American inventor, Thaddeus Cahill, created a massive electronic music instrument in 1901. Dubbed the Telharmonium, it was constructed from 145 tonal wheels, which created seven octaves of sound. Controlled by a total of 2,000 switches and set on a 60-foot, 18-inch thick steel girder, this instrument weighed roughly 200 tons, which caused many a DJ trouble trying to check it in at airport security.
Costing roughly $200,000 to build, over $5.5m in today’s terms, Cahill actually had to transport it by train, shipping this beast from his laboratory in Holyoke, Massachusetts to midtown Manhattan. During the weekend of March 16, 1906, Cahill hired Edwin Hall Pierce to play the instrument to an audience over a mile away via telephone wire.
Despite initial raves of success by the press and public, this Muzak template failed miserably due to outlandish operating costs and faulty service to the 2,000 high-end subscribers paying for a music subscription service over the telephone. “The music of the Telharmonium was creeping into the conversations of unsuspecting telephone users,” wrote composer Thom Holmes at the time.
What’s even more intriguing about Cahill than his instrument was his steadfast approach to business. As Holmes also wrote, “Cahill was the first man to have a sense for the commercial potential of electronic music as well as the means and persistence to fulfill his dreams.”
Although his muse eventually sold for scrap—he only ever constructed three of them—Cahill’s reliance on corporate funding is crucial to the arts today, given the lack of governmental funding in America. Yet, as we have known ever since that time, corporations are more interested in their own profits than those of artists. Nearly 120 years later and we still have no idea how to properly compensate musicians.
Which is the playing field Resonate stepped into. Ambitious in scope, this blockchain music streaming service launched with a “pay to own” model, whereupon after nine streams of a song you owned it. Anyone trying to impact the music industry, filled with corporate interests as it is, is going to be fighting an uphill battle—yet one we desperately need. To stick to the organization’s community-oriented messaging, they recently decided to become open source.
We’ve heard from many members of the community about switching to an open source model and so we’re very excited to completely open up the code base, sharing all of the progress we made last year, while also looking forward to contributions from the developer community that has been so enthusiastic about Resonate since inception.
Eschewing the VC equity model, Resonate, which like RChain is a Cooperative, is currently pursuing creative financing models. For over a century we’ve been trying to figure out how to support the electronic distribution of music. Gatekeepers have rigged the system all along, from major label executives to secondary market bots. Only as a community will we create models that are fairer to artists and fans, and fortunately we now have the technology to do so. We only need to deploy it properly.