The music industry was built on selling products by the million. But streaming forced it to move reluctantly to a playcount business. It’s fair to say that everyone is still trying to figure out this model.
But NFTs could be a welcomed return to the selling business for music, albeit of a new kind. The kind that’s refreshingly compatible with our digital economy, where bits can be copied endlessly at no cost.
A Non-Fungible Token (NFT) is a kind of crypto certificate that grants you ownership of a digital work of art. Once you buy it from an artist, it’s yours to trade or hold for the future.
Grimes made $6 million by selling NFT art videos. Beeple sold a picture NFT for $69 million at a high-profile auction by Christie’s. It remains to be seen if this is attainable for lesser-known artists. And sustainable too because NFTs are based on scarcity. So an artist shouldn’t make too many.
So what can NFTs be for music: private recordings for billionaires? Maybe, but music is thankfully an industry geared for mass markets.
NFTs today are reminiscent of the early days of recording. Artists would perform their songs directly into an expensive engraving machine that made only one record at a time. Each performance was unique, and so was each record. That was scarcity alright. But it wasn’t something you could turn into a revenue-making industry. It was tiresome for artists and the price had to be high to make it worthwhile. Too high for most people.
Instead, modern kids like me got their record from the store. It was similar to millions of others, but this one was mine. It was proudly adorned with my name and doodles done with my fancy 4-color ballpoint pen. I even remember an album that came with stickers to personalize the cover.
And that’s the tantalizing blueprint for NFTs to become a truly mainstream industry.
Let Fans Doodle Their Name On It
In other words, NFTs don’t have to come straight from the hands of artists to be valued. People can make something uniquely theirs from a mass-market product. NFTs can be affordable too for the millions of people it takes to spawn an industry.
How about letting fans decorate and personalize digital songs to their fancy?
Fans could do that with song add-ons provided by the artist. Millions of variations are possible for a song with enough material. Fans could then claim the uniqueness of theirs as an NFT for a reasonable price. If not claimed already by someone else, of course.
The artist would receive the proceeds of the sales. When NFTs are traded later, the artist would receive a share of the transaction each time. The value of popular NFTs would likely increase over time, certainly those made by DJs and celebrities. You could support nicely the fledgling career of young artists this way by investing early.
To see what this might look like, go to The Serenader Project. This is a music experiment on a shoestring budget where indie artists provide optional vocal and instrument add-ons for fans to personalize the songs. It’s engaging and also provides valuable feedback to artists. It doesn’t do NFTs yet, but maybe it should.
This real-time personalization audio technology currently works on 4G phones and web browsers without plugins. But it’ll really fly on 5G. All the magic happens in a new kind of streaming server cloud-side, listeners only receive a stereo stream to their device. This keeps the content safe and listeners don’t need to download anything. It uses the same data bandwidth on your phone as plain old streaming.
About The Author
Pierre is a deep learning engineer at a major cloud provider. His workday duty is to ensure customers are highly successful in using and deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Pierre’s claim to fame is having co-written a Top 40 hit a long time ago in a galaxy far away. He muses now about audio streaming for 5G and how interactivity and dynamic personalization will change advertising, podcasting, and music forever.