 1.3 Traction ˆ Governance Since its beta release in September of 2019, Audius is Audius tokens are staked as collateral for a value- now home to over half a million monthly active users added services. In exchange, stakers earn ongoing is- (MAUs), with over a million monthly streams as of Oc- suance, governance weight and access to exclusive fea- tober of 2020. Metrics regarding the protocol’s growth tures. can be tracked in real time using Audius tokens are staked by node operators to run the Audius protocol, and by artists and curators to unlock exclusive features and services. Any $AUDIO staked 2 Token Model within the protocol is assigned governance weight, used to shape future iterations of the protocol. The Audius protocol will be used by a number of differ- Audius tokens will serve as collateral for artist-based ent stakeholders with different goals. In order for these tooling as well. Early examples incubated by the com- different stakeholders to effectively work together toward munity include artists tokens, badges and earnings mul- common network goals, there needs to be a unified incen- tipliers. In the future, fans may delegate tokens to spe- tive structure that aligns the interests of the individual cific artists and curators to share in their growth on the with the interests of the protocol. platform and the issuance of future tokens. The Audius protocol is powered by the Audius plat- Node operators must stake Audius tokens to operate form token ($AUDIO), and with the community’s sup- a discovery node or content node, with a larger stake port, will likely leverage 3rd-party stablecoins as well as correlating to a higher probability of being chosen by 4

fan clients. Node operators receive direct upside from Artist token artists stake Audius token to access dis- seeding in the form of $AUDIO and the possibility for tribution tools and may receive tailored support from future protocol fees for actively seeding the protocol. Audius representatives on best practices regarding the A community goal, via governance, is to ensure that usage of their token in the wider Ethereum ecosystem. Audius tokens are always being funneled to the most Artists routing artist tokens through Audius benefit value-added actors by using onchain metrics as a mea- from a tailored form of distribution, unique to the artist’s surement, rather than simply to those staking the most discography. As artist tokens are distributed, artists tokens but not actively participating in the ecosystem. must maintain a bond in $AUDIO to continue using the protocol. This stake ensures that artists are active in 2.1.1 Audius Token Distribution the distribution and maintenance of their tokens while giving fans the peace of mind that a artist has skin in Audius token will be distributed with fixed genesis al- the game. As tokens are distributed, a portion of all location and by ongoing issuance modifiable by gover- artist tokens claimed may be collected by the protocol nance. and managed through governance. The choice to launch with ongoing issuance is Artist tokens are earned by fans relative to how the grounded in the desire to continually align the network’s artist sees fit using the data and interaction mechanics growth with new actors and their relative contributions, available natively in the protocol. Artists could use their rather than concentrating governance power in the hands token to limit access to token-restricted content or ex- of early actors. periences such as unreleased tracks, stems and exclusive Should the community see fit, a portion of ongo- remix competitions. ing token issuance will be allocated to the most active Audius serves as an aggregator of artist tokens across users of the protocol, dictated based on platform metrics issuance platforms such as Roll, Zora and Rally—any and varying contributions in the form of discoverability, interoperable token can be allocated with the protocol- streams and platform engagement. native distribution mechanisms. More details about this initial supply and issuance Governance will play a key role in the structuring of schedule will be provided in a separate specification doc- these distribution channels along with the conditions ument upon the release of Audius token on mainnet. which artists must meet to create their own token on Audius. 2.2 Stablecoin Payments In future, the Audius community may choose to leverage 2.4 Why create a new token? 3rd-party stablecoins to unlock paid content. These to- For value transfer in the Audius ecosystem, third-party kens are price-stable, providing a stable unit of account stablecoins allow micropayments to occur in real-time, to ensure that artists, fans and node operators can par- without oversight from a trusted third party to facilitate ticipate in the Audius economy without concern for price the distribution, accounting or collection of royalties and volatility. Stablecoins are divisible and freely transfer- network fees. Stablecoins are pegged 1:1 to the US Dol- able, allowing for highly divisible micropayments. This lar, providing a trusted unit of account with the inherent makes it easy for artists to set custom rates and for fans benefits of smart contract composability. to issue fractional payments with little friction or round- Audius tokens exist to align governance and financial ing. incentives that increase protocol usage and create long- A protocol fee may be captured as a percent of sta- term protocol value. Participation in governance, as a blecoin transactions, including fan payments to artists. node operator, artist or user, allows stakers to earn a These fees would be aggregated into a pool governed by claim on future issuance, incentivizing value-added ac- Audius token holders. tors to increase protocol usage to drive demand back to Audius tokens. 2.3 Artist Tokens The inclusion of extendable assets like artist tokens allows Audius to play an active role in the wider Ethe- The project team also foresees Audius providing a di- reum and DeFi ecosystem, without having to recreate rect mechanism for artists to better engage their com- the tokens, tooling, and primitives. munity through the distribution of artist tokens. Artists could have the ability to distribute a unique token di- rectly through Audius, giving fans who hold a specified 3 Content Node amount of those tokens the ability to access exclusive content. Content nodes maintain availability of content and meta- data in Audius on AudSP, the Audius-native extension 5

to IPFS. These nodes can be run by node operators alongside an active network stake, giving them the op- AudSP portunity to earn part of the ongoing Audius token is- suance and aggregated fee pools, or can be run by a artist themself to host their own content.1 Fetch By default, a artist’s client elects a set of these nodes Share content to maintain availability of content automatically on the encrypted artist’s behalf—the vast majority of artists do not need content and Submit metadata to have any knowledge of this proces. When relying on proofs & the 3rd-party network of Audius content nodes, after request electing an initial set of nodes this set evolves automat- keys Content Fan Content ically, with new nodes replacing old ones that are taken clients node ledger Regist- offline or become unavailable. ered for If the artist chooses, though, they could select self- artist hosted node(s) to host their content instead. Running their own content node(s) gives artists a higher degree Controls of control over their content distribution by 1) keeping node Register control of content encryption keys on infrastructure they new content control and 2) allowing for custom permissioning exten- sions that are not native to the protocol. If a artist fails to satisfy the election process or the Artist self-hosting process, their content will not be retrievable client by participants in the network. 3.1 AudSP: A decentralized storage pro- Figure 2: Content node interactions with protocol par- tocol ticipants Files distributed through the Audius protocol must be highly available, independently verifiable, and decentral- ized. These principles are key to ensuring democratic File references and associated metadata stored in the participation and accessibility for all users of the Au- Audius content ledger will be IPLD links [8]. As the de- dius protocol. Artists sharing their tracks and metadata, centralized storage market matures, the Audius protocol fans retrieving content, and node operators will all share may be extended to include other storage solutions such longer-form information via this protocol, while refer- as FileCoin [9], Sia [10], or Swarm [11]. ences to files in this protocol will reside in the Audius content ledger. Additionally, the storage protocol must 3.2 Upload flow provide an equivalent user experience to existing central- To distribute a track on Audius, artists must agree to ized solutions and scale effectively as network demand the Audius open license (this license will be published increases. in a separate brief), making the content available on the To that end, we propose AudSP: a decentralized stor- broader Audius network. age solution for the Audius network built on IPFS The artist’s client will then (1) slice the track into (InterPlanetary File System). IPFS enables modular fixed-length segments, (2) encrypt them locally (if the object-level encryption, global distribution capability, content is permissioned) with segment-specific keys, and secure content addressing, and object immutability [7, (3) upload these encrypted segments, the encryption § 3.5.4]. In order to ensure high availability for files keys, and required metadata to their content node(s). stored through the Audius protocol, AudSP provides a The content node(s) then publish the content and meta- staking-based incentive structure for users to host net- data to AudSP, producing an IPLD link for the meta- work content. data which the artist client adds to the Audius content 1 Previously, there was a concept of a ”creator node” that was ledger via a new transaction (See Section 4 for more on separate from a content node. These have been combined into a single node type rather than being separate, with ”content node” this process), which then prompts the discovery nodes referring to the merged type. Some references to ”creator node” on the network to index the new content and make it still exist in Audius code and in other documentation; those can more broadly discoverable and available (see Section 5 safely be assumed to be referring to the content nodes outlined for more on this process). here. 6

3.3 Content permissioning This decrypts a given piece of content by locally re- encrypting it using the aforementioned key and subse- In addition to maintaining content availability, content quently decrypting it with the user’s own private key. nodes also take responsibility for permissioning access to There is no 3rd-party proxy, but proxy re-encryption content. applied in this way allows everyone to share the same The content permissioning system in Audius aims to encrypted content while users can only decrypt the con- be: tent on a case-by-case basis. Potential cryptosystems, 1. Transparent for all parties involved including AFGH [12], are still being evaluated by the 2. Cost- and time- efficient for all transactions community at this time. 3. Flexible, accounting for multiple streaming models and any monetization scheme the artist sees fit 3.3.2 Unlock conditions 4. Granular, with users paying each other directly and Artists can tie ability to unlock any piece of content to immediately for services rendered when possible any condition they choose—some unlock conditions na- As described in the upload flow in Section 4, if content tive to the protocol, if the community chooses, could is permissioned, the artist’s client at upload time gener- include: ates encryption keys for the content that are shared with ˆ A payment being made / managed by the content node(s) elected by the artist ˆ Sufficient holding of an artist’s token (see 2.3) thereafter. ˆ Past streaming behavior attested by a discovery Because of AudSP, anyone can now fetch the en- node, including but not limited to: crypted content being kept available by the elected con- tent nodes. Proxy re-encryption is what allows a content – following the artist node to selectively issue a key to a given user upon re- – streamed artist’s work more than a given num- quest. ber of times – reposted artist’s content more than a number 3.3.1 Proxy re-encryption of times When beginning to stream a track, a fan’s client will The content node would look for the specified condi- make a request to one of a artist’s elected content nodes, tion to be satisified to issue a proxy re-encryption key at including a payment or other proof if required, for a the fan’s request. proxy re-encryption key specific to the segment of the By running their own content node, a artist could per- track being consumed. mission content in any additional way they see fit. Their To service this request, the content node derives a node software can be modified to add new unlocking per- proxy re-encryption key using the fan’s public wallet key mission modules, serving as a testbed for modules to and the private key used to encrypt the requested track make their way into the core protocol too. and returns it to the fan. Because the re-encryption key is specific to the artist, fan, and segment, it can be transmitted insecurely or published without reveal- 4 Content Ledger ing the track contents to the greater network. The cryptosystem used to encrypt tracks will allow the The Audius content ledger, referred to as such through- issuance of fan-specific proxy re-encryption keys derived out the paper, is the amalgamation of smart contracts on from the track encryption key and the fan’s public key. Ethereum [13], POA network [14], and other future L1 or The artist’s content node(s) will handle key requests and L2 blockchain networks that host pieces of the Audius issue new keys when the specified conditions are met, ecosystem. Different parts of the Audius protocol will issuing a new key by mixing the track encryption key continue to run on different blockchain-based platforms, with the fan’s wallet’s public key. or utilize off-chain scalability solutions, where scalabil- After fetching encrypted content and a re-encryption ity trilemma tradeoffs [15] can be made on a module and key, the fan client would locally decrypt the content us- subprotocol-specific basis. ing their wallet private key as follows: Today, the content ledger for Audius includes: ˆ A consistent audio content and metadata format proxied = reencrypt(encrypted_content, specification to ensure accessibility (similar to the reencryption_key) OMI metadata spec [16, § 3.7.1-3.7.2]) plaintext = decrypt(proxied, wallet_privkey) ˆ A decentralized process for artists to control: – Track content 7

– Revenue splits ˆ Stream a track – Content ownership structure ˆ Like a track, adding it to the fans’ own library ˆ Follow other fans and artists, and receive notifica- ˆ A registry of all nodes reachable in Audius tions when new original content, reposts, playlists, ˆ The social graph of all users interacting with Audius or comments are created by them ˆ Implementations of the token and governance sys- ˆ Create a public (shared to followers) or private tems described in this paper playlist After generating upload artifacts from their content ˆ Repost tracks to followers nodes, as described in Section 3.2, a artist can add their With more action types to be added in future via content to the content ledger via a new transaction: community governance (eg. comments have been a Track { commonly-requested addition). Actions taken by users owner_address get organized into user-specific feeds that reflect the map(artistId => ownership) time-sorted actions of the other users they follow—this metadataIPLD is enabled by the indexing functionality described in the ... other metadata ... next section. } All social actions within Audius are represented in the content ledger, meaning users can use any client to con- Where the linked metadata could be a JSON file struc- nect to Audius and see the same social graph. Fans can tured along these lines: also view what other fans have been streaming, as can developers building third-party clients. This opens up { many possibilities around content recommendation sys- "trackTitle": "...", tems and alternative client experiences built by members "segmentIpldLinks": ["...", "...", ...], of the Audius developer community. ... other metadata ... } 4.3 Tokens and governance The artist can then modify track content/metadata The Audius content ledger is also the home of the Au- by sharing the modified content to AudSP and updating dius token economy (Section 2) and Audius governance the metadata IPLD link in the content ledger. system (Section 6), described in further detail in their Once content is listed in the content ledger, it is in- respective sections. dexed by the discovery nodes as detailed in Section 5 which ultimately makes it easily queryable and discover- able by clients accessing Audius. 5 Discovery Node In order for a fan to discover content on the network, 4.1 Node registry Audius needs a mechanism for indexing metadata that is The Audius content ledger maintains a single source of efficiently queryable by users. Based on the philosophies truth for 1) all the valid versions of node software usable of the Audius project, this index must be: within Audius, controlled by governance (Section 6), 2) ˆ Decentralized all the discovery and content nodes reachable within Au- ˆ Efficient and straightforward for user clients to con- dius and 3) how to find them (via IP address or fully- sume (promoting accessibility) qualified domain name). ˆ Provably correct and transparent, eliminating profit When a client connects to Audius for the first time, it incentives to manipulate the results returned to can use this on-chain registry to bootstrap its local state users (eg. looking up which account maps to the active wallet, ˆ Extensible, so that the Audius community can ex- what is the current user’s social graph / feed, etc. via a plore different ranking and searching methodologies. chosen discovery node) These requirements rule out the most decentralized 4.2 Social features and fan feed options due to usability and efficiency issues, e.g. users replicating the Audius ledger locally and querying their The content ledger also serves as a central source of local dataset. This section outlines a protocol for a class truth for fan/artist interactions happening within Au- of discovery nodes to form operated by the Audius com- dius. Users can take the following actions within Audius: munity, serving this function in a way that meets the 8

sults for the same query. This consistency guarantee is Clients essential for the penalty mechanism described in Sec- tion 6.2. Choose 5.2 Future work interface We foresee the community creating an incentive econ- omy around discovery node interfaces, which would al- low the creator / maintainer of an interface to earn a portion of rewards earned by node operators using said interface. Node rewards could also be tied to number of requests fielded to incentivize nodes to operate with Interfaces higher-quality infrastructure and in locations near large population centers. Register 6 Governance compliance with interface Integral to achieving this mission is a decentralized gov- ernance protocol, whereby artists, node operators, and fans are individually and collectively enfranchised in de- Discovery cision making about protocol changes and upgrades. nodes In the spirit of creating a community-owned and op- erated streaming protocol, these key actors should be empowered to shape, mend and modify underlying pa- rameters of the Audius protocol including but not lim- Figure 3: Discovery API interface registration and usage ited to: ˆ Feature Integrations above requirements. ˆ Royalty Rates Discovery node operators earn revenue by registering ˆ Token Distribution a node with an active network stake, letting them earn ˆ Fee Pool Allocation part of the ongoing Audius token issuance and aggre- ˆ Staking Rewards gated fee pools. Fan clients select discovery nodes to query from via the content ledger’s node registry (Sec- Everything in Audius is governable, and all Audius to- tion 4.1). kens staked in the protocol automatically receives gov- Discovery nodes are read-only. Clients can use them ernance weight on a 1 token, 1 vote basis. to fetch a fan’s feed, a playlist, song and artist meta- Audius politicians differ in the sense that node opera- data, search the corpus of Audius entities, and execute tors are unique from artists and curators, both of which other queries about the network. Anyone can register a are aligned in the growth of the protocol. Governance discovery node if they meet the requirements outlined in will look to present both technical and nontechnical pro- this section. posals, giving all users the ability to properly voice their beliefs without needing to run a node or have a deep technical understanding of the Audius tech stack. 5.1 Discovery API interfaces For node operators, Audius governance acts as a key Audius will produce a first-party discovery API interface, tool to empower decentralized content storage, provid- but other community members are encouraged to author ing a direct mechanism for rewards to be earned and their own interfaces that extend or modify the core API. amended in line with the costs, value and consensus of The protocol allows fans to select any discovery API in- other providers on the network. terface registered in the Audius content ledger. By creating a framework for users to adjust the di- An API interface must index new blocks from the Au- rection of the protocol in line with their shared beliefs, dius ledger atomically (i.e. all-or-nothing), and all API Audius will curate governance to the most value-added methods must be deterministic. Because of these re- actors, possibly tying in incentives to those who are most quirements, for a given block hash, all discovery nodes active. running a given API interface will produce identical re- 9

In doing so, core Audius politicians will play an ac- this alleged misbehavior. The governance process can tive role in both future token issuance, node operator decide whether there is indeed inaccuracy, whether said incentives, and creative mechanisms for artists to better inaccuracy was caused by negligence or maliciousness vs. engage their community. a system error, and slash the node operators stake ac- cordingly. Slashed tokens are burned rather than redis- 6.1 Short-circuiting tributed to stakers to avoid incentivizing slashes. There is a short-circuit process that allows both 1) pro- posals to be passed without broader vote if urgency re- 7 History and Roadmap quires, eg. during active exploitation of a vulnerability in the protocol, and 2) proposals to be vetoed if they Detailed below is a breakdown of the progress Audius has are not consistent with the philosophies outlined in this made to date, culminating in a transition to protocol- paper. owned and operated decentralized governance. This short-circuit capability will be controlled by a community multisig with an initial set of signers. Addi- 7.1 Genesis (05/2018—12/2018) tional signers can be voted into place via the open com- Shortly after the project was founded, the project team munity governance process. released an initial version of the Audius whitepaper de- The community, at any time, can vote to remove the tailing the plans for the architecture, and shipped the ability to short-circuit governance if they choose, and the first functional implementations of the Audius smart controllers of the short-circuit multisig have committed contracts, content node, and discovery node. to not veto said proposal when the time comes to relin- quish control. The project team added this functionality to the gov- 7.2 Private Alpha (01/2019—07/2019) ernance process with the intention for it to be removed— 6 months after founding the project, the project team it is up to the community to decide when it makes sense began inviting early users to engage with the protocol to take off the training wheels or whether it makes sense and an early client implementation to provide feedback. to have this functionality at all. In this phase, access to the product was granted on an invite-only basis and major issues were ironed out in 6.2 Enforcing node response accuracy a controlled environment before introducing 3rd-party node operators into the network. Every response a community-operated node in Audius At this time, all content uploaded to Audius was returns is signed with the private key that was used to hosted on IPFS, and the client was interacting directly stake the original tokens or a designated delegate, the with the initial implementations of the content node and block hash of the block they have incorporated up to that discovery node. The Audius client also featured a unique point (for discovery nodes) or a timestamp (for content web3 login mechanism called Hedgehog, allowing users nodes), inputs provided to query, and the node software to sign up with an email and password in a trustless version from the public version registry they are using manner, rather than having to connect with Metamask. to generate results. This was open-sourced as a standalone project to help Blocks are indexed atomically in discovery nodes and other consumer-facing products achieve a higher degree API methods are deterministic, meaning that every dis- of usability. covery node should produce identical results for the same query, block hash, and API interface. The content node by nature cannot provide as strong 7.3 Testnet (08/2019—09/2020) of guarantees by timestamp as the discovery node can by The Audius protocol began welcoming its first 3rd-party block numbers and deterministic indexing, but sequences node operators into the network, with artist content and of requests with responses (ordered by timestamp) signed metadata being hosted by end users for the first time. by the operator key can provide a similar function for Through this period, as more node operators were on- demonstrating behavior in a provable way. boarded, the project team wound down most of their If either node type produces invalid or inaccurate re- internally-operated nodes, maintaining a few as a canary sults, the signed result document returned by the node mechanism to understand how the network is perform- is a self-contained proof that the given node produced ing. the given set of results. One month into this testnet period, at the end of Using these proofs as evidence, a claimant could open September 2019, the Audius first-party client implemen- a governance proposal to slash a given node operator for tation launched publicly for the first time. This included 10

basic functionality for uploading content, playing con- community governance. tent, searching for / following artists, and more. Over the following months, many more client fea- tures were shipped, including: notifications, mobile 8 Community-owned Streaming apps / desktop apps, remix competitions, and a well- documented API for interfacing with user-operated Audius stands at the forefront of pioneering the vision nodes directly. for a community owned streaming protocol. The com- By the end of the testnet period, the protocol was munity that has formed around this protocol has become being used by over 500,000 fans every month (see Sec- formiddable, growing far beyond the reaches of the small tion 1.3 for more details). project team that built the initial implementations of each respective component. Audius has historically thrived on word of mouth re- 7.4 Mainnet Launch (10/2020) ferrals. As a protocol empowering anyone in the world The mainnet launch of Audius is the genesis of the Au- to become a talent scout and capture value from that ac- dius platform token, allowing fans, artists and curators tivity, growth has been highly correlated with passionate to earn a piece of the platform as a value-added user. artists and curators taking advantage of the high degree Alongside the suite of client use-cases detailed previ- of control and leverage that this community owned and ously, Audius will introduce a protocol dashboard to operated streaming protocol provides. showcase analytics and governance for all stakeholders. With the support of many of the great builders in the space that have preceded us in the intersection of music 7.5 Crossing the Chasm (12/2020 and and decentralization, Audius stands on the shoulders of giants, taking best practices around music distribution, beyond) governance, and token mechanics to create a streaming The Audius community will roll out new mechanisms protocol that is owned and operated by its most active, for content ownership and revenue never before possi- valuable users. ble, backed by the crypto-native primitives driving the For artists, we encourage you to take this opportunity protocol under the hood. As a platform well poised to to make your mark as an early adopter. The spectrum bridge the gap between crypto and a mainstream audi- in which value can be created varies greatly, and the ence, Audius will always prioritize simplicity to offer an Audius community prides itself on creating opportuni- intuitive user experience grounded in web3. ties for artists, curators and fans of all shapes and sizes With Audius token, active participants will dictate to collectively share in the upside of the unstoppable protocol changes through an ongoing distribution to new streaming protocol of tomorrow. stakeholders. To maintain governance weight, partic- To those who have been plagued by industry incum- ipants of the protocol must continually contribute in bents for the duration of their artistic career, let this be value-added ways, or have their governance power di- a call to arms to reimagine and pave a new path—one luted and replaced by others doing the same. in which every aspect of the experience is grounded in In doing so, Audius will live forever as a protocol sovereignty and decentralization. owned and operated entirely by its users, stewarded by We look forward to seeing you along the way. 11

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