Although many people associate non-fungible tokens (NFTs) with digital pictures sold as blockchain-based assets, there are many other applicable categories. One growing ecosystem in the NFTNFT Non-Fungible Token or "NFT" is digital certificates showing ownership of an asset. It is embedded in a blockchain as a token. The asset can be digital or the NFT can point to a real-world, tangible item. industry is music NFTs. The market peaked earlier this year with too many speculators. The market has reset and closer to where it should be in its infancy. There is value to fans and as you read through examples there is still room to innovate and support the artists.
On the surface, music NFTsNFT Non-Fungible Token or "NFT" is digital certificates showing ownership of an asset. It is embedded in a blockchain as a token. The asset can be digital or the NFT can point to a real-world, tangible item. may appear like the blockchain alternative to buying songs on iTunes. However, when you buy a song on iTunes, you only buy the right to listen to that song. There’s no asset ownership on iTunes – only a license to listen to what you’ve just paid for. In contrast, music NFTs let you listen to tracks but may also add connection to the artist, ownership attributes, or fan club membership characteristics.
Music NFTs are counterintuitive to some. Why buy the music you can already listen to with your Spotify or Apple subscription? The answer to that question is the same as buying JPEGs anyone can view online or right-click and save. Markets, or people, find value in relationships and ownership of provably unique and original assets.
For some, that value could come from a closer relationship with the artist they like. For others, it could be financial exposure to an artist who they believe will thrive. If the artist becomes successful, the value of the music NFT they’ve invested in could rise.
Music NFTs can generate lucrative revenue for some artists. One music NFT supporter @Cooopahtroopa estimated that Bajan rapper Haleek Maul made $226,800 in music NFT sales on Catalog, while his annualized Spotify earnings were just $178. When asked about the figures in the tweet, Maul confirmed to CoinDesk that he’s made 81 ETH [Ethereum] from five catalog sales, which at the time was worth more than $250,000.
There is a wide range of potential use cases for music NFTs. They can be used to grant access to discounted concert tickets, special areas at concerts, or meetups with the artist. It all depends on how the artist wants to structure the NFTs they issue. After all, as Wired editor Kevin Kelly has long argued, all an artist needs are 1,000 true fans who will support them – and NFTs help capture that idea for an increasingly digital world.
Unless specified, music NFTs give buyers no royalty or copyright claims – just as jpeg NFTs don’t either by default. But there’s also a growing subsector of royalty-oriented music NFTs.
Music NFT marketplaces
Although the largest NFT marketplace, OpenSea, has a dedicated catalog for music NFTs, most artists prefer to launch on music-specific marketplaces.
Catalog is the primary marketplace for single-edition music NFTs, a category known as 1/1 in the NFT world. It’s built on the Zora protocol, which also powers the OpenSea competitor marketplace by the same name as the protocol. As of last year, artists have sold well over $2 million worth of music NFTs on Catalog.
Some artists prefer to release limited editions, e.g. 10 NFTs tied to one track, as opposed to one to ones. For this, a popular option is Sound.xyz, which runs almost daily drops where collectors or traders can mint editions of a music NFT. These freshly minted NFTs can be resold immediately on secondary marketplaces like OpenSea or Rarible.
Platforms specialize in different music genres. Groovetime caters to dance music NFTs, and HEAT is another platform that’s yet to launch. Beat Foundry enables minting generative music, a genre involving collaborations between humans and computers.
Music NFT DAOs
DAOs, or decentralized autonomous organizations, are like crypto-based investment co-ops.
Some DAOs offer grants for NFT artists. MusicFund distributes membership via NFTs, and holders vote each month to donate ETH to three musicians through the community fund. The top three artists receive 0.6 ETH, 0.25 ETH, and 0.15 ETH, respectively. In addition to receiving funds, the artists also gain recognition. Bel, who won MusicFund’s second round of grants, went on to release singles on Catalog. (Although it’s not a DAO, another music grant-maker in crypto is Audius, which runs Audio Grants.)
Other DAOs are investment oriented. Noise DAO began with 65 initial members who have pooled together over 1,740 ETH so far, with the mission of incubating NFT artists and investing in music NFTs.
In addition to investments, some like to keep it fun – Friend with Benefits threw an oversubscribed party during NFT.NYC in June 2021 that included DJ sets by Caroline Polachek, Doss, Pussy Riot, Channel Tres, and others. Their FWB Fest was also a great success deemed the “Crypto Woodstock”
Normally, music NFTs only certify on-chain ownership of a token tied to a music file. They don’t confer any more rights beyond that – no royalties, most importantly.
But there are platforms seeking to change that.
Royal helps artists mint royalty-bearing NFTs, which they call Limited Digital Assets, or LDAs. LDAs facilitate sharing the revenue from streaming royalties with fans who hold NFTs. With a tagline of “Own a piece of your favorite songs and earn royalties for every stream”, the platform has popular artists like NAS, Diplo, and The Chainsmokers participating.
Opulous is another platform that’s trying to integrate royalties into music NFTs. It lets token holders retain a share in the music copyright through an agreement established with the artist.
The platform also has other innovative features: Artists can take out DeFi loans against the value of royalties they generate over a year. DeFi investors can stake crypto assets to provide funding and receive high returns – though the DeFi risks remain.
Music NFT videos
Perhaps because it’s a more capital-intensive venture than other aspects of music NFTs, there aren’t many music video NFT projects.
If successful, music NFT videos could change the ad-based Web 2 model that relies on the number of views. It’s the 1,000 true fans theory all over again.
Future Sounds Great
Music NFTs may not be for everyone. Most people are satisfied with Spotify or Apple Music subscriptions to listen to songs. In a connected world, this may suit most. But true fans will always want to be part of and grow closer to the artists they patronize. It provides a feeling that fills a void and brings happiness. Should this be you, then the entertainment value and the feelings you receive will be worth it. For many, a Spotify or Apple playlist will do for this evening.