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."