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Spotify-backed crypto Libra rebrands before launch

The Libra Association, the organisation overseeing the upcoming cryptocurrency of the same name, has rebranded as the Diem Association as part of its preparations for launch.

The digital currency, which is also being renamed diem (≋), was proposed by Facebook last summer and is also supported by several music-related businesses, most notably streaming service Spotify. Other backers include Singaporean sovereign wealth fund Temasek, which has a stake in CAA, Union Square Ventures, which owns part of Sofar Sounds, and Andreessen Horowitz, an investor in song lyric site Genius and music distribution platform UnitedMasters, as well as Uber, Lyft, Shopify and Checkout.com.

Under the new banner, the Diem Association “will continue to pursue a mission of building a safe, secure and compliant payment system that empowers people and businesses around the world”, according to a statement from the organisation.

“The Diem project will provide a simple platform for fintech innovation to thrive and enable consumers and businesses to conduct instantaneous, low-cost, highly secure transactions,” says Stuart Levey, CEO of the Diem Association. “We are committed to doing so in a way that promotes financial inclusion: expanding access to those who need it most, and simultaneously protecting the integrity of the financial system by deterring and detecting illicit conduct. We are excited to introduce Diem – a new name that signals the project’s growing maturity and independence.”

In addition to its stated mission of facilitating low-fee payments around the world, particularly in emerging markets, it has been suggested that concert ticketing companies could take advantage of the the permissionless and open-source nature of Diem.

Alongside the rebrand, the association has made a number of in recent months, including Dahlia Malkhi as chief technology officer, Christy Clark as chief of staff, Steve Bunnell as chief legal officer and Kiran Raj as executive vice-president for growth and innovation and deputy general counsel.

In addition, Diem Networks, the Diem Association subsidiary which serves as operator of the regulated payment system, has announced the appointment of James Emmett as managing director, Sterling Daines as chief compliance officer, Ian Jenkins as chief financial and risk officer and Saumya Bhavsar as general counsel.

With the executive team in place, Diem is now prioritising reading for launch, which will follow regulatory approval from the the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (Finma), which with the association is in “active and productive dialogue”, says Levey. “The evolution of the project results from constructive ongoing engagement with governments, regulators and other key stakeholders,” he comments.

 


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Forget Spotify – here’s how Libra could transform ticketing

On Tuesday, Facebook revealed the inaugural members of the Libra Association, the non-profit organisation tasked with governing its new cryptocurrency, Libra. With the exception of streaming service Spotify, which said it plans to use the digital currency to facilitate payments in emerging markets, music-industry support for Libra was largely absent – a surprise given the numerous music businesses, particularly in ticketing, active in the crypto/blockchain space.

Here, blockchain expert Kasper Keunen, a developer with the Netherlands’ GUTS Tickets, weighs in on what the launch of Libra means for those businesses – and why its open-source nature presents an opportunity to break the vertically integrated mega-promoters’ hold on the ticketing…

 


Libra: Initial thoughts
I think it is safe to say that when Facebook initially announced their plans to create a cryptocurrency, everybody in the crypto scene was sceptical. This was mainly due to Facebook’s reputation of data mining and user tracking.

However, the technical documentation made public on Tuesday seems to indicate the proposed blockchain is far more permissionless and open than was initially expected. For example, the Libra white paper states that Facebook will not have more control than any other member in its alliance (so, 1% of the voting rights). Also, the code is fully open source, and it is not required to have a Facebook account to be a user on Libra.

As with everything, the proof will be in the pudding – we’ll have to see if Libra will be executed to the standards stated in the white paper. But to give credit where credit is due, I would say this is a good start.

Where are the ticketing companies?
I found it noticeable that no ticketing company is among the first batch of companies using Libra. If we compare the market capitalisations of the biggest ticketing companies to those associated with Libra, both Eventbrite (US$1.4 billion) and Live Nation/Ticketmaster ($14bn) would fit size-wise – and as Booking.com is currently alone in the ‘travel’ category (which could easily be extended to ‘leisure and travel’ or similar), it gives some room to speculate.

As Eventbrite is currently integrating with Facebook to sell tickets, it’s probably only a matter of time before Eventbrite joins. I would imagine Live Nation is a lot harder, as a significant portion of their ticketing portfolio (mainly in the US) is in the resale sector. However, their absence could very well mean nothing; it seems that all the companies supporting Libra have a well-known brand, whereas Live Nation has a few companies in its portfolio that are less popular, so it could be that they left LN out and it will be added later.

I’m able to be less speculative about what this means for projects that are already operational in the blockchain ticketing space…

In five years, any company could join the network and use the same functionalities as founding members

Impact on blockchain ticketing
If a blockchain ticketing company (like ourselves) is delivering the exact same thing as traditional ticketing companies but only on a blockchain, it is unlikely they will remain competitive. As the corporate support for Libra clearly signals, blockchain as a technology stack is rapidly maturing, and it will only be a matter of time before it’s included in a list of possible database structures. Hence we are not aiming to do the exact same thing as traditional ticketing companies, but ‘on a blockchain’.

GET features, like sharing tickets, creating festival groups/squads, digital event tokens and providing provable transparency (without breaking privacy laws), require far more technology than just the blockchain ‘database’ used to store the data. Meaning that the brand, experience and tech we have built over the last three years is more extensive than just ‘the blockchain’.

Opportunities and the future
The (surprisingly) permissionless and open-source nature of Libra would allow us to tap into a database of potentially billions of users (of course, all on an opt-in basis). This premise does seem to erode some of the advantage currently in hands of companies like Live Nation, whose consumer database is often a motivator for organisers to choose them as a ticketing service, as LN can reduce the marketing cost for an event due to their reach.

If blockchain ticketing companies can use Libra to tap into an even larger network of users (again, all on an opt-in basis for consumers), this blockchain might erode some of LN’s monopoly power. The Libra documentation states that they plan to open the association up for the public in five years, meaning that at that point any company could join the network and use the same functionalities as founding members (though it does seem too good to be true).

Going on the white paper alone, it seems that Libra could create a more competitive market, both in ticketing and in other markets. At GET, we know that blockchain is far more than just a type of database and welcome mainstream users and the possible erosion of monopolies by increased access to a large consumer base. Time will tell!

 


Kasper Keunen is a blockchain developer for GUTS Tickets and the GET Protocol Foundation.

Spotify targets “underserved markets” with FB’s Libra crypto

Spotify has said it plans to accelerate its push into emerging markets by joining the Libra Association, the not-for-profit organisation behind Facebook’s much-hyped new cryptocurrency, Libra (≋).

Officially unveiled today by Facebook’s new head of Calibra (the subsidiary overseeing Libra products), David Marcus, Libra will allow Facebook’s nearly 2.4 billion active users to send money across the globe, using what the association’s members hope will become the go-to protocol for financial transactions online.

While the launch of Libra is predicted to drive a welcome uplift in Nasdaq-listed Facebook (FB)’s profits, Marcus says by the time the coin becomes available in 2020, “Facebook will have no special rights, and will be one member among many of the Libra Association”, which also includes the likes of eBay, PayPal, Mastercard, Uber, Lyft, Vodafone, Stripe and Spotify.

“I realise that such an endeavour that started at Facebook might be met with some deserved scepticism,” continues Marcus. “But my ask is that you take the time to truly make an opinion for yourselves by looking into how the Libra network and its governance have been set up from the ground up.”

“One challenge for Spotify and its users … has been the lack of easily accessible payment systems”

Spotify, the world’s largest subscription music streaming service, is attracted to Libra’s mission to facilitate simple, fast payments globally – particularly for the 1.7bn people worldwide without access to a bank account or payment card – says the company’s chief premium business officer, Alex Norström.

“One challenge for Spotify and its users around the world has been the lack of easily accessible payment systems, especially for those in financially underserved markets,” explains Alex Norström. “This creates an enormous barrier to the bonds we work to foster between creators and their fans.

“In joining the Libra Association, there is an opportunity to better reach Spotify’s total addressable market, eliminate friction and enable payments in mass scale.”

Spotify is available in 79 countries, including developing markets such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Bolivia, the Palestinian territories and, most recently, India.

 


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