What Is the Creative Passport and How Does It Work?


You’ve probably listened to your favorite artists and songs across a range of streaming services. You may even have checked out their latest video on YouTube, listened to a playlist on Spotify, or used Amazon Music on your smart speaker. Each service needs to have up-to-date information on the performer or artist.

That’s not to mention keeping track of a multitude of social media accounts. However, there’s no universal way to update all of these. Inevitably, there’ll be a broken link, incorrect artist information, or out-of-date promotional materials on one or another platform.

The Creative Passport is an attempt to simplify the process for artists and provide a single location for their professional and background data. Let’s take a look at how it works.

What Is the Creative Passport?

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The Creative Passport is an online identity management platform for creatives, mainly geared towards musicians. The famed musician Imogen Heap initially conceived the concept before it was developed into a Mycelia project. Technological progress over the past two decades has meant that traditional gatekeepers to the music industry, like record companies and distributors, no longer exert the same influence. Consequently, it is easier than ever to record and release music onto a variety of online services.

However, this removal of traditional structures means that payments can get complex, and, sadly, many musicians do not get appropriately compensated for their work. Licensing and royalties have always been challenging, but the record label or management would typically take care of the detail while taking their percentage. That’s no longer always the case, especially for streaming media or online collaborative projects.

By creating a uniform, structured, and easily accessible database of artists, contact details, and output, the Creative Passport hopes to replace the formerly third-party-managed process and put it in the artist’s control instead. This is an essential aspect. It means the artist only needs to update their information in a single location rather than across multiple services, reducing the likelihood of mistakes or old data remaining in place.

How Does the Creative Passport Work?

Eric Whitacre's Creative Passport profile

The central feature of the Creative Passport is the artist profile. When signing up to the platform, you’re asked to fill in some background information, private details about yourself, and complete a public-facing profile. Most people’s first experience of the Creative Passport will be the public artist profile, as you don’t need to sign up to view them. For example, the composer Eric Whitacre has a comprehensive profile on the platform.

The profile features a short biography, geographic region, and similar artists. The Sounds Like selections are an important part of the Creative Passport. It’s hoped that these artist-selected acts and musicians will offer another way for people to discover other artists and music. There are also fields for genre, musical roles, musical positions, skills, and instruments played. Alongside this, the artist can also note the hardware and software they use to create music.

In this way, the profile is a mix between a Wikipedia-style background on the creative and a social networking site. The Creative Passport Map allows viewers to see where other artists are in the world, opening up collaboration potential. With that in mind, the development team is also working on an artist-to-artist messaging feature.

At present, this data is held on a centralized server, although there are plans to transition to a blockchain-based solution for identity management eventually. Currently, one of the most critical pieces of data is the musician’s identifier. Typically, there are three identifiers; ISNI for roles across the music industry, IPI for songwriters, and IPN and performers and producers. To get paid, you need to make sure your identifier is linked to your Creative Passport.

Notably, the Creative Passport is a free service. However, to use the platform, you do need to verify your identity. Primarily, this is done in partnership with the privacy-focused digital ID service, Yoti. The company verifies your identity based on government-issued documentation and then securely stores this verification in your account.

When requested, Yoti only confirms that you are who you say you are, rather than sharing all of your personal information with a third-party. Thanks to this unique set up, Yoti is one of the most exciting password alternatives currently in development.

The Future of the Creative Passport

Creative Passport Map screenshot

In the immediate term, the Creative Passport should be a viable way for artists to ensure they are appropriately compensated for their work. In a digital world where you can increasingly be self-reliant, administrative activities can be complex and time-consuming. As more services integrate with the Creative Passport, it’ll become an essential tool for musicians globally.

However, that is a significant dependency for the project. While the profile is undoubtedly an attractive and convenient way to keep your information up to date, if third parties don’t also buy into the vision, it’ll remain a knowledge-focused site rather than a practical one. Although businesses don’t always act in their long-term interests, streaming platforms like Spotify may want to take note.

As one of the largest music streaming platforms, Spotify has been increasingly under pressure to compensate artists fairly, particularly smaller or lesser-known ones. Globally recognizable names like Drake, Rhianna, or Ed Sheeran accumulate billions of streams on the platform, and so the payments to these artists are sizeable.

But for a new act or one with a smaller following, even achieving one million streams may pay out as little as $8,000. For it’s part, Spotify is starting to acknowledge the issue. In March 2021, the streaming service launched the Loud & Clear site to increase transparency about payments.

The Creative Passport is an artist-first platform designed for and by creatives. By integrating with the service, Spotify, and similar streaming providers, may be able to undo some of this hostility by showing an active interest in the livelihoods of the artists they profit from. The end result is that the brand gets some positive publicity and improves its relationship with artists, particularly independents, while the artists gain more control over their careers.

Managing Your Online Identity

In principle, the Creative Passport is an artist-friendly vision for the future of online identity. The platform was in development for almost five years before reaching the beta stage, so it has been through multiple iterations to ensure it’s as valuable as possible. Given the information on offer, it may even be an additional resource for music fans looking to learn more about their favorite musicians or even discover new artists.

Much of this potential relies on getting other services onboard. Although Imogen Heap has been instrumental to the platform’s development, her credibility and notability should also help convince third-parties of the Creative Passport’s capability. In this version of the future, it may not be so hard to calculate how much money Spotify should pay artists.

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