The Cypherfunks | A Cryptocurrency and Online Music Experiment

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The Cypherfunks are the coolest new online music experiment that utilises the power of crowd-sourcing, digital money and plain old good music. Founded by tech whiz and musician Simon de la Rouviere from Stellenbosch, Cape Town, the big idea of the “band” is fully financed through an open-source digital cryptocurrency known as FUNK. Whilst creating a digital space for talented musicians to network, collaborate on music and even get paid for their work, the internet band purposefully blurs our entrenched ideas of what exactly a band is and how music is made and owned. We met up with Simon as he broke down The Cypherfunks for us.


Who are the Cypherfunks?

The Cypherfunks are a collection of people from across the globe coming together to make music and build infrastructure to sustain it.


What is the concept behind the Cypherfunks?

The Cypherfunks is an attempt at crowd-funding a global band through a cryptocurrency. It is permission-less, decentralized group of people making music together from across the world. A cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) is completely decentralized as well as the band. There is no de facto leader required to make this idea happen. Both concepts (the band and the currency) can be owned by anyone. The idea is that as we’ve seen with other cryptocurrency communities, the currency acts as decentralized tokens of ownership in the idea. By using FUNK, it increases the footprint of the music as it frees up financial support for individuals. As the music becomes popular, it increases demand for the currency. In another sense: the music is the product we create to increase the network effect of the currency. Both feed on each other.


The currency can be exchanged into other cryptocurrencies – such as Bitcoin or Litecoin – and that can be exchanged easily back into Rands, Dollars or other fiat currencies. Currently, the currency is mostly being used to tip other musicians in the space and thanking them for their contributions, but we are working on expanding the use of the currency as it grows into buying songs, buying music production kits & so forth. The name is a play on words on “cypherpunk”, which are a group of people “advocating widespread use of strong cryptography as a route to social and political change”.


Apparently anyone can become a Cypherfunk. If this is true, how do you monitor the quality of music so that it is kept at a high standard as it currently is?

Cream floats to the top. The music doesn’t also necessarily have to be brilliant. New songs can release creative juices (hearing different and unique melodies). Sharing, remixing, re-sampling, reproducing: all forms of musical cross-pollination is encouraged.




Would you say the music industry needs disruption from its current model?

I think musicians are definitely looking for new ways to do what they love doing: making music. If we look at the ways we have done this for past 100 years, it was to form “bands” with strictly defined “people” in them. That made the most sense to continue doing that. But, if you look back to medieval eras, you had minstrels wandering the lands singing stories about conquests. The music itself wasn’t owned by anyone. Minstrels freely used and re-used music to create fame for themselves. It’s only when we were able to capture music, did things change.


The web brings about so many new and interesting ways in which we can organize ourselves – just look at the whole open-source development space. It’s time we tried something new with music, and how we organize ourselves as musicians. It needs disruption to fit with changing times.


Given your experimentation, would you say art and technology need each other to co-exist?

It sounds cliché, but the cross-section between art & technology creates wonder. And one of humanity’s unique abilities is our ability to experience awe and wonder. Art and technology thus fit like bread and butter. Do they need each other to co-exist? Probably not, but I can bet a lot of the great technologies in the world inspired art and vice versa.


Musically, who is your inspiration?

Personally? I’m currently a big fan of electro-pop, chillwave and indie acts such as ‘Washed Out’, ‘The Dodos’, ‘Son Lux’ & ‘Portugal. The Man’. I do like my EDM as well, so that influence always finds it way in somehow. Basically, whatever music fits the scene of a warm sunset with whiskey and friends nearby. Sometimes that’s ‘Washed Out’ & sometimes that’s a nice tech house jam.


What is the ultimate goal of the Cypherfunks?

I would love for the community to grow to such an extent that one day the currency becomes so in demand that its value increases to sustain an individual (or individuals) within the group to take time off and just make music.


Noting that you’re speaking to a very creative audience, could you try explaining the process of how interested people can join the Cypherfunks?

If you are musician, you probably have loads of unfinished, experimental WIPs lying around. Finish one up, release it under the name “The Cypherfunks” and share it to the SoundCloud group here. It’s that simple.


If you are into cryptocurrencies and want to help with infrastructure such as development, mining and so forth, come hang out on the BitcoinTalk forums here. We are always looking for able hands to help with development. An Android wallet is also in the works. 


If you are a fan, just help share the music!


The Cypherfunks



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