James Beck

Posted on Oct 25, 2023Read on Mirror.xyz

Two new tracks; comparing Nina and Catalog

One of my favorite early projects at Consensys was Ujo Music, a platform for musicians to share their music onchain -- before the NFT (ERC-721 standard) was even really a thing, and nearly a half-decade before we even started saying “onchain.” So many of the early experiments at Consensys were just that -- brilliant but a little too early. Three years later, more artists were beginning to explore music NFTs thanks to a new NFT standards that automated royalty payments, like ERC-2981. I breathlessly wrote about how artists like Jacques Greene were suddenly making more money releasing a single track NFT than their entire streaming royalties from platforms like Spotify.


2021 was the period of time where there was generally a more mainstream rush into speculative assets -- as some might say, a “ZIRP phenomenon” (Zero interest-rate policy). NFTs benefited greatly in terms of the amount of money pouring in, but this also meant it also became ripe for consumer skepticism, whether from the number of bad actors, shit art, scammy bots, or the thought that collapsing media and finance into a single file type is not the direction creative culture should head.

Let’s be real, it was also damn confusing to know where to find good music onchain; many mainstream musicians exploring music NFTs were also doing so because of their labels, and would involve single-track releases.

Now as we are nearing the end of 2023, there are dozens of platforms to create and share Music NFTs, with far greater user experiences, and even dedicated fan communities. According to Future Tape, which indexes music NFTs released on CatalogSoundNinaZORASupercollectorRiff, there have been over 10,300 minted tracks from 3,421 different artists.


Especially in light of Bandcamp getting passed around this year by disinterested tech giants, I’ve been inspired by the core communities still supporting artists on smaller platforms where artists own their own relationships with their fans, store their data on permawebs like Arweave, and have a greater chance at making a living from their art.

Testing out Nina and Catalog

It’s one thing to write about these platforms as a observer or enthusiast, but another to truly experience the feelings of radical insecurity in releasing music. While music has been in my blood since before I was born (my Dad once said, “to understand my life coming up in New York in the 70s and 80s, you need to see 24 Hour Party People). I’ve wriggled my way into various underground scenes in NY, and have been producing here and there in my free time. Like most things I approach, I’m very interested in the history of music, and think a lot more people in the electronic music scene could learn from the shared social history of club music from sources like Dweller.

So I went through my archives, selected two tracks, and had my brother Scim master them (who knew compression mattered so much).

First, listen to the tracks:



As a collector on Catalog since they first went live, I chose it to be the first site to release “Harmless Thrash,” since they were one of the first sites that I felt really did a great job of curating interesting artists to release on their platform, not to mention a beautiful interface to explore different releases. To release music, you have to apply as an artist, which involved filling out a form about your music journey, taste, and some links to previously released work. I thought this was a tasteful approach as opposed to sites that are mostly accounting for an artist’s clout on social media (Full disclosure, I was also going to try Sound.xyz, but didn’t get accepted as an artist 🥺).

A couple weeks went by, but after I was accepted, I uploaded the art, a .wav file, a short description of the music, and paid a ~$10 gas fee on the Ethereum network to publish the track. I set the price for 0.1 ETH, which is way more than I thought I should sell my first onchain track for, but within 30 minutes it was purchased by Ture.eth (aka musiconblockchain.eth), who is one of the co-founders of Studio Nouveau. It turns out that Ture.eth and Studio Nouveau are some of the most active collectors on Catalog, but it still felt great to feel like I gained my first fan.

The second platform I chose was Nina Protocol, which I was less familiar with, perhaps because the cringey tribalism between different blockchain communities and my unfamiliarity with Solana. I had been seeing their name popping up more and more, and realized that some of my favorite underground artists (like Thoom, Bergsonist, and AceMo) were beginning to share releases, and also collaborate at the events Nina hosted around NYC (next one is at Nowadays, aka the best sound system in NYC, in November!).

Nina Protocol is definitely less polished than Catalog, but perhaps the DIY vibe is helpful in meeting the aesthetic of the artists publishing on their protocol. I did have some issues figuring out how to connect my Phantom wallet, and also was a little disappointed that they didn’t accept .wav files. But the benefit was that the total cost for storage and broadcasting it to the Solana blockchain was only $0.04. They also don’t gate-keep -- anyone can upload music, which keeps true to the community good ethic of the software they are providing.

Upload experience on Nina

MacEagon Voyce has much more thorough and insightful overview of Nina and Catalog as well if you are interested in better understanding their philosophies on curation and onchain music more broadly.

I know I’ll be spending more time collecting on both of these sites in the future, in addition to my Bandcamp Friday binges, and also interested in seeing how the Hubs on Nina develop to represent different on and offline music communities. Oh, and I’ll probably keep sharing music, too.