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Introducing Endlesss: Gamifying Music Creation with NFTs

JULY 1, 2022 — NEAR Team

Endlesss, the creation, marketing, and community building platform built for musicians, has just launched on NEAR mainnet. As music production software with social media features, Endlesss is a virtual space for musicians, fans, and collectors alike. With the app, musicians of all skill levels can make, share, collaborate, and collect music in a social way. And perhaps most importantly, its technology reintroduces musical improvisation and collaboration into the cultural landscape.

As part of the launch, Endlesss announced a new feature called “Bands” — an NFT marketplace powered by NEAR’s NEP-171 NFT standard. Endlesss debuted the Bands NFT marketplace at NYC.NFT, attendees got the chance to make and mint tunes on Endlesss with various controllers. The team’s booth even included a MIDI-enabled Endlesss arcade game, which was a hit with the NYC.NFT crowd.

Before launching Endlesss, founder Tim Exile had several other careers. Trained as a violinist, Exile cut records for Warp Records and Planet Mu, two esteemed electronic music labels. Exile (real name Tim Shaw) also developed plugins for music software company Native Instruments, which paved the way for Endlesss.

Exile launched Endlesss as a mobile app in 2020, then followed it up with a desktop version in 2021. Over the past year, Exile and team have been integrating Endlesss with NEAR. And now, Endlesss is officially Web3-ready.

“NEAR offers great developer tools, a super-fast reliable network, and great Web3 onboarding through the linkdrop contract and human-readable wallet addresses,” says Exile.

NEAR Foundation recently caught up with Tim Exile, fresh off of the NYC.NFT announcement, to talk about Endlesss’ new NFT feature.

How collaborative jams work on Endlesss

Before diving into the Endlesss NFT marketplace, let’s first explore how the music software works.

After downloading the Endlesss app, users see a music production interface. This will be familiar to anyone who has used mobile music production apps or software like Ableton, Fruity Loops, or Native Instruments. With Endlesss, the twist is that it optimizes sharing and collaboration. An amalgam of music production software and social media, with e-commerce functionality baked-in.

Endless gives musicians the tools to start “Jams” (Endlesss-speak for “songs”), which Exile describes as something like musical chat groups.

“You can share that jam with friends anywhere, and they can dive in, download the app on iOS, MacOS, or Windows, and you can jam with people live from all over the world,” Exile explains. “And as you jam together, you build an entire history of everything that happened in that jam. So it’s like music creation as storytelling because as the jam evolves, you can look back to see and listen to how the music unfolds as the jam progresses.”

“Endlesss is really the culmination of my life’s work because I really love improvising,” says Exile. “Before the music industry got going 150 years ago, music was an activity we came together to do. It was something that cemented our social bonds, gave us that kind of ritual resonance that allowed us to transmit, propagate, and mutate these forms through folk music. And so music was very closely attached to the myths and legends that kept us together as a society. That’s the thing that we’re building instead of selling a million copies of one song.”

But if musicians want to jam solo, they can do that as well. Musicians can create solo Jams and share them as complete pieces with other musicians and collectors on Endlesss.

“The future of media is a game, not an industry,” he adds. “And games are designed as journeys, but they’re not prescriptive. Those are really the principles upon which we built Endlesss.”

Under the hood of Endlesss’s NFT marketplace

To integrate with NEAR, Endless first had to build an in-browser user experience. Exile reckons that 50% of the team’s work went into optimizing the front and back ends to deliver this seamless in-browser feature.

“We needed to develop a web audio player and API endpoints,” says Exile. “Obviously, we needed to do a really good job of designing the front end to make it look and feel responsive and slick in the browser, on desktop and mobile. But the real magic, the real secret sauce is how we then take assets that have been created and stored on Web2 servers and turn them into Web3 immutable assets.”

From a technical standpoint, musicians can share a Jam with anyone on the internet with a browser link. After clicking on the URL, users can see the jam in their browser, complete with the entire history of the Jam’s Riffs. And if the Jam unfolds in real time, Endlesss users see others adding Riffs as it all happens. Collectors can then click on any Riff that they’re listening to and trigger an NFT minting process.

The minting process begins with the bundling of all associated media assets into a fully-executable mini-DAW which loads in an iframe. This includes web audio code, web visualizer code, all metadata, all audio stems, and an image.

“That’s shipped off to Arweave where it’s stored on the permaweb,” Exile explains. “We get the hash back from Arweave, then mint the NFT using the NEAR NFT standard.”

If users connect their NEAR Wallet to Endlesss, a single click executes the NFT mint and purchase. Users simply hit “Collect” and then approve the transaction.

“We had to do a bit of code dancing on our back end,” Exile says. “So, we actually have a contract that mints a token on our behalf, then transfers the token to users.”

On the creator side, the royalty split is automatic, thanks to NEAR’s NFT standard. This was a major factor in Endlesss’ decision to build on NEAR.

“One of the real strengths of the NEAR NFT standard is that it supports collaborative splits,” he adds. “It’s baked into the smart contract, which is not the case with ERC-71 because any collaborative splits are held at the marketplace level. So, you can take that asset and list it on another marketplace and those collaborative splits won’t be on it.”

“Endlesss is deeply predicated on collaboration, so collaborative splits executed properly was very, very important for us.”

Public launch and upcoming features

The soft launch of Endlesss’ NFT marketplace has been live on NEAR mainnet for only a few weeks. So, it’s still a work-in-progress. But if the warm reception at NYC.NFT was any indication, the Web3 community already loves it.

Not only does Endlesss fuse the Web2 and Web3 worlds, but it can also integrate with hardware. Few Web3 apps can integrate with hardware like MIDI keyboards and controllers for the truly tactile user experience Endlesss offers.

“Before we shipped Bands, on Endless you could create jams solo or with other people around the world, you could jam in real time, you could jam asynchronously,” Exile explains. “And every jam has a full history of everything that was created in that jam. And what we did when we were building on NEAR was to basically build an NFT marketplace where all the Riffs in that Jam could be minted as an NFT.”

“We seeded it out to 30 people just really to understand what the behavior is, what the demand is, and what works,” says Exile. “And we’re already learning a huge amount about the dynamics, the curiosity, and the patterns of behavior of collection.”

In this closed Beta phase, the plan is to tweak Bands’ features to optimize the market dynamics of supply and demand. Endlesss will also give creators more tools to select just some of the Riffs instead of making every one fully available by default.

Exile says the team will add more curation features to the Bands NFT marketplace. The team is already at work on a feature that would make NFTs remixable. In other words, someone could remix a NFT Rifff they collected, then mint their remix as a new NFT.

“We’ve got some features that we already know we’re going to build into Bands to help control the supply,” he says. “That basically means that if you want to be around to collect the best Riffs (from Jams), you really have to be there while they’re happening because we’re probably going to put this ‘timeout’ feature where they’re only mintable for the first few hours, for example.”

“We’ll probably do an official public launch of Bands around September, I imagine with a whole bunch of other creator features.”

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