Trying to understand cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) can be annoying AF, but the amount of cash being made and spent in the crypto space can’t be ignored. Artists and musicians have been independently making millions of dollars by selling digital versions of their art, music, video clips, photos and pretty much any other kind of digital media they can think to throw up on the blockchain.
In February, DJ and music producer 3LAU made $11.6 million selling music NFTs in only 24 hours. Just a few days later, Canadian musician Grimes made $5.8 million in 20 minutes. DJ Steve Aoki made $4.2 million in the first week of March, while Post Malone auctioned off an NFT to play beer bong against him. Those types of paydays might've normally taken the artists years to collect, but NFTs have created a new model for artists to reach consumers by avoiding middlemen in distribution.
In the music world, an NFT could be defined as a rare collectible that is stored on a digital ledger. Artists and musicians can create NFTs themselves to auction off various forms of digital media to their fans who pay using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and others. They could add multiple buyers to the NFT or make it so there is only one owner. The artist can also receive royalties every time a buyer of that digital copy sells it to somebody else. This puts a lot of power back in the hands of artists who now have another way to monetize their art or other forms of digital merchandise.
NFTs could have a huge effect on streaming platforms that simply don’t earn artists enough. We could see an era when artists are able to do business directly with music retailers and sell their NFTs like they used to with self-produced CDs. Keite Young from Medicine Man Revival says this is just the start of cryptocurrency and the concept of blockchain technology being utilized in the creative space.
Young says he plans to release an NFT in the next 90 days, in a series called End of the Tunnel.
“It’s a performance series that is curated into an installation,” Young says. “It happens at different venues and it’s not open to the public.”
Fans will be able to purchase a digital copy of the installation as an NFT. (The digital works sold as NFTs can still be copied and shared themselves, but ownership of a token is unique. Think of it as something like a copy of a popular book autographed by the author; there are lots of copies of the book and more can easily be made, but the NFT version is one of kind.)
Young says his company Culture Factory has been working to help others build their own NFT platforms. Young says Culture Factory wants to be "the concierge" to the web 3.0 experience. He says he has the time, skillset and knowledge to engage the NFT community and develop product-to-market strategies consistent with the values of the community.
“NFTs will give artists another outlet to create exclusive content for fans in a more artistic fashion. In the future we’ll see the value of songs appreciate, like Basquiat paintings.” – Dallas rapper Rakim-Al Jabbaar
John Patillo, CEO of Southwest Digital, a Houston-based music distribution company, says they will add an NFT component onto their platform. He raises the point that artists such as Snoop Dogg and Post Malone sell 6 to 7 figures in digital assets and believes that artists in the Southern hip-hop market can see similar financial success.
“We are treating our distribution layout almost like a Walmart or Amazon in a digital space,” Patillo says. “For example, we have NFTs coming from Nipsey Hussle, DJ Screw and NFTs from some of the iconic guys here in the South. And not only are we going to let them live on our NFT platform or collectible storefront but we also are going to create these NFT collectible galleries.”
This will be a physical place where fans could go see the digital assets, leading up to the final countdown of the auction. Patillo says his company educates artists on how they can navigate this new digital space of crypto currency, NFTs and blockchain technology.
Every artist isn’t going to make $5 million in 20 minutes, but independent artists could find creative ways to use NFTs to connect more directly with fans and drive their careers forward. All it takes is one super-fan to completely change an artist’s situation. If somebody feels like digital ownership of your next project or backstage experience is worth 20 to 50 thousand dollars, then let them buy it. Instead of just posting it on YouTube or Spotify for a percentage of what the artist might think their work is worth, they could see a sizeable payday as people find greater value in digital assets.
As the NFT wave gains momentum, we will see more creative ways artists for artists to capitalize on NFTs.
Dallas rapper Rakim-Al Jabbaar says NFTs will change the rap game forever and he is working on a special NFT release with his upcoming album.
“NFTs will give artists another outlet to create exclusive content for fans in a more artistic fashion,” Al-Jabbaar says. “In the future we’ll see the value of songs appreciate, like Basquiat paintings.”