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Are NFT Record Labels The Future Of Music?

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Are NFT Record Labels The Future Of Music?

NFTs present a new method for artists to build a community around their music — all while potentially earning more than they would through traditional record sales. GRAMMY.com unpacks the potentialities and pitfalls behind NFT record labels.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2022 - 06:14 pm

NFTs have taken the internet by storm and becoming increasingly mainstream: A recent report.) found that there were over $86 million worth of NFT sales made in 2021, and trading skyrocketed to over $17 billion the same year. As the market for and creation of NFTs continue to boom, both independent and signed artists are flocking to the medium.

NFTs present a new method for artists to syndicate, sell and build a community around their music, all while potentially earning more than they would through traditional record sales. Electronic music DJ and producer 3LAU sold $18 million of NFTs, while deadmau5 racked up $2.7 million in NFT sales, and raised a seed round for his web3 music metaverse platform Pixelynx. As tokens, NFTs allow artists to have complete ownership over their music, often bypassing the common means of distribution and rights associated with traditional record labels.  

During this digital revolution, entrepreneurs and many established musicians are flocking to the space and creating NFT record labels to capitalize on this proclaimed gold rush of opportunity. With this comes the question — are these NFT labels viable, or just another way that brands and entrepreneurs are trying to cash in on the NFT craze?

What Is An NFT?

An NFT, or non-fungible token, represents a unique asset on a blockchain. An NFT has a distinctive identifying code that is documented on a distributed ledger, allowing anyone to see this public information from the point of creation to the most recent sale price. The Recording Academy recently got into the NFT ring, hiring three prominent artists to commemorate The 64th GRAMMY Awards with unique NFT content.

Fans can buy and sell their NFTs, and may own specific pieces of content without having physical copies. This means that an artist's copy is not one they possess physically; instead, it exists solely on the blockchain where anyone with access can see it at any time.  NFTs are one aspect of Web3 — the next version of the internet, which will be built on decentralized blockchain technology.

Are NFT Record Labels Actually Viable?

"I think NFT record labels are the future of music," says Wellington Lora, founder of music library The Cueniverse, which works with NFTs. "Can you imagine an artist releasing music directly to their fanbase, with no middlemen and all proceeds going directly to the artist? This is especially exciting for indie artists in helping to crowdfund their music career."

The NFT space is still being explored and interpreted by developers and users. But as more people become involved in creating NFTs for music-based purposes, there’s potential for this business model to quickly gain popularity.

"The NFT record label industry is still in its infancy," says Josh Neuman, President of metaverse development studio MELON. "When Snoop Dogg bought Death Row Records earlier this year, he said he plans to make it into the first NFT major record label, which would enable fans to buy and sell ownership of recordings, artwork and other digital assets from their favorite artists signed to Death Row. There’s also MoonwalkerFM, an NFT record label for the lo-fi genre."

Their sentiments were echoed by David Beiner and Jay Stolar of Hume, a metaverse record label. The two believe that the viability of web3 record labels will be dictated by how they use NFTs to engage with fans. "It’s not about the NFTs, it’s about building new fan relationships," Beiner and Stolar told GRAMMY.com via email.

"The best way to think of music NFTs is as a new form of media. With 8 tracks, cassettes and CDs, people asked how these new formats would change the dynamics of the music industry for fans," Beiner and Stolar say. "As a fan, you could now play music in your car and your music was more portable. A fan’s relationship with music became even more tied to their lifestyle and became something they could easily bring with them wherever they went. MP3s streamed across the internet were the next evolution of this."

This next evolution has major companies — from Facebook to Spotify — as well as labels and indie artists all vying for their slice of the metaverse pie.

"Music NFTs will similarly change how fans interact with music and how music integrates into our lives," continue Beiner and Stolar. "Labels can create new relationships where fans either have financial upside and/or creative input into the creation of music [by] their favorite artists."

As with any new format or culture shift, it’s difficult to say how they will change things, if at all, but NFTs could be primed to be the next big progression in music.

What Does Signing With An NFT Record Label Look Like?

It’s still uncharted territory, but many artists are already rolling the dice and signing with these futuristic metaverse labels. The number of NFT record labels currently in existence has yet to be reported.

"Blockchain/NFT record labels are not only viable, but will play a major role in flipping the music industry on its head in the coming years," says Thomas Pipolo, artist and Founder of Cotton Candy Records, who recently sold $20,000 worth of his music in a matter of hours as NFTs. Cotton Candy Records offers 80 percent of revenue to the artist, keeping 20 percent for itself.

"What artist, songwriter, producer wouldn't want to keep 80 percent of the pie? In today's music industry, labels and streaming platforms are the modern music industry's funding mechanisms," Pipolo tells GRAMMY.com. "Record labels ask artists for 70–80 percent of the pie, while major streaming platforms pay artists .004 cents a stream. Both are not viable."

Web3 platforms like NFT record labels are more viable and encourage a "work as play" mindset for fan communities, says Obie Fernandez, CEO of RCRDSHP, a digital collectibles platform built by and for the electronic music industry

"The prime motivation for participants is fun, but they can band together to form entities that look and behave kind of like record labels in that they take on A&R and marketing roles," he continues. "These entities may or may not eventually challenge the supremacy of traditional labels, but should certainly pull them in the direction of encouraging additional, authentic engagement between artists and their fan base."

Traditional record labels are already making the jump into the metaverse. In August, Sony backed NFT marketplace MakersPlace in a $30 million Series A round.

"As a music label, our number one goal is to support our artists — both in their artistic growth as well as new business opportunities. To that end, we are constantly aiming to stay ahead of the curve and support our artists in new ways of cross-collaborating between music, art and tech. NFTs are one example in this space," says Mahsa Salarvand, VP Head of the Global Business Office at Sony Music.

Head For The Future, But Tread Cautiously

Though a potentially great way for artists to prosper, the metaverse and NFTs are ripe with scams and companies attempting to take advantage of artists

Before committing to an NFT record label, artists should do their research to see if the firm has market traction, vet the leadership behind the project and verify any claims that certain artists have purchased their NFTs and are involved in the project. NFTs can be sent to anyone’s wallet address — just because an artist has an NFT in their wallet does not mean they are involved in the project. 


As with any new technology, it's up to content creators and consumers to determine the viability of NFTs. The more artists and labels engage with NFTs, the more they evolve and become valuable. The more they evolve and become valuable, the more artists and labels will entice others to use them.

"I do think there are some interesting issues that arise from the concept of NFT labels, governance being one of them," continues MELON'S Nueman. "It’s so interesting to consider the potential implications of a large group of owners voting on things like marketing and promotion spends. There are some incredibly interesting companies providing new ways to connect artists with their fanbases, while incorporating all the components of the music ecosystem. As the adoption of digital wallets becomes more mainstream, all of this is going to be a very exciting space to watch." 

The metaverse is a replication of our current habits without the constraints of physics. Within this interactive virtual space, Beiner and Stolar believe fans will have "the opportunity to enjoy music experiences in an entirely new way." They envision flying through a virtual concert or listening to the music in a variety of surreal environments; the possibilities seem endless.

"On the interaction side, mechanics like holding four of the artist’s music NFTs may allow you to choose the next song being played. When you go to play a game, maybe you’ll be able to set the music of the game based on music NFTs you own. You may also collect concert tickets, but the tickets will be digital and stored in your digital wallet as memorabilia. Perhaps having a certain number of digital concert tickets will unlock unreleased songs," they continue. "The level of fan interaction will go deeper, and the way in which we move about spaces will look much different; but at the end of the day, we’ll still be going to concerts and listening to music." 

Certain things won’t, and perhaps shouldn’t, change. After all, who doesn’t want to experience live music? While the future of the metaverse is unknown and exciting, it’s also clear that not all artists see it as something that will hit mainstream adoption.

"I think that there will be a big opportunity for artists to get placements in these different metaverses and play some virtual concerts, but I think the metaverse is so far away from being something that is mainstream," continues Pipolo. "I could be wrong, but it's not my thing."

Can NFTs Help Labels Stay Ahead Of The Curve?

"The market is down," says rapper, actor and entrepreneur Ja Rule, who recently put his focus into the metaverse. In March 2021, Rule sold a $122,000 NFT of a painting of the logo for his disastrous Fyre Festival. "I [first] heard about NFTs maybe like, a couple of weeks ago," he told Forbes at the time. "I wasn't too educated on them, and I’m still learning a lot about it...I think people got a little bit tired of the regular stocks-and-bonds way of investing."

In any business, stagnation will see you left behind and out of the game. This has been true throughout the history of the music industry, but is doubly so in its current climate — particularly for artists. Artists and labels that don’t continue evolving, pushing their creativity and embrace of technology, risk falling by the wayside.

As the landscape of music changes, so do its practices. NFTs may be the next big change the music industry and its artists have been waiting for. When asked if record labels in the metaverse were viable, Ja Rule reminds us that "anything is possible in the metaverse."

We're Probably On An Irreversible Course Into The Metaverse. What Role Will Music Play In It?

EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

Alison Wonderland

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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EDC 2019: Alison Wonderland, TOKiMONSTA, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond, Tiësto, More

The world-renowned EDM fest has released the lit roster of over 240 artists for its 23rd annual event, set to return to its ninth year in Las Vegas from May 17–19

GRAMMYs/Mar 28, 2019 - 04:55 am

Today Insomniac, which hosts the now-global Electric Daisy Carnival and other major EDM events, announced the highly anticipated lineup for its flagship Las Vegas fest, set to take place May 17–19 this year. EDC 2019 is positively stacked, featuring GRAMMY winners Diplo, David Guetta and Tiësto, plus GRAMMY nominees TOKiMONSTA, Paul Oakenfold, Deadmau5, Above & Beyond and Kaskade.

Deadmau5 will be making his first return to the fest since 2010, bringing his new "Cube 3.0" stage setup, and Guetta will be back for his first time since the 2012 event. Australian singer/songwriter DJ/producer extraordinaire Alison Wonderland, plus GRAMMY-nominated rave icons Steve Aoki, Armin van Buuren will also bring fire to the three-day event.

Unlike a typical music festival lineup, EDC lists theirs alphabetically by day, giving way to a treasure hunt to the many gems across the lines of names. Underground techno queens Charlotte De Witte, ANNA and Amelie Lens will all perform at the event, which has eight(!) stages, along with fellow techno heavy-hitter Adam Beyer.

South African DJ/producer and underground house legend Black Coffee will also perform, as well as fellow house heavyweights Green Velvet, Patrick Topping and GRAMMY nominee Eric Prydz. Green Velvet will be offering two sets, one as Get Real, his project with Detroit legend Claude VonStroke.

Several artists will be hopping on the decks together, including Topping, who will be doing a B2B set (a.k.a. back-to-back, or collab set, for those not up on the rave lingo) with fellow British DJ Eats Everything. U.K. dubstep stalwarts Skream and Rusko are on the lineup for an "old skool dubstep set," which, as Your EDM put it, is "absolutely unheard of."

More Vegas Fun: KAOS Las Vegas To Feature Sets From J Balvin, Bad Bunny, Ozuna, Deadmau5, Eric Prydz & More In April

But wait, who are the headliners? Pasquale Rotella, CEO and co-founder of Insomniac, believes that headliners are everyone that attends the festival, spreads the love and makes all the magic possible.

"Being a Headliner means looking at the world a little differently, and seeing beauty and inspiration everywhere you look. It’s about lifting up the people around you and making time for your family and friends. This is a journey we all take together—always connected and committed to one another," Rotella said in a statement on Insomniac's website.

If you want to get your dance on and check out the carnival rides, interactive art and plenty of lights and lasers with EDC in Vegas, you're in luck; tickets are still available. Check out EDC's website for more info.

Woodstock 50 Performers: Jay-Z, The Killers, Miley Cyrus & More Announced

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Set List Bonus: 2013 Made In America Festival

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Tirsa Lori
Philadelphia

It seems fitting that a two-day music festival aimed at bringing together people from various walks of life to enjoy live music would be held in the City of Brotherly Love.

The second annual Budweiser Made In America Festival, co-founded by GRAMMY winner Jay-Z, took place in Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway from Aug. 31–Sept. 1. With a diverse lineup that consisted of 40-plus acts performing on four different stages, there was music for everyone, spanning hip-hop, dance/electronica, rock, and R&B. The temperature was in the high 80s to low 90s throughout the weekend, with humidity levels hovering around 75 percent, but the heat didn't deter festivalgoers from lining up early to snag a good spot to catch their favorite band.

It was hard to contain my excitement as I made my way through the festival gates, only stopping briefly, as many others did, to snap a picture of the festival signage. Day one featured performances by artists such as 2 Chainz, Porter Robinson, Imagine Dragons, and Queen Bey, aka Beyoncé. 2 Chainz did not disappoint on the Liberty Stage as he engaged the crowd throughout his set, rapping along to hits such as "Birthday Song" and "R.I.P." From there, I maneuvered through picnicking fans and hightailed it to the Rocky Stage to catch Las Vegas alt-rock group Imagine Dragons, who soared through tracks off their debut album, 2012's Night Visions, including their Top 5 hit "Radioactive." Lead vocalist Dan Reynolds proved he's also a skilled percussionist as he pounded on large drums throughout the set.

After dancing to Robinson's set at the Freedom Stage, I headed back to the Rocky Stage to catch GRAMMY winners Phoenix and Beyoncé. The crowd pleaser of the night for Phoenix was their performance of "1901," which sent the crowd into a fit of cheers and screams. Shortly after, EDM star Deadmau5 rocked the house at Liberty Stage to a sea of Mau5heads. Fans were treated to glimpses of Jay-Z onscreen during Deadmau5's performance, which led many to believe there might be a special appearance by Mr. Carter. But Beyoncé later put those rumors to rest when she reminded us during her performance that we were "now at the Mrs. Carter show." Her set featured short films, costume changes and performances of hits including "Crazy In Love" and "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)."

The second and final day of the festival was also full of highlights. Wiz Khalifa brought his wife, Amber Rose, onstage and serenaded her while performing "Roll Up." During Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' set, Macklemore expressed how he's not always "proud to be an American" before advocating for equality and segueing into "Same Love." Queens Of The Stone Age proved they weren't sorry for party rocking as frontman Josh Homme noted his disdain for rules, and even gave security a piece of his mind after they forced one fan to dismount her boyfriend's shoulders.

Adding some humor to the day, GRAMMY winner Miguel — following his performance of "How Many Drinks?" — asked the ladies in the crowd how many drinks it would take for one of them to leave with him. Many screamed back, "None!" Calvin Harris' set was one big dance party aided by songs such as "Sweet Nothing" and "Feel So Close." Nine Inch Nails closed the weekend with a 90-minute set that opened with a performance of "Copy Of A," a track from their new album Hesitation Marks, and closed with a stunning performance of "Hurt."

After two full days of music, Jay-Z proved once again that he knows how to throw a party.

(Tirsa Lori is a Senior Accounts Payable Coordinator for The Recording Academy. In the past, she has planned different events at the University of Southern California, working with artists such as Bruno Mars and Omarion.)

 

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Exploring The Dance/Electronica Field Nominees

Go inside the nominations for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

You've seen the list of nominees, now take a closer look at the artists nominated in the Dance/Electronica Field categories for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Three-time GRAMMY winner Skrillex leads the field with nominations in both categories for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album. Four-time GRAMMY winners the Chemical Brothers also received a nomination. Steve Aoki, Kaskade and Al Walser are all first-time nominees. Returning nominees looking for their first GRAMMY are Avicii, Deadmau5, Calvin Harris, and Swedish House Mafia.

Best Dance Recording

Avicii, "Levels"

Avicii is up for one nomination this year. He has one prior GRAMMY nomination.

Calvin Harris Featuring Ne-Yo, "Let's Go"

Harris is up for two nominations this year, marking the first GRAMMY nominations of his career. Ne-Yo is up for one nomination this year. He has 14 prior GRAMMY nominations and three prior GRAMMY wins.

Skrillex Featuring Sirah, "Bangarang"

Skrillex is up for three nominations this year. He has five prior nominations and three prior GRAMMY wins. Sirah is up for one nomination this year, marking the first GRAMMY nomination of her career.

Swedish House Mafia Featuring John Martin, "Don't You Worry Child"

Swedish House Mafia are up for one nomination this year. They have one prior GRAMMY nomination. Martin is up for one nomination this year, marking the first GRAMMY nomination of his career.

Al Walser, "I Can't Live Without You"

Walser is up for one nomination this year, marking the first nomination of his career.

Best Dance/Electronica Album

Steve Aoki, Wonderland

Aoki is up for one nomination this year, marking the first GRAMMY nomination of his career.

The Chemical Brothers, Don't Think

The Chemical Brothers are up for one nomination this year. They have eight prior nominations and four prior GRAMMY wins.

Deadmau5, > Album Title Goes Here <

Deadmau5 is up for one nomination this year. He has four prior GRAMMY nominations.

Kaskade, Fire & Ice

Kaskade is up for one nomination this year, marking the first GRAMMY nomination of his career.

Skrillex, Bangarang

Skrillex is up for three nominations this year. He has five prior nominations and three prior GRAMMY wins.

Who will take home the awards in the Dance/Electronica Field categories? Tune in to the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 10, 2013, taking place at Staples Center in Los Angeles and airing live on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT).

(Note: The videos embedded reflect official videos available through official artist and record label channels.)

 

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Dan Auerbach, Fun., Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, Kanye West Lead 55th GRAMMY Nominations

The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Fun., Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West lead diverse field with six GRAMMY nominations each; the Black Keys, Chick Corea and Miguel earn five nominations each

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Nominations for the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards were announced tonight by The Recording Academy and reflected an eclectic mix of the best and brightest in music over the past year, as determined by the voting members of The Academy. For the fifth year, nominations for the annual GRAMMY Awards were announced on primetime television as part of "The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music's Biggest Night," a one-hour CBS entertainment special broadcast live for the first time ever from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Fun., Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, and Kanye West top the nominations with six each; the Black Keys, Chick Corea and Miguel each garner five nods; and producer Jeff Bhasker, mastering engineer Bob Ludwig and Nas are each up for four awards.

"The GRAMMY Awards process once again has produced a diverse and impressive list of nominations across multiple genres," said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. "This year's nominees truly represent an exceptional and vibrant creative community that exemplifies some of the highest levels of artistry and excellence in their respective fields. Combined with the fifth year of our primetime nominations special, we're off to an exciting start on the road to Music's Biggest Night, the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards, on February 10."

Following are the nominations in the General Field categories:

Record Of The Year:
"Lonely Boy" — The Black Keys
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" — Kelly Clarkson
"We Are Young" — Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe
"Somebody That I Used To Know" — Gotye featuring Kimbra
"Thinkin Bout You" — Frank Ocean
"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" — Taylor Swift

Album Of The Year:
El Camino — The Black Keys
Some Nights — Fun.
Babel — Mumford & Sons
Channel Orange — Frank Ocean
Blunderbuss — Jack White

Song Of The Year:
"The A Team" — Ed Sheeran, songwriter (Ed Sheeran)
"Adorn" — Miguel Pimentel, songwriter (Miguel)
"Call Me Maybe" — Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen & Josh Ramsay, songwriters (Carly Rae Jepsen)
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" — Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson)
"We Are Young" — Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe)

Best New Artist:
Alabama Shakes
Fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Following is a sampling of nominations in the GRAMMY Awards' other 29 Fields:

For Best Pop Solo Performance, the nominees are "Set Fire To The Rain (Live)" by Adele; "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson; "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen; "Wide Awake" by Katy Perry; and "Where Have You Been" by Rihanna.

The nominees for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance are "Shake It Out" by Florence & The Machine; "We Are Young" by Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe; "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra; "Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO; and "Payphone" by Maroon 5 & Wiz Khalifa. 

For Best Dance/Electronica Album, the nominees are Wonderland by Steve Aoki; Don't Think by the Chemical Brothers; > Album Title Goes Here < by Deadmau5; Fire & Ice by Kaskade; and Bangarang by Skrillex.

The nominees for Best Rock Performance are "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes; "Lonely Boy" by the Black Keys; "Charlie Brown" by Coldplay; "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons; and "We Take Care Of Our Own" by Bruce Springsteen.

For Best Alternative Music Album, the nominees are The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do by Fiona Apple; Biophilia by Björk; Making Mirrors by Gotye; Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. by M83; and Bad As Me by Tom Waits. 

The nominees for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration are "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida featuring Sia; "No Church In The Wild" by Jay-Z & Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean & The-Dream; "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" by John Legend featuring Ludacris; "Cherry Wine" by Nas featuring Amy Winehouse; and "Talk That Talk" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z.

For Best Country Album, the nominees are Uncaged by Zac Brown Band; Hunter Hayes by Hunter Hayes; Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran by Jamey Johnson; Four The Record by Miranda Lambert; and The Time Jumpers by the Time Jumpers.

The nominees for Best Americana Album are The Carpenter by the Avett Brothers; From The Ground Up by John Fullbright; The Lumineers by the Lumineers; Babel by Mumford & Sons; and Slipstream by Bonnie Raitt.

This year's Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical nominations go to Dan Auerbach, Jeff Bhasker, Diplo, Markus Dravs, and Salaam Remi.

This year's GRAMMY Awards process registered more than 17,000 submissions over a 12-month eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2011 – Sept. 30, 2012). GRAMMY ballots for the final round of voting will be mailed on Dec. 19 to the voting members of The Recording Academy. They are due back to the accounting firm of Deloitte by Jan. 16, 2013, when they will be tabulated and the results kept secret until the 55th GRAMMY telecast.

The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be held on GRAMMY Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, at Staples Center in Los Angeles and once again will be broadcast live in high-definition TV and 5.1 surround sound on CBS from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards are produced by AEG Ehrlich Ventures for The Recording Academy. Ken Ehrlich is executive producer and Louis J. Horvitz is director.

For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.