We are in the early innings of a Music NFT movement!
This article covers what they are, what they entitle buyers to, how they’re valued, and the current players making it happen.
What are Music NFTs?
Music NFTs are when musicians release their music as NFTs. Artists mint their actual song and its source file as the NFT. The musician is saying, “this is the actual song (typically shared as a .wav file) and this is the only copy I will put out.”. It’s ownership of the content itself.
What do you get when you buy a Music NFT?
You are buying the ownership of the music content which can be held and resold by the owner. This does not mean you get rights over the content. It’s simply saying this is the song file and this is the only way to own it. It’s worth what people think the song is worth. Think of it as buying art. If you own and collect a Banksy artwork, you don’t get any rights to commercialize or distribute the art content, but you can hold and sell it.
You can’t lose buying music NFTs the same way you can’t lose when you buy a piece of art that you like. You are getting ownership of the content that you can appreciate and connect emotionally with. If it goes up in value and you, the owner, decide to sell - you can. The worst case is you own content by a musician you like and have an unbreakable relationship with that creator.
Creators have also added extra perks like merch, VIP tickets, and collectible NFTs to make the collector feel extra appreciated.
Music NFTs are changing the way we value music.
- The music/song file as the NFT is now capturing the value of the song. The NFT is where all the value of the song accrues. With web3, all music is free to listen to. Forget about the Spotify model of this song being worth what the royalties say they are. This is the artist creating music on their own terms and listeners valuing the song file directly. It’s the same concept with crypto art. The artists are agreeing to put their art out as an NFT and the collector owns it and can resell it. Anyone can “right-click save as” the file of the art NFT but only the owner of the NFT is the true collector. Just this alone is enough technology to disrupt creating and distributing music for independent musicians, and create a multi-billion dollar opportunity for artists, apps, and collectors.
- The music/song file will be consumed at more upstream layers of engagement and curation creating new monetization models that will accrue value directly to NFTs. The Music NFT itself will be engaged with (like to earn, emotes, etc.) and curated (staking songs into playlists, etc.) to generate revenue directly back to the NFT. This is fundamentally different from Spotify - where users are charged a monthly fee and then some percentage of the revenue is distributed to the artists (while maintaining margins to shareholders).
Music NFTs create an opportunity for the first highly consumable content to break open the Creator Economy to higher levels of upstream apps that generate on-chain revenue directly to NFTs.
Music NFT Landscape
These are all the major components and players in the Music NFT space as of November 2021. If I missed any projects, ping me!
Catalog is the premier 1/1 Music NFT creation platform. It reminds me of SuperRare for Crypto Art, but for Music NFTs. Musicians can release their songs as 1/1 NFTs directly to collectors.
Sound is a Music NFT creation and membership club for musicians to create exclusive engagement opportunities.
Royal is a tool to tokenize royalties and sell directly to fans.
Zora is not exclusive to Music NFTs but has a lot of early Music NFTs prior to the creation of Catalog - especially with Catalog being built on top of Zora but modified directly for music. Many artists still mint directly on Zora or artists on Catalog historically were on Zora first.
MintSongs is an openly accessible song minting application with high edition low priced Music NFT.
Async Art is an Art and Music NFT creation platform with a very cool mechanic of layering NFTs within one meta NFT, known as Layer NFTs and Master NFTs respectively. They’ve applied this concept to Music NFTs by making the layer NFTs, within a master NFT, changeable stems of the song which makes the Master NFT an ever adjustable song.
A Musician mints their Music NFTs into a DAO Treasury and decentralizes ownership of their content amongst their community via NFTs and Social Tokens.
Mirror has become the place for musicians to create DAOs for themselves as an artist project, album, EP, single, etc. The first musicians to do it are:
- Daniel Allen was the first to use Mirror to create a musician DAO via his crowdfund for his $OVERSTIM album and has been releasing music on Catalog and returning the proceeds of those back to the DAO treasury. He’s also created a token gated discord for his $OVERSTIM holders to communicate and work together on moving forward the Daniel Allan / $OVERSTIM project.
- Ibin Inglor followed up on Daniel also using Mirror to crowdfund the DANGER ZONE album and he’s putting out his music on Catalog as Music NFTs. His story is very intense and empowering and it’s unbelievable to see him have the opportunity to use these tools to propel his career. He will also have a token gated discord and opportunities for community growth around his project.
Songcamp is the first crypto x music DAO and the largest music creator common in the space - allowing musicians to come together and create Music NFTs. The community lives in Discord and operates in chronologically organized cohorts/camps for musicians to collaborate on music with many supporting members around all the needs for creating and releasing music in crypto (Visuals, Mastering, Marketing, etc.). They also build amazing products like Club BPM, which is a discord bot that streams Catalog Music NFTs into a voice channel.
Water & Music is a research and writing community around the future of music led by Cherie Hu. They’ve written a lot of thought-provoking and ahead of its time content about the intersection of crypto and music. Now, they’re turning into a DAO with the advent of the $STREAM research token.
Rare .Wav Connoisseurs is an exclusive club of the top Music NFT artists, collectors, and builders created by Jon Itzer, Cooper Turley, and myself. We’re innovating and sharing knowledge there regularly.
Dreams Never Die Records is an existing music record label by Chad for independent artists that is converting into a DAO and leveraging web3 tools to decentralize the label process as they help their artists become crypto-native. They already have some musicians releasing Music NFTs on Catalog.
Club BPM is the first Music NFT player and works currently as a Discord bot to listen to songs from Catalog within a Discord server voice channel. The tool was created by the Songcamp community! It’s also an exclusive club and community for those passionate about listening to Music NFTs together in virtual online settings.
Anthony made a music player that surfaces Catalog 1/1s that shows the price they sold for and sortable by price, latest, etc. Also can see the top Music NFT collectors and their playlists.
Engagement & Curation
Audius is the first crypto music app, built on their peer-to-peer music file uploading and streaming protocol, now home to nearly 5 million monthly users. They Recently implemented a Solana based engagement system to log and track users' interactions and create a social graph to reward fan relationships.
Yup is a curation protocol that users can rate any NFT and depending on how early that user ends up being they earn $YUP while the NFT owner also earns some of the $YUP rewards.
RARA is an engagement protocol that lets users spend $RA towards any NFTs and accrue value directly to curators of the NFT and back to the owners of the NFT.
Arpeggi is Music NFT production tool. The DAW application, or music producer software, is based in the browser and the resulting song file is deployed fully on chain.
So… Music NFTs GMI
It’s still early. Catalog recently $1m in Music NFT sales. There are blossoming music communities like Songcamp, and many new apps coming for the creation, distribution, engagement, and social layers of Music NFTs. There’s still so much to play out - so stay tuned!
There was even a Music NFT Movement - the first live Music NFT event series with the leading acts playing their Music NFTs for collectors and spectators to enjoy IRL! The first event was during NFT NYC 2021 - it will not be the last.
If you’re reading this, it’s clear you’ve taken an interest in the future of Music NFTs.
To stay connected, drop me a message on Twitter. I’ll be posting more regular content about Music NFTs and the emerging sector as I invest out of the Palm Tree Crew Crypto fund in the coming year.
Note: As an experiment, I’m tokenizing this article as an NFT and holding it for myself as the writer.
Huge shoutout to Cooper Turley for being the leading voice of the crypto Creator Economy and for peer reviewing this article!