Tell Me What You Know About Dreamin': The Future of Music NFTs

The hype around non fungible tokens in the last year has been a true spectacle to watch and observe and to try and make sense of, and i think we are only on the cusp of what it can really become, regardless of any bull market. The value, i believe, comes more so from the technology behind the projects and all of the potential use cases. This can probably be seen no better than in music, which has a structure and business model primed for disruption. It seems everyday the sentiment around the music industry continues to sour as people are seeing the ways in which artists of all different sizes and genres are astoundingly taken advantage of. The biggest artists in the world do not own their music, the up-and-coming artists can’t seem to escape bad deals, the relatively unknowns could never even dream of making a living off of 4/1000th’s of a cent per play, but, i mean, at least there’s a chance for that to change a little with Music NFTs.

A little bit about me: i am a sound designer, music producer, and barista(former)* (quit my job a couple weeks ago as step 1 in ??? or whatever I’m doing right now you know the jig). I’m 26, i’m a big wrestling fan, I’m 1/1 (😏) but also 1/7 in The Social Contract hip-hop and art collective, I’m learning to code, and music IS the world to me. I initially fell in love with music and its creation process, around 2010 when my step-brother first introduced me to two artists who would go on to not only become a couple of my all-time faves but would also have a very significant influence over my own musical identity in J Cole and Mac Miller. Hip-hop, Indie pop, emo, if you love talking music, you’ve come to the right corner of web3.

I would say i’ve been in the bitcoin and ‘crypto’ space for about a year now, collecting my first (extremely marginal lol) bitcoin in January 2021, but my deep dive into NFT’s and all of their potential didn’t really come into fruition until around October-ish. Everyday i’m still learning and figuring out what all there is to explore and it has been a wonderfully confusing experience. While at a point where i still definitely do not have the funds to be an avid participant, it’s nice to see and hear from others who have managed to find success because i know there is true, real value in so much of our work and up until these last few years it has been a challenge connecting artists and creators on the unprecedented levels we’re seeing right now. The galleries, marketplaces, and coffee shops where you can find incredible art pieces for $200 are now on your smartphone and i can see the same results happening in the Music NFT space. Most of my thoughts here are based on personal observations and the manner in which innovation and trends tend to run in the digital space (i.e. accelerating change, Moore’s law, etc.).

A quick s/o to some of my favorite artists and projects i’ve found in the music NFT space this week: Cristina Spinei, Holly Herndon (Holly+), and Harrison First.


So finally, a few predictions on the potential impact of the emergence of Music NFTs:

  • Music NFTs will be like owning a super rare vinyl, the more value a creator brings to their project and community, the more value will increase of that creator’s work overall
    • Currently irl vinyls already show that no matter how accessible music can be with streaming, there will always be a place for collecting
  • Artists moving further away from traditional streaming platforms or reassessing what type of material goes onto the DSP’s (i.e. Soundcloud is where rough demos and DJ mixes tend to strive whereas Spotify is utilized more for official, monetized releases).
    • Maybe the rise of a new type of streaming platform dedicated to playing collectors’ Music NFTs w/collector’s permission (Edit: thanks to @web3brett’s post on Music NFTs, i just came across Club BPM, a discord bot which streams work from Catalog and Futuretape by @fascinated which is a web-player that streams Catalog NFTs as well.)
    • NFT Radio (??), NFT DJ’s (???)
  • Continuing off of the above, i still ponder what fewer uploads to mainstream services will mean. Currently we have access to nearly any song ever at our fingertips, which was (and still is) an amazing feat even as the novelty has worn off and the inner workings of the music industry continue to worsen for artists abound. Streaming, in general didn’t really start to gain mainstream global adoption until ~2015 and it already feels like something has to change. Streaming was supposed to be the answer to pirating—and it was—for Universal, Sony, and Warner who control 80%+ of the entire market. Outside of the money, i simply do not feel like i have enough time to listen to everything and as of late, the sheer amount of choices have felt overwhelming to the point where i generally just kind of stick to the songs i know until something really catches my ear or there is a release that is highly, highly anticipated. In general, however, i’ve been much more interested and excited for the one-off, extra experimental sentiments the music nft space offers. NFTs have started to become a place for the most creative of artist to flourish because there is so much potential to make your music an entire experience and get the audience engaged like never before.
    • i haven’t done enough research on social tokens and still have difficulty wrapping my head around DAO’s (especially in music) but more on its potential use-case for artists can be read about in @water_and_music’s $STREAM Report.
  • Furthermore in their $STREAM series (a five part report which explores the current state of music NFT adoption), Water and Music offers a few potential ways for the Music NFT space to really take off as it continues to build. They suggest a connection between music projects and PFPs but i don’t see this as too practical which they noted as well. Instead, they contest the community aspect of the NFT itself will be more important with, “NFT ownership as a path to access and governance in a collection-specific DAO,” and then going onto list a few prominent music based DAO’s which i, again, still have to do more exploration into myself. W&M presents the question, “which parts of generative music NFTs owners will ultimately identify with more — the audio, the visual, the subsequent DAO or perhaps the artist themselves behind the project?” Most likely, different ‘markets’ will emerge where certain artists offer a specialty experience for their supporters. Some will be better at community, some will be better at visuals, etc. Few will be best at everything and artists and dev’s will continue working in tandem to further progress their follower’s experiences and perks.
  • Music NFTs will “slow down” music again. Over the years, the average song length has gotten shorter as our attention spans have also dwindled, but Music NFTs can bring back the feeling of walking into the cd store and buying that one $10 album and replaying it over and over because that’s all you could afford with your allowance money.
  • What is the true value of a music NFT? In general, I believe the artists’ community will ultimately determine the value of the work (which is probably one of those use cases for social tokens) but for the moment at least, how does anyone on the outside looking in determine “this is a reasonable investment” into this artist, especially with as many niche and indie artists there are in the space.
    • One thing i think mass adoption will do is bring down the overall top price of NFTs as the barriers to entry begin to fall and more and more artists and their communities begin to adopt the technology.
    • Sites like @soundxyz seem to have begun to set the standard, each release starts at the value of 0.1 eth, which at the time of this writing, 1 Ethereum has been consolidating between the 3.6k and 3.8k USD range. If you have not yet heard of, it has quickly become one of my favorite, and most exciting startups in the Music NFT space. Throughout the month of December, Sound partnered with 20 unique artists, releasing 25 limited edition NFTs of the record they were premiering. After adding the NFT to their collection, the buyer is then placed in the “audience” and is able to add a comment on the track and is further ranked by time of purchase. Being the very first of the first backers behind the artist and their song can accrue value in its own right. Furthermore, sound scheduled the timing of the releases to allow for a “listening party” to happen simultaneously on the platform’s discord and twitter spaces (which was not only an opportunity to watch as the NFT sells out almost always immediately, but to also be able to interact with and celebrate the featured artist). I can see a format like this being adopted and expanded upon by the masses.
  • Finally, i believe @ourZora is the NFT marketplace of the future. If you’re reading this, you’re kind of on it right now. Mirror is a wordpress style publishing site built and hosted on the Zora protocol, as well as @catalogworks which has also become one of my most watched platforms in the upcoming Music NFT space. Catalog is an open music library and auction house that feels a lot like browsing through an online record store. Going back to the point on value and general floor price for standards for music in web3, it seems a lot of individual records on the site are capping around the 0.5/0.6 ETH range. Just pressing play and listening to the Catalog library on shuffle is a wonderful experience, it’s amazing the vision for sound and quality that catalog’s curated in their initial crop of artists tapped to get their library started. I wonder, again, how things will change as they begin to open up to more artists, though they say that won’t be for a while.

Socials: Twitter -- Zora -- Audius

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