Music in the Metaverse: Harmony from Discord?

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Music in the Metaverse: Harmony from Discord?
Music in the Metaverse: Harmony from Discord?
Photo by Diego Mora Barrantes on Unsplash

During the last NFT hype cycle, most of the money went to profile picture projects with vague aspirations to build something in the metaverse. But in the background, some excellent use cases for NFTs were being tried, including something that will disrupt how we consume music.

Music NFTs are recasting the music industry in favor of artists who, for the first time, are able to represent their creations online as unique tokens. Kings of Leon released the first NFT album in March 2021. It included exclusive animations and a digital download — other NFTs in the collection included front-row seats for their concerts.

NFTs allow artists to package their music along with extras such as exclusive art, concert tickets, or in-person experiences. They can sell them directly to fans, cutting out intermediaries like record labels and distributors. “Over the last 20 years — two lost decades — we’ve seen the devaluation of music,” Josh Katz, founder and CEO of music NFT platform YellowHeart told Rolling Stone. “Music has become great at selling everything except music. There’s been a race to the bottom where, for as little money as possible, you have access to all of it.”

The bottom fell out of music pricing around the turn of the millennium, when mp3 files appeared and people started sharing them on platforms like Napster. Today, record companies typically split royalties 50/50, and the meager income from platforms like Spotify makes it very difficult to earn a living. NFTs — whether art, music or literature — solve the “right-click, save as” problem where anything online becomes infinitely replicable.

NFTs benefit fans too because they accrue value as collectibles. Now, instead of boring people over dinner (as I’m prone to do) about how you saw the first dubstep pioneers in Brixton back in 2002, you have an NFT to prove it. And chances are that NFT would have grown in value along with the artist’s career.

Like many blockchain innovations, it’s a massive improvement on the old system. But let’s cast our gaze into the future and figure out what this may mean for the metaverse.

When I was young and rambunctious, my friends and I would show our love for The Prodigy or Nirvana by buying their CDs, wearing their T-shirts, and (if you were anarchically inclined) scrawling their logos and lyrics on our school bags and folders. When we were older, we’d buy car speakers the size of obelisks, and blast our favorite tracks with the windows down.

I hope there will still be a place for this kind of yahooism in the future, but the possibilities of the metaverse will make fandom much more interesting. For example, you could have your favorite band NFTs circling your avatar like fireflies, and people you meet could touch them and experience the music, along with a synesthetic display of art, lyrics and movement. What a fantastic way to discover new music! NFTs can already act as passes to a concert or backstage areas. In the metaverse, you can display the concerts you’ve attended, with links to recordings.

Artists will further benefit from being less constrained by the marketing and legal requirements that come with traditional record labels and distributors. Creativity in the metaverse will be unleashed when artists can make a living selling and performing directly to fans. “There is pure joy in creating without expectations or self-imposed boundaries,” said garage pioneer MJ Cole about his latest release currently on auction for 0.5 ETH. “Music for the sake of music.”

The builders of this new future, where musicians are fairly compensated and fans are rewarded for their support, are already lining up. Music fans were surprised to see the return of the old peer-to-peer file-sharing project LimeWire which, after over a decade in the shadows, is returning with an NFT music marketplace. Not to be outdone, Spotify is trialing NFT integration in its platform, which allows artists to showcase their NFTs along with links to buy them.

Unless otherwise stated, the artist retains copyright over the song even when the NFT is sold. And usually, the song is widely available via apps like Spotify, so no one is left out. It seems like the metaverse (which essentially combines the internet of ownership with virtual reality) has created a new way for musicians to access their fans as a source of revenue, while releasing the huge amount of capital caught up in the outdated record industry.

Music in the metaverse will involve less industry gatekeeping, more creativity and a better connection between musicians and fans. “Owning a feeling is powerful,” said music NFT collector DegenDaVinci on Twitter. “I loved buying Smooky MarGielaa’s ‘Bronx Baby.’ Not only was I supporting a newly independent artist setting out on his own, but I was also buying a feeling. Buy a feeling. I think you’ll like it.”

Nathan Thompson, lead tech writer at Bybit, a cryptocurrency exchange

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Entrepreneur's Handbook – Medium


Author: Nathan Thompson