We are in a moment where more artists than ever before experimenting with distribution technologies at the same time, and I really believe we need to be documenting the details for the future. We all have our own reasons and our own paths, and I’m happy to share mine with you. At the start of every release for me lies a story, a story in the music. It is in the music that I find the seed for all my ideas that I build, whether that is the artwork, the visuals, social media content or, as I have got deeper in to using web3 tools, the way I distribute. I start by saying this because music is the centre of everything for me, and staying true to this has always kept me on the right path… there are no short cuts working this way, but I know I can look back on my decisions without regret.
So, I start this story with ‘No One knows Me Like You’ ft Scott Quinn. Ever since my first encounter with Web3 I’ve been interested in the idea of the life of a song on chain. The current streaming economy and web3 encourages artists to keep throwing out music. I love the freedom to do this, but I also want the total opposite freedom. We create these pieces of our lives that we pour our hearts into and often labour over. These deserve more time and more value. So, I wanted to draw from how I had released music in the past and experiment with the life of a song on chain and how to extend it. The idea would be to have the main version, an acoustic version and then the remixes. The latter of which land on the 11th of November.
The initial release was Scott’s first time releasing his music on the blockchain and it sold out in 10 mins. The drop Spaces felt like a special moment for both of us. As soon as it was over I knew I wanted to think of ways to continue the experiment around this song and connect this moment to its release on DSPs. I knew the best way to get Scott excited about experimenting more was the pull from the emotion and sentiment of the song… so we started with the words he wrote about the song’s meaning:
“Love is a mirror, whether platonic or romantic. It’s this aspect of intimacy that a lot of us find so daunting; the idea that someone could ever accept us for who we REALLY are. Warts and all. This song explores that journey of doubt, vulnerability and ultimately the quest for acceptance…not from our partners but from ourselves.”
We talked on a call with both of our teams where one of us raised the idea to build on an idea Scott had previously experimented with: where his fans submitted phone videos that were then used to create his music video. This started the conversation of how to pull from both of our worlds to form one idea, and bring listeners into the experience of releasing music as an NFT. The key here was creating something listeners could be a part of, so they could experience and better understand why releasing in NFT format has become so important to me.
The idea in its first form was to combine a pre-save activation for when the main version of the song went live on DSPs with a communal NFT drop. We wanted to offer listeners who pre-saved the song the opportunity to contribute to the artwork of the NFT by submitting a photo. In return their photo would be embedded in the NFT artwork for the song and they’d also get a split in the contract. The aim was to get listeners to submit a photo that tied into the concept of the song - to form a collage of personal and intimate photos of yourself or something that is important to you.
How and why people share things is important. I didn’t just want to create a free flyer that people would collect for no reason and would never look at again. I also didn’t just want people to collect. Instead, I wanted them to care and their friends to collect one as well. This, however, was just the first piece of the puzzle. Now that the music was ready and Scott was on board, there were 2 more pieces to bring together. Both had a similar impact to how this worked out. There was my collector group and the choice of platform.
My collectors have come together as a community. Within this group I’ve been very lucky to have a core team, or squad (as my friend Maarten refers to it), that have become not just a sounding board but an extension of my project. It has given me somewhere to bounce ideas, but also I hope a more rewarding way for them to contribute to and thus care more deeply about my own journey as an artist. When I explained the NFT idea excitedly late one night (as are all my calls due to being in the UK), the feedback I received was “why are you doing this, what is your aim?”. At the time I was most interested in how to engage people who don’t own a wallet, so the feedback was “why have so much friction in the process?” If I wanted to engage as many people as I could then I needed strip it back and make it as fun and simple as possible. So I did, and this is how I arrived at the final concept. The simplicity of a way to engage fans in an activation but also in the NFT itself ... not just a free mint but a free mint that allows you to be in the NFT. The nudge from my collectors to keep it simple and fun meant that the free mint created the ‘stickiness’ we all look for. It led people to share about it, because they cared about it, because they were actually involved in it.
The final piece, then, was the platform, Sound.xyz. At the time there was a tried and tested approach to drops but this had started to expand and develop. I approached them about the idea and explained that the drop could only work for me if there could be as many editions as possible. My thinking behind this was that the whole thing would be a failure in my mind if someone submitted a photo and then could not collect. The concept of the drop mattered. I didn’t just ask to extend the way that Sound.xyz usually work, but I asked them to help make the story come together. The team gave me the flexibility to do what I needed to do and we could move forward.
We ended up with a free mint, open for 72 hours with 500 editions. At this point I thought this would be more than enough. The culture around Sound as a platform played its part in many ways. Specifically, one thing I noticed was that a lot of musicians around me who had never collected on the platform before showed interest. As such, it became part of the narrative for me to get as many new people a Sound NFT as possible. it was genuine for me that I wanted people to experience collecting in a space that is often expensive to get into or to simply collect the high profile the drops in time. This subsequently became part of the virality of the free mint. It was like we all banded together to give the people around us a taste of what we were doing and a way to participate in the collector culture around Sound.
Since my first ever mint I have thought a lot about how we reach out beyond our circles and communities to reach new collectors and listeners. I had hoped that this idea would expand my world and introduce my music to new people. but I never expected it to go as fast and big as it did. I had hopes that the combination of all the elements would connect with people but I would have been very happy with 100 collects.
The co-ordination of the drop started with me building a custom webpage for the photo submissions and pre-save activation. This went live 2 weeks after the initial mint of the main version and 2 weeks before it went to DSPs with the collaborative NFT being minted on its day of release. Scott and I set about creating an acoustic version of the song because I wanted to make sure it would be a music NFT that people would treasure on its own. Meanwhile, we also worked on the submission page. Looking back, it’s amazing how much work needed to be done, even the language used on the submission page took several back and forths to get right as we thought our main audience would not be web3 natives. By the time we reached the drop date we had 84 photo submissions, and I set about creating the artwork which would be a montage built from all the photos.
How we talk about our ideas is key and while writing this I’m reminded how grateful I am for my community for helping me find the way to put such a tangled web of ideas into succinct and easy to understand words. One of the most useful of these was CXY’s description of the NFT of a “giant group selfie with everyone around your music in it”.
Due to the nature of the idea I had to collate all the picture submissions, create the artwork and mint on the same day... so it was a pretty hectic mint process which I finished under an hour before the actual drop!
I minted the NFT late at night, shared it with everyone I knew and went to bed. Being a new father of a very young baby I was up many times that night, and as I checked my phone I could see the numbers going up and up and up… it was an amazing thing to be able to be there as it spread, and by 9.30 am my time it had sold out. 500 editions collected by 493 unique wallets in less than 12 hours.
As an artist you have these small windows of being able to enjoy the moment. I wasn’t even sure how to react in that moment other than be grateful. Due to the amount of hours put into the build-up, I took the weekend out to catch my breath and just enjoy the fact it had worked! The hardest part of a success like this is how to build on it. We have a set of go to tools such as gated chats, discord channels, etc. that offer us a way to connect in a deeper way but how to engage the collectors of the free mint?
The week after the mint I had more people reach out to me than ever before and the enormity of the drop started to sink in. It was not normal for this to happen in music NFTs at that time, although it will become more and more so in the coming months. The first person to reach out to me was Lackhoney and I have to give a shout out here:
We jumped on a call first thing in the morning and he set about to really drill home to me that I needed to capture this moment right now. By the end of the call I couldn’t even concentrate on anything except what song to put out next and when.
By the end of the day I had contacted Bethia, the featured artist of the song I had chosen. I tried to explain what I was up to, and luckily for me she was keen to go ahead with the drop. This was the first time I dropped a song at short notice and not had a story to build on. However, continuing the free mint and experimenting with how to engage all these new collectors became the ‘why’. We often know very little about our collectors, something I have chatted to Adam Levy about many times as he developed Bello. Moreover, we often touched on how we, as artists, could develop a clearer picture of who collect our work. I developed a couple of ideas around how to re-engage these collectors and give something back to everyone in my community. Again, after a few back and forth conversations with my squad we settled on 2 key considerations for the next drop: activating the secondary market of the free mint; and, seeing who I can bring back in to collect again.
The new song ‘Vulnerable ft Bethia’ felt like the perfect next step as it covered similar concepts within the lyrics and was also was another strong record to capture people’s attention. I settled on a range drop of 10-100 priced at 0,03E with a pre-mint option to re-engage collectors with the first 50 available for 0.01E to those who had collected the free mint.
I scheduled the drop for exactly a week from the time the free mint went live, which felt like the perfect way to continue this story.
The pre-mint sold out in a few hours and we were really lucky to see 72 editions collected in total before the drop closed out. On paper it did exactly what I had hope it would. The next step will be to see how many more people are going to be around for the ride!
This Friday is the final drop in this run, which is the collaborative remix drop with 4 producers around me who have all built their own communities outside of the mainstream music NFT circles - something I have so much respect for. I see all the collaborations happening around me in the electronic music scene between my favourite producers and wondered why we don’t do more of the same in Web3. How do we bring musicians and their communities to form a scene where we can lift each other up and grow as a collective? What is the drop version of the club night line-up of Web3. In a way this whole experiment is a MVP test of that. Admittedly, I would love to explore this on a bigger scale but for now this idea and the people around feel like a perfect fit.
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