eMerge Americas

Pitbull is turning to blockchain in hopes of saving the music industry

Kevin Mazur | Getty Images for The Apollo

It's going down, and this time he's not yelling "timber." On Tuesday three-time Grammy award-winning artist and serial entrepreneur Armando "Pitbull" Perez announced the launch of his latest venture, an international blockchain coding competition aimed at disrupting the current state of the music industry.

Smackathon, a name derived from the popular computer programming event hackathon, will allow participants from around the world to use Ethereum — a decentralized platform powered by blockchain technology on which developers build applications — as they look for innovative ideas to take on music's biggest challenges, ranging from artist royalty agreements to curated playlists.

Pitbull's producing the event alongside the eMerge Americas conference, an annual two-day tech conference in Miami Beach aimed at connecting North America, Latin America and Europe.

"I've always wanted to integrate a music component into eMerge," says eMerge Americas executive vice president Melissa Medina. "Having [Pitbull] as a partner in this project, I really think this is going to be something big and special."

Known as Mr. 305, Pitbull is no stranger to Miami Beach and the conference attendees, having delivered a keynote address each year since its inception in 2014.

The competition is simple: Entrants will have one month — from April 24 to May 25 — to develop a blockchain-based solution using Zeppelin's open-source smart contract platform. The ideas will be judged and narrowed down to a group of finalists who will be flown to Miami to pitch their solution to Pitbull in a Shark Tank–like finale.

"I've had a lot of conversations with [Pitbull], and he has a lot of frustrations," says Medina. "He's Mr. Worldwide, he's wildly successful, but he's thinking about the artists of the future and the roadblocks they hit."

There's no specific criteria for entrants; all they need to do is prove they can come up with an idea so big it can disrupt one of the largest entertainment industry sectors.

[Pitbull] has a lot of frustrations. He's Mr. Worldwide, he's wildly successful, but he's thinking about the artists of the future and the roadblocks they hit.
Melissa Medina
eMerge Americas executive vice president

Submissions will be evaluated on a set of extensive criteria, including originality, usefulness, comprehensiveness, design and technology. Bonus points will be given to developers who utilize the OpenZeppelin platform, which is the namesake platform of Zeppelin, the technical and back-end support partner of the Smackathon.

"At Zeppelin we try and make it easy and secure for any developer or individual to participate," says Zeppelin founder and CEO Demian Brener. "Doing Smackathon and leveraging Pitbull's brand is a great way to push our goals even farther forward."

Pitbull tweet

Judged by a panel of four judges, including Pitbull himself, the winning team will take home $6,000. If Pitbull really likes an idea, he's planning to open his checkbook on the spot and make an investment to help fund the further development of the project. Zeppelin, eMerge Americas and Medina Capital — founded by eMerge Americas creator Manny Medina — are also planning to invest in the best ideas.

"We're not only looking to invest, but we're interested in helping bring the ideas to market, grow them and make them a reality, if possible," says Medina.

So swing your ideas round and round. At the end of the Smackathon, it's going down.