It's unclear whether or not this development can lead to a legitimate revenue stream but it's quite interesting in the short term and certainly opens up the possibility of a bit of media attention for early adopters in the music world.
Given that currency can be considered an agreement between parties to accept symbolic items whose production is controlled by collective entities called governments, one can accept Bitcoin as a currency whose production is controlled by software and a collectively maintained public ledger. Here's a bit more explanation from The Rise and Fall of Bitcoin:
Bitcoin's economy consists of a network of its users' computers. At preset intervals, an algorithm releases new bitcoins into the network: 50 every 10 minutes, with the pace halving in increments until around 2140...To prevent fraud, the bitcoin software maintains a pseudonymous public ledger of every transaction...Once users download the bitcoin app to their machine, spending the currency is as easy as sending an email. The range of merchants that accept it is small but growing...entrepreneurial bitcoiners are working to make it much easier to use the currency, building everything from point-of-service machines to PayPal alternatives."
What is Bitcoin?
I highly recommend the above linked article from Wired to get a sense of what Bitcoin is about in the context of its history. However, it doesn't chart the end of Bitcoin but rather its beginning. For one brief update, check out what financial traders are starting to do with Bitcoin. Additional resources include We Use Coins and Bitcoin.org which explains:
Bitcoin is an experimental new digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority: managing transactions and issuing money are carried out collectively by the network. Bitcoin is also the name of the open source software which enables the use of this currency."
It will probably still seem a bit sketchy, even if you watch the cheery video above, but Bitcoin advocates and opportunists continue to build out the ecosystem and one of the newest elements is CoinDL. CoinDL is a service to sell digital downloads. They offer pretty much anything that can be downloaded but are currently featuring music.
As you can see from the site, there's not much yet on offer but the service itself is already getting attention from Betabeat:
CoinDL was created by David Sterry, who formerly operated the Bitcoin exchange ExchB. ExchB closed in October as it faced increasing resistance from banks...Mr. Sterry sees CoinDL as a potential solution for independent artists to sell their stuff online. CoinDL charges sellers a flat rate of 20 percent. The site launched with songs, a ringtone, a few wallpapers and a video, mostly Bitcoin-themed. But Mr. Sterry is hoping to add more music, ebooks, podcasts and photos."
Right now, if you've got a solid web presence and some music that people will actually like as opposed to tolerate cause they're your friends, you can probably leverage a presence on Bitcoin for some quick publicity. The nice thing about moving now is that any coming collapse of Bitcoin is probably far enough off in the future that you could reap some promo benefits and quickly exchange your Bitcoin for some other imaginary form of currency with the added benefit of government backing.
Given that it's easy to do and that people are giving away music these days, what do you have to lose?
More: coinDL: The iTunes of The Bitcoin World?