The Music Industry and NFTs

Pat Lewis
4 min readApr 26, 2021

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Where Are We Headed?

Are NFTs the future of the music industry?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock these past few months you’ve likely already heard about NFTs. Short for ‘Non-Fungible Tokens’, they are a one of a kind piece of digital artwork or collectible that can be bought, traded and sold online using a crypto-currency like Bitcoin or Ethereum.

Entrepreneur and social media mogul Gary Vaynerchuck recently compared the explosion of NFT sales to the Dot-Com boom, even claiming them to be the future for the next generation of sports fans and collectors. He should hope so: Vaynerchuck recently invested big money into Sorare, a platform providing digital soccer collectibles in collaboration with some of the biggest teams in the world. Topps, one of the largest trading card manufacturers in the world, has also been quick to move into the NFT space. Topps has been turning profits by digitising their baseball and basketball cards; selling them in packs for enthusiasts and collectors who are after a rare, digital card of Kobe Bryant or Steph Curry. Graphic designers and visual artists are also making big money turning their artworks into NFT’s, most notably in Beeple, who sold an NFT for just shy of $70 million dollars.

Yes, you read that right: $70 million dollars.

With big money to be made, it’s no surprise that the music industry is taking notice, with Kings of Leon announcing they would be releasing the worlds first album as an NFT back in March 2021, subsequently opening the door to musicians across the globe. The forward thinking band from the South also released a handful of other NFTs like digital cover art and others that could be redeemed for future concert tickets.

“But why?! What’s the point of this?”

Well a few reasons. Firstly: Money.

But not only is there huge money to be made, musicians are using this new technology as a valuable community and engagement builder for their fanbase. In December 2020, Deadmau5 released a special line of NFTs, limited edition pieces of art inspired by the iconography of his live performances and the Deadmau5 helmet. The artworks were packaged up into digital boxes and sold in groups of ten for $10–$30 a box. Not surprisingly, all these boxes and the thousands of digital artworks within sold out, now being admired inside the digital wallets of die hard Deadmau5 fans, or being swapped and sold in NFT marketplaces across the globe — some of the rarer items being resold for over $11,000. The frenzied trading within the Deadmau5 community and others like it benefits all participants in several ways.

Deadmau5 NFTs released on Wax.io Made by RAREZ.

Firstly, there’s the initial sale of the artworks, turning a profit for the artist who might decide to release NFTs for a few different reasons. They can be used to promote an upcoming album or tour. Some may simply use it as a tool to keep their fans engaged during a down period between releases. Then there’s the community engagement and reward to the super fans who discuss, swap and sell these digital pieces of art between one another. These resale markets actually stand to benefit the artist as well, who take a percentage from every resale for the lifetime of that NFT. That $11,000 resale I mentioned? Deadmau5 got a percentage of that money too.

Tech savvy musicians looking to capitalise on this new technological trend are using NFTs to offer their fans unique, real world experiences and items. Some might give away free concert tickets to anyone with a rare NFT in their collection, while others NFTs can be redeemed for a meet and greet with the artist or front row seats to a live show. It is up to the artist to determine what best suits their audience and create something around that.

The future of NFTs within the music industry, however, is uncertain. How they become a permanent fixture of the scene isn’t as clearly laid out for the music industry as it is for others. When it comes to sports fans and collectors for example, the integration of NFTs into the landscape is already clearly laid out in front of them: digital cards are traded much in the same way that physical cards have been for decades, but for the music industry it could well be a different path. Musicians and their fans may well find that collectible trading cards are not really part of the culture and could choose to pivot to something better suited for the industry: limited copies of a piece of music or other exclusive digital pieces of content. Maybe it’s a one off recordings of a performance or demo? Whatever it is, I suspect the full capacity of the NFT has yet to be reached yet within the music industry.

Where fortune favours the brave, creativity will favour the musician.

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