Listen-to-earn business model

Under the traditional listen-to-earn system, websites incentivize users to listen to music and leave artist reviews. The amount of income a user earns varies from one platform to the next. In general, however, income depends on the length and quality of the reviews and how many hours are spent listening to music. 

Understanding listen-to-earn

Listen-to-earn is a system where users earn rewards by listening to music and writing reviews.

Listen-to-earn platforms that reward users with cryptocurrency have also become more popular in recent times.

With most concerts canceled because of the pandemic, musicians have been forced to find another way to reach their fans and earn a living.

Platforms based on cryptocurrency tend to be more complex and diverse in function than the traditional model outlined above.

Some platforms foster intimate relationships between artists and fans to crowdfund new projects, while others focus on the social media or streaming aspect of listen-to-earn.

In the next section, we’ll take a more detailed look at this exciting and emerging industry.

Listen-to-earn platforms


Fountain is a podcast streaming app where users can earn bitcoin while listening to their favorite content.

Users can also be compensated for listening to advertisements and sharing audio clips with family and friends.

Fountain is one of several companies that believe users should be compensated for their time.

According to CEO Oscar Merry:

The time and attention we give to tech platforms is incredibly valuable. Every minute that you spend consuming content, creating content, or viewing ads, increases the value of the platform you’re using. Most free apps we use every day don’t recognise or reward this – but Fountain is different.


Bitradio is a community-centric radio platform featuring more than 119,000 stations.

Listeners are rewarded with Bitradiocoins which can then be exchanged for bitcoin. Alternatively, they can hold their bitcoins and own a share of the company’s websites and services.

Bitradio also offers an ad-free premium product where listeners can earn 20% more reward points and support the continued development of the platform.


Current is similar to Bitradio in that users listen to curated radio stations to earn reward points.

However, points are rewarded based on the completion of daily tasks such as filling out one’s user profile or listening to 30 minutes of music.

Current also employs aspects of gamification with bonus points awarded if the user maintains a daily streak of check-ins.

Points can be spent on in-app features, gift cards, electronics, other physical products, and charitable donations.


Audius is a platform that connects artists with their fans in a familiar music interface.

Importantly, musicians can create timestamped and immutable records of their tracks that are secured by a decentralized network of node operators.

Audius is a listen-to-earn platform for artists that allows them to build a fanbase, share behind-the-scenes content, run contests, and publish music without having to sign a record deal.

The native platform token $AUDIO can be used to unlock premium features such as gated content and custom badges. What’s more, artists can stake tokens to run discovery or content nodes that enhance platform visibility and earn them a share of network fees.

Is learn-to-listen a viable business model?

Blockchain technologies offer the ability to provide built-in incentives into the platform, with the potential to align the two sides of the platform.

In short, the main promise, is the fact that the community can become a built-in force, into the product, which works, as a primary advocate for the platform.

According to this thesis, a decentralized platform can scale more easily, and reduce the costs associated with marketing and distribution (which are usually the most expensive components for centralized platform business models).

However, it’s worth pointing out a few counterpoints to this view.

Winner take all

In domains like arts and music, it doesn’t matter how decentralized might be the technology underneath.

It’s a domain where winners take all. In short, it’s driven by power laws, where very few artists take most of the profits of the industry.

However, if a blockchain-based business model can help a larger number of artists to make a career with a very small audience, this is where things get interesting.

In short, if an artist can leverage the listen-to-earn business model to make a career with a tiny audience (like 100-1000 fans), things become interesting.

If the blockchain becomes another place, where a few artists take it all, then, it’s just like Web2.

In other words, building solid unit economics which makes sense for many artists isn’t an easy fit.

And while the promise is that of decentralization and re-distribution of wealth among artists, it’s not easy to achieve.

Speculation and borderline Ponzi schemes

Where the built-in economic incentives are the strength of blockchain-based business models.

In periods of market expansions, where interest rates are low, and investors take massive risks, it becomes hard to separate speculation from the real product value.

Take the case of a token, for a decentralized platform, which rises in value, simply based on speculation, because there is no underlying activity on the platform.

In that case, it’s important to look at the core metrics of the platform.

Risk of centralization

Even if the blockchain underlies these platforms, in reality, the blockchain can be used only for certain parts of the platform.

And even there, there are initial incentives to distribute most of the ownership of tokens to a few, core people, working on the project.

If this situation stays the same over time, then there is not much difference between the traditional venture capital model and a blockchain-based one.

Key takeaways:

  • Listen-to-earn is a system where users earn rewards by listening to music and writing reviews. Platforms based on cryptocurrency rewards tend to be more complex and diverse in function.
  • Fountain was one of many platforms to be developed in response to tech and social media sites that profit from their users and provide little in return. Bitradio and Current are two listen-to-earn platforms that reward users for listening to curated radio stations and podcasts.
  • Audius is a listen-to-earn platform built for artists who can build a fanbase, share behind-the-scenes content, run contests, and publish music without a record deal. The native token $AUDIO also facilitates network security, access to exclusive features, and community-owned governance.

Read Next: Play-to-earn, move-to-earn.

Connected Business Concepts

Blockchain Economics

According to Joel Monegro, a former analyst at USV (a venture capital firm) the blockchain implies value creation in its protocols. Where the web has allowed the value to be captured at the applications layer (take Facebook, Twitter, Google, and many others). In a Blockchain Economy, this value might be captured by the protocols at the base of the blockchain (for instance Bitcoin and Ethereum). However, according to blockchain investor Paivinen due to ease of forking, incentives to compete and improved interoperability and interchangeability also in a blockchain-based economy, protocols might get thinner. Although the marginal value of scale might be lower compared to a web-based economy, where massive scale created an economic advantage. The success of the Blockchain will depend on its commercial viability!

Proof of Stake

A Proof of Stake (PoS) is a form of consensus algorithm used to achieve agreement across a distributed network. As such it is, together with Proof of Work, among the key consensus algorithms for Blockchain protocols (like the Ethereum’s Casper protocol). Proof of Stake has the advantage of security, reduced risk of centralization, and energy efficiency.

Proof of Work

A Proof of Work is a form of consensus algorithm used to achieve agreement across a distributed network. In a Proof of Work, miners compete to complete transactions on the network, by commuting hard mathematical problems (i.e. hashes functions) and as a result they get rewarded in coins.

Blockchain Business Models

A Blockchain Business Model according to the FourWeekMBA framework is made of four main components: Value Model (Core Philosophy, Core Values and Value Propositions for the key stakeholders), Blockchain Model (Protocol Rules, Network Shape and Applications Layer/Ecosystem), Distribution Model (the key channels amplifying the protocol and its communities), and the Economic Model (the dynamics/incentives through which protocol players make money). Those elements coming together can serve as the basis to build and analyze a solid Blockchain Business Model.

Ethereum Blockchain

Ethereum was launched in 2015 with its cryptocurrency, Ether, as an open-source, blockchain-based, decentralized platform software. Smart contracts are enabled, and Distributed Applications (dApps) get built without downtime or third-party disturbance. It also helps developers build and publish applications as it is also a programming language running on a blockchain.

Graph Token

The Graph is an ERC20 Utility Token (built on top of Ethereum) to enable consumers to freely query the blockchain through a fully decentralized database kept by indexers, incentivized by the payment of tokens (called GRT). The network is also ministered by curators and delegators that help maintain a high-quality index.


Uniswap is a renowned decentralized crypto exchange created in 2018 and based on the Ethereum blockchain, to provide liquidity to the system. As a cryptocurrency exchange technology that operates on a decentralized basis. The Uniswap protocol inherited its namesake from the business that created it — Uniswap. Through smart contracts, the Uniswap protocol automates transactions between cryptocurrency tokens on the Ethereum blockchain.


In essence, Polkadot is a cryptocurrency project created as an effort to transform and power a decentralized internet, Web 3.0, in the future. Polkadot is a decentralized platform, which makes it interoperable with other blockchains.


Solana is a blockchain network with a focus on high performance and rapid transactions. To boost speed, it employs a one-of-a-kind approach to transaction sequencing. Users can use SOL, the network’s native cryptocurrency, to cover transaction costs and engage with smart contracts.

Read Next: Proof-of-stakeProof-of-workBitcoinEthereumBlockchain.

Connected Business Model Types

Asymmetric Business Models

In an asymmetric business model, the organization doesn’t monetize the user directly, but it leverages the data users provide coupled with technology, thus have a key customer pay to sustain the core asset. For example, Google makes money by leveraging users’ data, combined with its algorithms sold to advertisers for visibility.

Attention Merchant Business Model

In an asymmetric business model, the organization doesn’t monetize the user directly, but it leverages the data users provide coupled with technology, thus having a key customer pay to sustain the core asset. For example, Google makes money by leveraging users’ data, combined with its algorithms sold to advertisers for visibility. This is how attention merchants make monetize their business models.

Marketplace Business Models

A marketplace is a platform where buyers and sellers interact and transact. The platform acts as a marketplace that will generate revenues in fees from one or all the parties involved in the transaction. Usually, marketplaces can be classified in several ways, like those selling services vs. products or those connecting buyers and sellers at B2B, B2C, or C2C level. And those marketplaces connecting two core players, or more.

Wholesale Business Model

The wholesale model is a selling model where wholesalers sell their products in bulk to a retailer at a discounted price. The retailer then on-sells the products to consumers at a higher price. In the wholesale model, a wholesaler sells products in bulk to retail outlets for onward sale. Occasionally, the wholesaler sells direct to the consumer, with supermarket giant Costco the most obvious example.

Retail Business Model

A retail business model follows a direct-to-consumer approach, also called B2C, where the company sells directly to final customers a processed/finished product. This implies a business model that is mostly local-based, it carries higher margins, but also higher costs and distribution risks.


A B2B2C is a particular kind of business model where a company, rather than accessing the consumer market directly, it does that via another business. Yet the final consumers will recognize the brand or the service provided by the B2B2C. The company offering the service might gain direct access to consumers over time.

Crowdsourcing Business Model

The term “crowdsourcing” was first coined by Wired Magazine editor Jeff Howe in a 2006 article titled Rise of Crowdsourcing. Though the practice has existed in some form or another for centuries, it rose to prominence when eCommerce, social media, and smartphone culture began to emerge. Crowdsourcing is the act of obtaining knowledge, goods, services, or opinions from a group of people. These people submit information via social media, smartphone apps, or dedicated crowdsourcing platforms.

Open-Core Business Model

While the term has been coined by Andrew Lampitt, open-core is an evolution of open-source. Where a core part of the software/platform is offered for free, while on top of it are built premium features or add-ons, which get monetized by the corporation who developed the software/platform. An example of the GitLab open core model, where the hosted service is free and open, while the software is closed.

Open Source vs. Freemium

Open source is licensed and usually developed and maintained by a community of independent developers. While the freemium is developed in-house. Thus the freemium give the company that developed it, full control over its distribution. In an open-source model, the for-profit company has to distribute its premium version per its open-source licensing model.

Freemium Business Model

The freemium – unless the whole organization is aligned around it – is a growth strategy rather than a business model. A free service is provided to a majority of users, while a small percentage of those users convert into paying customers through the sales funnel. Free users will help spread the brand through word of mouth.

Freeterprise Business Model

A freeterprise is a combination of free and enterprise where free professional accounts are driven into the funnel through the free product. As the opportunity is identified the company assigns the free account to a salesperson within the organization (inside sales or fields sales) to convert that into a B2B/enterprise account.

Franchising Business Model

In a franchained business model (a short-term chain, long-term franchise) model, the company deliberately launched its operations by keeping tight ownership on the main assets, while those are established, thus choosing a chain model. Once operations are running and established, the company divests its ownership and opts instead for a franchising model.

Main Free Guides:

business model">

About The Author

Scroll to Top