Music Business

NFT Guide: What Is An NFT & Why Do They Matter For Music?

Photograph of the blog post author, Craig Brown

Craig Brown

11.5.2021

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In a recent Saturday Night Live skit, actor Pete Davidson along with others created their own rendition of Eminem’s “Without Me”. This comedy bit explored a topic that has brought about a large amount of confusion and hype in the creative arts field. In the skit, the actors swapped out the “Without Me” chorus for NFT, or Non-Fungible Token, related lyrics. The parody, while hilarious, does shed some light on the mystery which surrounds NFTs, which we will explore in this article.

NFTs non-fungible token text with art

Eminem eventually responded to the skit that paid homage to his hit song “Without Me” by tweeting an emoji with an eyebrow-raising chin scratch to represent that he has no idea what an NFT is. Eminem, like many in the music world, is still trying to figure out, what is an NFT?

These NFT assets might just be the biggest disrupter to the music industry since streaming. In this article, we will explore the NFT meaning and why they are blowing up right now. Also, we’ll discuss why musicians should care.

Be sure to stay until the very end to find out whether NFTs are the right option for you!

What Is An NFT? 

nft non fungible token logo

NFTs are cryptographic assets on blockchain with unique identification codes and metadata. 

So, what does NFT stand for? NFT stands for non-fungible tokens. A non-fungible item is a unique digital asset that isn’t interchangeable.  Assets such as bitcoin and money are fungible because they are the same and completely interchangeable.  Money is fungible and also interchangeable because you can swap out a 10 dollar bill for two 5 dollar bills. Therefore, an example of a non-fungible item would be a piece of art, videos, audio, photos, and other types of digital items. 

Non-Fungible Token

Another good example would be The Mona Lisa painting. The Mona Lisa painting isn’t fungible because there is only one unique copy and it can’t be replicated. Therefore you can’t trade The Mona Lisa for another art because it wouldn’t be of equal value.  

A person could have two exact same pieces of art but each piece is completely unique and they aren’t interchangeable like assets such as bitcoins or money. Therefore they are available for everybody to obtain.  

Music As An NFT

vinyl with bitcoin symbol nft

What about digital items such as mp3s? An mp3 file can be bought, copied and uploaded to streaming services to be listened to infinitely. Therefore how can it be considered to be a non-fungible item? This is where NFT comes in.

The mp3 would become the non-fungible token because it is given a tag: A unique identification code and metadata that says “this file is original” and can’t be duplicated. The unique identification code and metadata comes with tracking information of ownership. 

While access to any copy of the original file isn’t restricted to the buyer of the NFT, copies of these digital items are available for anyone to obtain. However NFTs are tracked on blockchains to provide the owner with a proof of ownership that is separate from copyright. Therefore making each piece of item unique and non-fungible. 

In other words, NFTs allow a digital item such as an mp3 to be treated like a rare art such as The Mona Lisa painting. It is unique and non-fungible and comes with its own unique digital signature in the form of identification codes and metadata.

NFT Metadata

A question you might be asking is “can’t everyone still listen to the same mp3 of a song on iTunes, YouTube, Spotify and other streaming platforms?” Correct but if we go back to the Mona Lisa painting reference, it can’t be duplicated.

Therefore a copy of a non-fungible mp3 might sound and look the same but the value isn’t the same because it lacks the unique metadata tag of ownership and it can’t be replicated. 

Where Did NFTs Come From?

Kevin McCoy NFT non-fungible token dollar signs in picture frame

The first NFT created was in 2014. The non-fungible item was an idea created by artist Kevin McCoy, depicting a video of a spinning dollar symbol set inside a picture frame. The NFT is now valued at over US $7 million.

It was in 2017 where the format took off with the debut of tradeable cartoon cats known as CryptoKitties. These non-fungible CryptoKitties were so popular that they slowed down a popular blockchain platform.

Music Artists As NFT Creators

Kings of Leon nft when you see yourself

Today big-name artists are catching on and getting into the NFT game. From artists such as Grimes, Deadmau5, Shawn Mendes and Kings of Leon, including many others are making significant headways into the NFT crypto space. 

DJ and producer 3Lau sold a record breaking $12 million worth of NFT’s in February 2021. On February 28, Grimes took in $5.8 million after she sold some artworks in the form of NFTs. The non-fungible digital artworks were published as WarNymph Collection Vol 1. 

Musician Shawn Mendes also became the latest artist to launch a line of digital NFT assets. The artist partnered with Genies, a company that makes 2D avatars, to design virtual versions of some of his most identifiable accessories, including his gold ring, signature Fender guitar, and an embellished vest from his touring outfit collection. 

Can Anyone Make An NFT?

It’s not only artists who are getting into the NFT game. Zoe Roth, the woman featured in the popular internet meme “Disaster Girl” decided to reclaim ownership of the popular meme of her as a 4 year old child.

Now  21, Roth decided to sell the meme on the blockchain as a non-fungible token for more than $450,000. 

How Can NFTs Benefit The Music Industry? 

NFT non-fungible token on a piano

In 2020, the music industry got flipped upside down due to the coronavirus pandemic. Live concerts, which is a significant stream of income for artists and their label, was eliminated. In a world that was already embracing digital, artists and creatives dived deeper for ways to create a connection with their audiences. 

NFTs provided a new outlet for artists to connect on a deeper level with their fans, including selling items to their fanbase in a unique and personable way. 

We will explore a few ways that NFTs can benefit the music industry.

1. Fans Can Invest In You

With NFTs, your most dedicated fans can show you support by investing in your career

There are many cases of people buying an artwork or painting from an artist and several years later that artist became world-renowned. By default, that artwork by the artist becomes far more valuable. 

Therefore, if you are an up and coming artist, your new fans can invest in your career with the hopes that if you blow up, their investment will be worth much more. Including they get bragging rights to say they knew you before you became world renowned. 

2. Exclusive Perks

As an artist, you can create perks along with your music to encourage fans to easily invest in you. For example, Kings Of Leon recent NFTs looked like the average merchandise bundle. But it includes a limited edition vinyl and access to future live shows, including alternate album artwork. 3 Lau also included an opportunity for fans to create a custom song for one of his NFTs. 

3. Alternative Source Of Income 

It is widely known that streaming isn’t the most viable form of income for an artist to sustain a livelihood. But NFT crypto gives artists a chance to have a more personal and direct transaction with their fans, therefore keeping all of the money from their sales.

Mike Shinoda of the band Linkin Park sold a digital piece of art that included a song for the price of $30,000. He tweeted “Even if I upload the full version of the contained song to DSPs worldwide (which I can still do), I would never get even close to $10k, after fees by DSPs, label, marketing, etc.”

4. Multiple Opportunities

Besides MP3s, NFTs can also create more opportunities for artists to sell albums, music videos, interviews, live streams, merchandise and collectibles to be sold on the blockchain.  

Potential Drawbacks Of NFTs

andy warhol with bitcoin eyes nft non-fungible token

NFT represents the “new”. But sometimes change isn’t always good. Although NFTs are considered to be a forward thinking growing trend, it is still in its infant stage. Only time will tell. 

Just as the more mainstream and more well established acts benefit the most from streaming and other sources of income, the same can be said about NFTs. Well known acts such as Kings Of Leon and Mike Shinonda have no problem selling their NFTs to eager fans. But for newer and emerging artists, there can be an uphill battle to reap the same rewards. 

There can also be disadvantages of giving the fans more control of the non-fungible tokens they purchase. With fans having complete control of the NFTs, this can also open the door to legal trouble for artists signed to record labels. As the artists release and sell their non-fungible tokens, they have to be very careful of not violating any contractual terms with their record labels.  

Ideas For Your First NFT

shawn mendes nft non-fungible token with guitar performing

As an artist, it can be difficult trying to figure out how you can create your own NFTs. We will explore a few ideas to set you on the path to selling your own non-fungible tokens. 

You can create a music video or make a previous music video an NFT item. As mentioned in this article, MP3 is a great starting point for a non-fungible token. You can also sell your digital artwork for your track or album. Special acoustic versions or remixes of a track can be sold as NFTs. If you are a performing musician, you can also create the opportunity of a backstage pass and meet and greet for a future tour.  

How To Create And Sell An NFT

grimes nft non-fungible token art

NFTs reside in the blockchain therefore they can only be accessed with cryptocurrencies like Polkadot, Cardano and Ethereum.

Assuming you already know about cryptocurrencies, we can now get started with creating and selling your own NFTs in the marketplace. Going to a marketplace to get started with your own NFT is a good way to learn quickly by default. 

Step 1

Create your own art and save it as a digital file. To reiterate, basically, any digital art file can be converted into an NFT. For example images and MP3s.

Step 2

Price your art and list it on the marketplace of choice. You should download your item and upload it to the marketplace to tag it as an NFT. The marketplace platform will ask if you prefer to mint your asset as a one-of-a-kind piece or as a collection of multiple items. The next stage is to set a price. After you pay the fees associated with your new NFT, it will go live instantly. 

Step 3

Now that your non-fungible token is live, you will wait for bids to come in. Anybody can find your NFT on the marketplace and bid on it. Just as you would promote your latest track or creation, you should promote your NFT so that people can find it. Examples are email blast, sharing links on social media etc. 

Our Final Thoughts

nyan cat nft non-fungible token with sunglasses

Hopefully, after reading this article, you now know everything you need about an NFT or non-fungible token. NFTs are considered to be the next forward-thinking and growing trend. It allows the artist to create a more personal and direct relationship with fans while receiving direct payment with no middlemen involved.  

It is still in its infant stage and some critics are already predicting that it will fail. But they said the same thing about the internet. Are NFTs a fad or the next revolutionary idea? Only time will tell. But why not give it a try, there is nothing to lose from jumping in while it is still hot and it might stand the test of time. 

If you enjoyed this article be sure to check out some more on our blog! We have guides on How To Become A Music JournalistHow To Be A DJ For BeginnersHow To Become A Radio Host and so much more!

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