Music NFTs

FarCon Sub-topics

I was surprised by how many conversations I got into at FarCon about Music NFTs.  While the world generates exquisite Midjourney imagery, I was relieved to discover that I am not alone in possessing songs, not images, as the dominant NFT type in my wallet.  But all my conversations got down to the root of the issue — what are we missing about the bigger picture that puts off musicians from dropping their tracks on-chain?

One interesting perspective was that musicians are convinced that free & massive distribution is the only path to success.  The end goal, whether defined on the basis of popularity as Spotify listens, wealth from live tours[1], or stability from signing onto labels, mandates that I release my music into the internet ether.  Stealth mode is not an option.

For what it is worth, this is an incredibly valid opinion.  @noahpinion on Twitter has a lovely Substack[2] ascribing the value generated from the Internet to an elimination of distribution costs.  You do not contact a third-party to add your Logic or FL Studio file to a CD and bulk produce — you upload it and voilà!  I personally have a ton of self-produced music squatting on my laptop, that only my close friends have had the (dis)pleasure of listening to.  It’s doing nothing to my chances of making it as a musician, and won’t unless I publish. 

The best strategy for musicians today is to build a dedicated following first, and the best way to do that is to become an influencer.  Instead of solely focusing on music production or guitar licks, cultivate a fanbase in your specific genre on TikTok — maybe live-streaming your music education is your TikTok genre. Once you feel ready, you can share your final product with your community, and they will naturally spread the word, share the track online, and let the network effect do its job.

If you restrict your first ever release, how would this same community react?  They might have some hang-ups about the conversation, “Hey, here’s this track — you need a wallet, and a recovery phrase — better get MetaMask. It’s like $5 but comes to $25 bc of...high transaction costs on Ethereum”. 

In this context, how is a Music NFT helpful? Wallet onboarding UX aside, why would artists gate the object that they spent hours working on, only to hamper, their desired end result?

  • NFTs as vinyl.  I do not think I can do a better job of explaining this than @mattlee: check it out here.  TL;DR — people like the connection to a real artist that comes through ownership of an object, and NFTs are not exclusive to people that own record players. 

  • NFTs as exclusive content.  The track you spent hours making — go ahead & distribute it for free.  But what about the effort you put in to create it?  Why does Pink Floyd continue to release previously withheld recordings & alternate takes on special edition box sets[3]?  Do you have alternate takes?  Rejected tracks?  Versions you thought were too opulent?  Too sparse?  Handwritten lyric sheets?  Initial concepts as sketches?  Maybe that’s something, only a super fan deserves. 

  • NFTs as bootstraps to free distribution.  Ok, so you dropped an NFT for someone to collect.  How did that improve your Spotify listens?  Did it move the needle on streaming?  Suppose it does, how can you share my success with  those listeners who who directly supported you?  Front-row passes to your next show?  Permission to use your track in their project?  Maybe even a 1:1 coffee chat?

Note that these ideas do not necessarily operate in silos.  Purchasers of your track that helped me gain traction on traditional distribution channels could obtain exclusive content.  Other fans could browse their record collections, and even purchase some tracks from them if they choose to do so.   

Suffice it to say, across all my conversations, there was no alignment on the best solution, but a spectrum of many possible futures.  I personally tend to agree with Matt, that a Record Room, that beautifully showcases all the Music NFTs you have purchased — a fundamentally different indication of value than listens, likes, playlist inclusions — represents a new web3 native approach to music discovery. 

Anybody know any designers?

[1] - It's absolutely fascinating that live touring remains to this day the most profitable avenue for musicians. One heuristic is that releasing albums are like ads for touring, since that is the real cash cow

[2] - web3 better not be transaction cost hell

[3] - I am a huge Pink Floyd nut, and this is the 50th year of Dark Side of the Moon, commemorated in this incredible 2023 remaster