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Music Industry Gets A Revamp Thanks To The Pandemic

Original illustration by Fabricio Orellano for RC3.

Overall music industry revenues grew from $5.6B in 2020 to $7.1B in 2021 at retail value, according to RIAA and that number is only expected to grow higher throughout 2022, analogizing the shift of trends in how people consume music products during the pandemic.

The only problem is that artists barely make 10% of that revenue stream, and there are no signs of this changing anytime soon, while revenues from live events and DJ bookings have shrunk if not completely swept under the carpet.

In this article, we’ll dive into how this archaic industry of the entertainment branch could leverage the current urge to mass digitalization on a global scale to level its own game and retain relevancy in the upcoming years, or better put blocks. In addition, I will speculate on what happens if the old dogs don’t feel like playing “ranked” at this rate, and how this could actually be a most anticipated breakthrough for audible content creators.

What Does Music Even Mean During The Web3 Era

Recent research suggests that nearly 400k jobs linked to the nightlife culture have been eradicated since the Covid-19 hit the news, and that’s only the beginning.

Sure, we could expect that one day we will have accomplished the “Corona Battle-Pass” flawlessly with dozens of jabs under our belt and club culture will be back to normal, but thankfully we’re not 100 years old. 🤭

After seeing my closest friends and family members seeking shelter in online media amid the global restrictions, it took me like a second to realize that there is no turning back to “life as it was”.

A couple of months down the line since the first curfew, and we were already experiencing metaverse events hosting popular artists like Travis Scott in triple-A games like Fortnite, Aphex Twin releasing his first NFT on Foundation, and even the legendary Wu-Tang-Clan deploying their native NFT contract, indicating that they’ve made their minds about where the future is headed.

As both creators and consumers were forced to spend more time online, platforms of the likes of Spotify, YouTube Music, and SoundCloud were acquiring users at a three-fold rate than usual while clubs and music theaters were left but only to dust to enjoy.

Being a 90s kid, this seemed obvious to me, but I can’t even imagine how standard this situation must appeal to new-gen kids, or users who experienced a musical event first online, before they managed to attend a physical event, god willing, if they ever will.

For the new generation, the music industry is not shifting, but it rather stands for an entirely new thing. One could argue that the first encounter an internet user has with music nowadays is most likely to manifest through a videogame, an NFT purchase, or a VR environment.

NFTs In A Nutshell 🖼️

You probably have heard of the term NFT at least once, otherwise, you just might be diseased lol.

We’re not scuba diving into this one, but just to give you an idea, an NFT is a digitally verifiable ownership contract that lives on the blockchain, and it is representing a specific relation between an asset and its current owner. Additional meta-data related to the origin of the asset, its creator, and even materials and/or components used for its manufacturing may be also included and tracked via the unique ownership protocol.

If you want to learn more about NFTs or extend your current level of understanding on the matter, visit our Academy here, as for this piece, we’re focusing solely on NFTs x Music.

Where Are New Music Trends Born During The Pandemic 🎛️

There’s already a bunch of music content creators who spearhead the ongoing revolution, offering label-like infrastructure, virtual venues able to host music events, and *you guessed it*, NFT-powered ownership.

Here are some key industry players that have been shifting the concept of audible products using hi-tech while elevating the centralized curation of music to a community-led process. (in alphabetical order):

AsyncMusic

Conlan’s unicorn publisher AsyncArt, has its own homonymous audio branch called AsyncMusic. This is not your typical record label but stands up to the Async aesthetic and ever-moving innovation.

As a very simple example, imagine the “Drum Track” in a song actually has 5 other versions that could be turned on or off. If you own this “Drum Track” layer (or Stem) you’re able to choose which version of the drums are currently active for all to hear. Here’s a breakdown of the components in a Master Track on Async:

Image from Async.Art.

AsyncMusic will be soon available with the AsyncBlueprints function, where artists can upload sets of stems to create AI-generated tracks, similar to the recent Grifters XCOPY drops.

The one-of-a-kind platform also bears its own native NFT Media Player, tailored to play, display, and breakdown info related to AsyncMusic publications.

We asked Conlan to elaborate about the idea behind AsyncMusic, but also on his views when it comes to the future of the Music Industry, and NFTs as digitally verifiable ownership contracts:

“NFTs allow artists and musicians to connect with their fans in ways never before possible. Because of that, we believe that eventually all digital art and music will incorporate this technology to some degree.”Conlan Rios, Web3 OG, and Founder & CEO, AsyncArt

I am very intrigued and hooked with AsyncArt releases, and although Conlan is not taking the traditional publisher route, he is well-positioned to re-invent it.

CAZLAB

Cazlab in her home studio in France.

Cazlab stands for one of my personal favorites when it comes to next-gen music and one that actually nails it to the point on many fronts. This standalone-level French meta-singer and self-taught multidisciplinary artist — also known as Gusta Tonya, represents what NFT music culture is all about summed in one pixel.

I only had first heard of her work like last month, and it was an insta-hook for a variety of good reasons. I am confident you will resonate with my logic by simply experiencing one of her publications:

She is not just wise and creative enough to combine pop & underground mood-reels under a new so-far unseen palette, but the fact she merges different aspects of web3, like Cryptovoxels scenery in her render-based music-clips and the overall “avataresque aesthetic” takes off my hat with no sweat.

Over the last couple of years, the internet figure Cazlab is has participated in a plethora of collaborations with local and international web3 OGs like Mighty33, and LuluXXX.

“I never imagined I could live doing what I love. From Mighty33, and GeniusCorp, to LuluXXX, DAO Records and AsyncArt, the web3 music scene has encouraged and taught me my creativity belongs here, and I will be forever grateful for that.”Tonya ‘CAZLAB’ Gusta

That’s an impressive record, considering Cazlab engaged in her first audible experiments just five years ago and is completely self-taught. She told us that she was heavily influenced by French Pop music, R&B, and contemporary electronics, in order to sharpen her creativity and come up with the unique style that — for me — marks a new era, where crypto and web3 are essential parts of Pop culture.

I tried to be as discrete as possible, but here’s a tiny spoiler y’all ^^ Tonya is currently working on expanding her act from a crypto-model / meta-singer to the next level. Although she’s been undeniably one of the most active users of the virtual domain, I hear she’s working on a 3D model of Cazlab, that will be used as the protagonist in her future music videos as well as tokenized XR events in a multiverse fashion starting early April this year in Cryptovoxels.

Wanna know what’s cooking next, and stay ahead of the hype? Follow Cazlab on Twitter or feel free to explore her Linktr.ee *I still haven’t got through all of these myself.

Clone Records

Footage from Clone Records library in Rotterdam, NL.

Speaking of which, we had the privilege to connect with Serge, one of the most influential figures when it comes to the physical and digital record landscape worldwide, and founder of the legendary Rotterdam-based Clone Records.

During my time in the Netherlands, CR was a casual spot for myself, among young artists and industry veterans who gathered to get the latest drops first-hand, discuss the future of electronic music with a cold beer in hand, on the house.

Clone Records always had a unique approach towards the future, whether it’d be extraordinary audiovisual installations, or sci-fi flavored releases resonating with the likes of Drexciya, Dopplereffekt, DJ Stingray, and other electronic music pioneers whose sound found shelter under the diachronic label’s wing.

“I think NFTs and their underlying technology is set to change the way we handle music industry-related rights (eg. performing, mastering, mechanical rights, etc) in a more transparent and artist-oriented matter.”Serge, Founder & CEO, Clone Records

Serge goes on to point out that the current administrative layer of copyrights control is extremely centralized and outdated, run by a handful of organizations such as Buma/Stemra, Ascap, Gema, PRS, among others, and blockchain seems like the light in the tunnel, the music industry was so badly in need for.

For Clone Records’ original releases as well as the Clone Publishing distribution branch, techno culture is a synonym to embracing technological advancement, and the leading music giant is keen on constantly exploring possibilities ahead, way before they become mainstream. NFTs are not different, and Clone is positioned to become a leader in the space, analogizing the importance of community contribution, decentralization, and transparent ownership of audible specimens.

Serge is one of the most influential figures in the record distribution industry.

“Blockchain will make it easier to transfer rights and funnel earnings to the right owners in an autonomous manner. Whether you’re a composer, writer, producer, publisher, or even just a fan, web3 makes it easy to track, evaluate and distribute extracted value among all involving parties of a specific release.”

Spoiler Alert: Don’t be surprised if you stumble upon the first-ever Clone Records NFT collection, or find yourself in a random metaverse event hosted and curated by CR. ❤

Connie Digital

Now, all the new “first music NFT ever” twitter artists that popped in 2021 are cool and all, but there are NO Music NFTs without Connie Digital.

If the name doesn’t ring a bell, that’s because you were still using PayPal back in 2018/19. Connie is one of the pioneers of the concept itself and has published a plethora of Music NFTs way before uploading audible extensions was even a thing to consider on Ethereum.

I’ve been personally inspired by Connie Digital, Conlan, and the early Cryptovoxels gang to release the anthem to Gangnam District of the popular community-built metaverse. Some of the contents of the concept-VA album can be heard as background ambiance while walking through the neon zone of Origin City.

Connie Digital invented Music NFTs way before they were a thing!

“Music NFTs are here to stay the same way merch is here to stay. NFTs can become an additional revenue stream for musicians while at the same time offering unique utility and collectibility for fans…Being able to prove the authenticity of an NFT is one of the great features of blockchain tech. Musicians minting under their own verified smart contract is one such example.”Connie Digital, Web3 OG, and founder of danky.art

I haven’t touched base with Connie for quite some time, and this article gave it a good chance. Some of the hottest insights I got was the fact Connie is working on a new song inspired by a recent hack he experienced on his hot wallet while planning another yet unique concept ownership protocol release somewhere mid this year. Trust me when I say you want to stay tuned to this one!

DAORecords

DAOrecords HQ Rooftop, where the “ SoundSplash” event will be hosted soon.

Analogizing the fact DAORecords dropped their first NFT in early 2020, and by reading the name out loudly, you can tell this is not just another NFT music label.

DAORecords stands both for one of the earliest DAOs out there, as well as for their contribution to the initial concept of tokenizing audible files, such as .mp3s with the popular minting factory Mintbase.

By bringing these two aspects together, the seasoned Web3 music project managed to create a community-led structure, that includes funding, onboarding, and the constant reinvention of the record label as we know it.

Being deeply involved in the NFT space since day zero, DAORecords incorporated live and interactive music shows in the Metaverse from the get-go. Going as back as April 2020, events such as ‘The Popup’, already spark what would become a modern standard for music entertainment.

Just a quick swipe through the smart-contract, and you can find legendary collectors of the likes of AlottaMoney, and basileus holding some of the earliest DAORecords releases.

Cover of “Still Rap Crypto” released by DAORecords that comes with a 7" version.

I had the opportunity to connect with Vandal, the founder of DAORecords who got to elaborate on the latest activities of the historic label in his own words:

“The future of Web3 music and entertainment looks brighter than ever, and 2022 will be no different for us at DAORecords. We plan to keep building and sharing the technology and infrastructure that will empower the next generations of blockchain artists.” Vandal.eth — Founder & CEO, DAORecords

If you’re not aware, DAORecords has published over 100 unique audible specimens under the NFT format coming from all parts of the world, and it is probably one of the few cross-chain music NFT publishers. Vandal has also put together a Web3 music community of 500+ members on the NEAR Protocol, focusing on providing funding among other resources for the curation of IRL and Web3 events, releases, and experiences.

To get familiar and involved, shoot Vandal directly on Twitter!

Ethereal Audio International

A future-driven record label launched during the pandemic, Ethereal Audio hit the blocks with “substantiallove.sol” by anonymous artist Universal Block Act back in May 2021.

Product design for EAI001 “substantiallove.sol” by Universal Block Act — Studio 530 Degres, France.

Although the label remains very low-ki, it managed to release three physical 12”-inch vinyl records throughout 2021, all backed by digitally verifiable ownership contracts registered on the Ethereum blockchain, and anything from the name of the label, to the artists’ monikers, and the release titles, are extremely crypto-oriented which makes this so intriguing for us. We’re proud to be the official Web3 distributor for Ethereal Audio International NFTs.

You can catch the EAI gang LIVE at SugarClub.eth in Decentraland, where they will be presenting past and upcoming releases soon!

Some spoilers: EAI’s future catalog spans from Detroit techno, and electro, to soundtracks, meditation records, and even private debates and philosophical conversations in the form of blockchain collectibles. Physical releases expand to credit-card-shaped USB drives, audio cassettes, and other data container formats, while we’re experimenting with implementing NFC chips in our vinyl records with Web3 hardware provider Kong.

Visit https://etherealaud.io for more info and audible material. Previews for all EAI releases are currently available on SoundCloud, and Audius.

GeniusCorp

Way before music NFTs, or any kind of smart contracts really, there was GeniusCorp, the Paris-based collective run by mndyrmm & Mighty33. It was founded in 2012 and is aiming at facilitating the ideal environment to host, empower, and promote innovative and game-changing artists the local and international multimedia scene has to offer.

GeniusCorp has hundreds of releases under its belt. Check out their CV gallery here.

They are one of the early movers in the broader NFT space, and Mighty33 himself has been providing the sound carpet of many of our favorite virtual experiences for the past years.

“NFTs for us are not just smart contracts, but a cultural shift on every aspect of life” — Mighty33, Web3 OG, Co-founder GeniusCorp

M33’s approach resonates with the RareCandy3D shape in many layers. Their key values revolve around creating web3 tools and services that will benefit the broader community and not just their specific business model. They are constantly looking for undermined creators from a plethora of entertainment industries, and are in a position to scale those artists from Web2 participants to Web3 creators and admins of their own creativity. Finally, GeniusCorp is probably the only project I’ve heard of, RC3 apart, that covers artists’ gear, expenses, gas fees, etc. Now, if that’s not a real community at work, idk what is.

We had the opportunity to connect with Mighty33, and confirm the vibes, and we’re absolutely excited for potential collaborations between the two projects.

If you’re a music artist looking to get involved with Web3 & NFTs, GeniusCorp might be your first stop. GC was the house that helped Cazlab and hundreds of similarly creative artists to reach their potential leveraging edge-tech.

“Based on music industry history and the possibilities that arise with new technologies, we are now in a position to provide artists with an environment that’s fun, and encourages creativity while safeguarding creators from centralized links that leech off their work, and in most cases are also irreversible.” — Mighty33

“GeniusCorp’s Records shop in cryptovoxels will be soon hosting a Music NFT History exhibition — stay tuned for the grand opening”

SugarClub

One of the most important aspects of music, in general, is the environment under which you’re listening to it, and that brings us to VR clubbing. You heard it right!

We had the privilege to connect with Kay, the founder of SugarClub.eth, and we went through a detailed interview you can find in our Sweet Talk series.

Although Kay doesn’t believe that Metaverse experiences can completely eradicate physical events and human experiences, he does see increased attention to VR clubbing, being the organizer of a series of cross-metaverse events in his virtual venue network.

Footage from a SugarClub event at Decentraland. How cool is that? ✨

“We believe that the current digitalization trend of social experiences, fashion wearables, collectibility, and music, make up the perfect storm set to last for years. SugarClub is excited to be an influencing part of the early days of the metaverse”Kay, Founder, and CEO, SugarClub.

The popular mv club started as a concept back in 2018 and now counts numerous venues, in multiple instances and virtual domains, including but not limited to Decentraland, and Cryptovoxels. Put the numeric party experience aside, SugarClub.eth is also pushing unique limited edition fashion wearables under its brand, featuring new and well-established designers and web3 projects, as well as music releases, such as the Dance For Peace drop.

I must say, unlike most Web3 MV venues that tend to have a couple of dozen visitors at a time, SugarClub.eth has reached a peak of 1,000 visitors circulating around a specific event.

Join SC’s Discord, and follow them on Twitter. I highly suggest you visit one of their next events to experience the full thing from a first-person perspective.

What’s missing to transit to Music Industry 2.0 🤔

So, we have so many cool projects, builders, and content creators out there, already gearing for the perma-ownership era, yet it looks like most of the world still imagines the Metaverse being something like Tekken2 in terms of interactive possibilities. 🤣

I am not settled on what’s missing for the complete makeover of the industry, but I suspect that the lack of experiences in virtual environments plays a major role here. I mean if you filter out the people currently tackling with Web3, and the MV, you’d be surprised how common backgrounds they share.

You’d find musicians who’ve been already into hi-tech, synthesizers, 5G music, and edge products and services, hence NFTs made total sense to them. 90% of MV users have previous experience with traditional video games, open-world massive multiplayer-online environments, and building systems such as Minecraft, Unity, Unreal Engine, etc.

That doesn’t mean that someone who has never played Deus Ex or has never purchased a Dota2 skin can’t enter the metaverse and find his own flow, but that takes the effort of investing into the unknown. It is more likely that new generation kids would engage in such endeavors easily, but it becomes harder to even conceive as you detach from the current status of technological advancement.

From another perspective, even the most hardcore online netizens and players can sometimes struggle with terms and concepts such as NFTs, and the metaverse, and that is mostly related to the lack of intuitive utility models in the space.

Some people struggle with the basic concepts of the new industry or don’t even have a Web3 ID/wallet yet to begin their journey with.

Undeniably, time will tell what’s next, but we can speculate with great accuracy as to where things might end up, based on trends, history, supply and demand, and of course user experience.

I don’t think that one day everyone will suddenly understand music NFTs and VR clubbing, but I do feel confident about time changing our everyday life to a point where using NFTs will be as simple and straightforward as using Spotify or buying a cup of coffee. We don’t have to label it, point it out, or promote it, as it will naturally evolve into an aspect of common interactivity.

Finally, besides the philosophy, there are still a bunch of essential elements that are missing from the maturing scene before Music NFTs can be used more often than .mp3s. Namely:

  • NFT Media Players ⏯️

Pretty self-explanatory, I know right? Imagine being able to log in with your wallet into a player that can showcase all your audible specimens. You should be able to play, pause, stop, shuffle, create playlists etc. and not be forced open 150 tabs to listen to 150 tracks without the ability to pause, skip, or fwd to the next track.

  • Dynamic Real-Time Tracking of Assets 🛰️

At some point, protocols that would enable real-time tracking of non-fungible on-chain assets will help artists track their music on the fly and examine not only who owns their NFT, but also what are they doing with it? Is it listed in some VR gallery? Is it being played by a famous DJ? how many times? Under what circumstances? In which venue? All that and more will become the catalysts of entirely new star systems of Web3 artists.

  • NFT DJs and Performers 💿🧑‍🎤

The previous point raised another important issue, which is the lack of DJs that actually play NFT music in their sets. It’s one thing to own NFT music as a collector, and a completely different story to be able to utilize that music in a similar way we would do in the Web2 space. In order to achieve that, we will need sophisticated software and dapps, that can handle virtual assets in creative ways. Eg. a virtual DJ, Traktor, or Ableton Live for NFTs.

  • Big-scale Events, and Traditional Industry Backup 🏟️

Again, pretty self-explanatory. We expect to see anyone from Berghain, to Tomorrowland alongside other creams, whether pop or underground venues and music festivals start experimenting to say at least with next-generation music technology. At the same time, outdated, yet extremely powerful music titans, should put their ego aside, and support the transition of the industry into a more inclusive, open, and beneficial — both for the artist and publisher — era, if they want to retain any sort of relevancy in life 2.0.

Epilogue

Sheesh. This took some time. Thanks to everyone involved and for all the help from the community to put this together. I know there’s still a bunch of artists, labels, and other publishers out there that are not mentioned here, but I tried my best to cover a healthy spectrum of the scene, including indie artists, Web3 labels, traditional publishers, and metaverse owners, both old and new, big or small, doesn’t matter.

The idea for this article was to showcase everyone interested to join the space but unsure where to start, what’s being already chewed by the community, what’s being cooked for the near future, and pinpoint specific use-cases, concepts, and obstacles that trouble artists, publishers, and consumers.

I hope you enjoyed it, as much as I did while researching it 🤗

Feel free to ping me on Twitter or Discord. I’m always keen to connect with innovative minds and happy to help newcomers navigate the space with safety and accuracy, the same way early OGs helped me out. Shout out to Conlan ❤

There will be a follow-up article, more like a guide/research on various NFT marketplaces, platforms, and white-label-like services and tools that enable music artists to mint their first NFTs.

About RareCandy3D 🍬

We are a virtual publishing house of scarce NFT originals as well as a distribution channel for traditional indie artists, brands, record labels, and products that want to tap into the $2T crypto market without tackling the learning curve that sustains the gap between the two commerce fields.

RareCandy3D is committed to pleasing your audiovisual and emotional sensors since 2020.

Stay tuned and join our new DApp, coming out in the next two weeks. 🤙Sneaks in Discord and Tg.

Learn about the world’s first NCO on our current website.

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Watch our keynote speech about NFTs.

Join the discussion on Discord! 🌆 and/or Telegram.

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Ross Peili

Ross Peili

Thinking more than allowed.

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