Music NFTs are having a moment. From major record labels such as Warner Music Group to artists like Steve Aoki and 3LAU, the music industry is seeking opportunities to leverage Web3 to better monetize their work.
Warner Music Group, also called WMG, announced a multi-year partnership with the LGND.io startup on Tuesday to launch a music NFT marketplace on the Ethereum-compatible Polygon proof-of-stake sidechain.
Select WMG artists and creators will be chosen to drop songs as digital collectibles starting in January 2023, according to a statement from the company.
The platform, called LGND Music, will be a mobile and desktop application that will reportedly support music NFTs or their so-called “Virtual Vinyls” from other blockchains as well.
While iOS users will get to fully own their music tokens, their purchases on LGND’s iOS app will be subject to Apple’s 30% in-app purchase fee.
Among the first artists featured on LGND Music are slated to include those represented by the WMG-owned electronic music label Spinnin’ Records.
Steve Aoki and 3LAU
The Web3 community loves its parties and DJs, and two of the most prolific electronic musicians — Steve Aoki and Justin “3LAU” Blau — fittingly announced that they will use their CryptoPunks NFTs as their alter egos to form a new group called Punx.
New music from the duo, who have been friends for 10 years, according to Aoki, will be released in 2023.
“This isn’t an NFT,” tweeted the pair, but rather Punx is described as a “conceptual music/art project” with a different sound than fans are used to from the musicians.
Both Aoki and Blau changed their respective Twitter profile pictures to Punk #6748 and Punk #6708, respectively, signaling that these NFTs may be used as characters in music videos or other visual imagery.
Another example of a duo using their NFTs for musical projects is Eminem and Snoop Dogg, who turned their Bored Apes into avatars for an MTV performance. Additionally, Bored Ape and Mutant Ape NFT characters have also been used to form a virtual band called Kingship under Universal Music Group’s 10:22PM label.
Blau owns the music NFT marketplace Royal that allows users to own a piece of a song or album’s streaming royalty rights. While historically it has only worked with huge acts like Nas, Diplo and Chainsmokers, Royal has now started to give smaller, emerging artists the chance to sell percentages of streams of their songs in the form of tokens.
Independent artist Jake Zimma released his first drop on Royal this week and sold out in two hours. He told Blockworks that this opportunity was a way to “not just grow financially but also a way to engage with fans and generate awareness of my music and brand.”
“While the ups and downs of crypto currencies may be unpredictable, trends within musicians’ streaming behavior can easily be counted on,” Zimma said.
“It’s an exciting new way for musicians and music fans to get involved with the crypto world, hopefully without as much chaos.”
“At the end of the day everyone loves music,” he added.
Windows’ Winamp MP3 player
Another company trying to ride the music NFT wave is Winamp — Windows’ desktop media player from the ‘90s.
Its latest update for desktop allows its 83 million users to play audio files embedded in their NFTs, tweeted Winamp — but it requires a few steps. Those with NFT music libraries on MetaMask would need to link their wallets via Brave, Chrome or Firefox browsers to import the files into Winamp as an .m3u playlist.
Winamp supports ERC-721 and ERC-1155 audio and video files and is compatible with Ethereum and Polygon NFTs.
Winamp users’ responses on Twitter varied from “You lost me with NFTs” to “Lol. No” and “will try this new version.”
Winamp CEO Alexandre Saboundjian stated that Winamp is the “the very first standalone player reading audio NFTs.” His plans also include launching a cross-platform creator service that links artists and fans directly in early 2023.
Growth of music NFTs
Music NFT marketplace Sound.xyz reported that the number of mints of NFTs has doubled in each of the last two months. Dune Analytics data showed that over a third — around 12,000, of the platform’s 30,000 mints came in November. And so far in December, there have already been more than 7,400 new mints, signaling the likelihood that the total mints will pass last month’s record.
NFTs, whether music or art, enable creators to foster a community around their work built on ownership over their digital assets. Artists can earn royalties each time the NFT is sold, while collectors who also have a stake in ownership may gain exclusive access to shows, merch, meet and greets and more.
Traditionally, the labels who represent these artists distribute their music to streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. A percentage of revenue from users who subscribe to these platforms is then redistributed among the label, artists and producers in the form of royalties.
This model, however, is a “disaster,” according to Gino The Ghost, music producer and founder of music NFT project Blocktones.
“Labels are making more [money] than ever before while signed artists and the creatives behind those records make pennies (of a penny) on the dollar…Spotify has yet to even turn a profit. Nobody wins,” he tweeted.
Music NFTs provide a unique vehicle of distribution, he added, because it “allow artists to package their music in a non-conventional way. Set the supply, engage with your fans, and activate your community with future application.”