Free to listen, valuable to own. The promise of onchain music.
Music is social.
It’s meant to be played live and streamed millions of times.
Naturally - this would mean you want your music to be everywhere, so everyone can hear it.
Because at the end of the day, artists want to be heard.
But what if putting your music in less places with a more focused attitude accomplished a different result?
What if instead of playing the numbers game, you played the long game?
What if being a bigger fish in a smaller pond had more upside - especially as that pond grows?
This is a thought experiment around only releasing your music onchain.
Onchain is a net-new way to distribute music.
It primarily consists of platforms created within the last 2 years.
They are hard to use and time-consuming to get started.
They have a very select amount of music, mostly from artists the average fan has never heard of.
Realistically there are probably ~10,000 people actively using onchain music platforms today.
But maybe that’s not a bad thing.
There is a wave of artists only releasing their music onchain.
You’ll notice that songs which are only available onchain typically have the most mints and volume.
This goes to say that artists who lean heavily into being onchain will continue to see outsized returns on onchain platforms.
Usage will only get easier. Wallets will get easier to set up, and transactions will be faster and easier to process.
Onchain platforms will grow exponentially more than traditional platforms, sheerly by virtue of the amount of new users it takes to 2x, 5x, 10x and so on.
There is more music being released onchain every day, and that number will only ever go up.
Artists are building a career on the back of their onchain catalog - creating a vacuum for new sounds and approaches to distribution to emerge.
If you’re a new artist, here’s why you should consider only releasing your music onchain.
Cutting Through the Noise
There are ~50,000 new songs released on streaming services every day.
Streaming is designed for the passive listener - those who want to listen to a playlist on shuffle or save a Tiktok song. And there’s power to that.
Onchain music today attracts active listeners - those who want to form a deeper relationship with the artist.
Releasing your music onchain gives you a net new playing field to compete that largely has nothing to do with how well you are doing on traditional platforms.
Collectors don’t care about your Instagram followers or if you landed New Music Friday.
Collectors care about your commitment to the next generation of music.
They care about meaningful ways to support and invest in your career and to build a collection that shows that they were there first.
Releasing onchain gives you an opportunity to cut through the noise.
If you release a song on Spotify and it gets 10,000 streams - people will treat it as any other song that has 10,000 streams.
If you release a song onchain and it gets 10,000 mints - people will treat you like a legend.
There is a huge difference between what moves the needle onchain and what moves the needle on streaming.
When you compare streams, you’re competing against millions of other artists.
When you choose not to put your song somewhere, you are opting out of measuring your music using those metrics.
The catch is if it's only onchain - fans have to dig to find the music. But maybe that’s not actually a bad thing.
Sure - easy access to all the music in the world is a beautiful place to live.
But what happens when you put a flag in the sand and say “hey, my music has value”?
And the only place(s) to listen to it is onchain. Where you control the value.
Keep in mind - onchain music is free to listen. And valuable to own.
Think about it. If 100 fans were to stumble on your music here’s the difference.
100 streams would earn ~$0.37
100 mints at 0.0001 ETH would earn ~$180
Granted - the conversion rate between a play and a mint is very low.
Still, if even just 1 of those 100 fans collect, you are still making ~5x of what 100 streams earns.
But at the end of the day, it’s not even about the money. And it can’t be for onchain music to matter.
Releasing onchain is a new way to value music.
Music that exists onchain has historical significance.
In 2023, minting your music onchain cements it as a part of the earliest chapter of the next generation of music.
Your songs can stand aside one another and tell very different stories.
Maybe one is a limited edition of 25, the next an open edition with 1000 mints.
Looking at these side by side, it's easy to tell that the limited edition song is more “rare” than the one with 1000 mints.
Now - you can start to view music through a new lens. You can add a new dimension of collectibility which sets a strong foundation for new social games to emerge.
There used to be a time when curating a playlist was a social game that we all liked to play.
Those days have largely gone away.
But what if onchain music can bring that back?
Thanks to curator fees, if someone discovers and collects a song through your playlist - you earn a kickback.
Empowering curators in a transparent, direct manner allows us to reintroduce social dynamics without needing to worry about payola and repost chains (which killed Soundcloud).
For onchain music to succeed, there needs to be a social layer around collecting music.
Being onchain allows your music to be a part of that new conversation.
Leap of Faith
Releasing your music only onchain is a huge leap of faith.
Less than 1% of all music fans are onchain.
It directly counteracts the potential for artists to have their music heard by as many people as possible.
But - it challenges you to think differently about how you build your audience.
It’s saying that maybe it's ok if less people hear it, especially if each of those collectors have a more intimate relationship with you and your project.
What would you rather have - 1,000,000 passive fans or 1,000 active collectors?
There’s no one right answer, but the latter is something that I’m coming to appreciate more each day.
We are quickly approaching a time when new artists will be releasing their first songs ever - only onchain.
And once that flood gate opens - there is no going back.
So here’s to being only onchain.
And to all the doubt, hate and struggle that comes with it.
Shoutout to Rachel Dunham Jake Nixon and Reo Cragun for feedback on this post. And to sushi with Bloody White for inspiring it.