A growing number of musicians are releasing NFT projects.
Along with cryptocurrencies, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have rapidly grown in popularity in recent times.
Advocates of NFTs claim the digital tokens may offer better financial incentive to artists than the dominant pay-per-stream model, which sees most artists paid very little.
However, critics claim that NFTs lead to high carbon emissions and have little practical use.
Either way, the NFT space is a fascinating area, as the below NFT music projects demonstrate.
Let’s dive in and find out more about some of the boundary-pushing musicians who launched NFT projects.
As a fan of action figures and comic books when he was younger, Eminem wished to recreate such collectibles as NFTs for his fans.
He sold his first collection of “Shady Con” action figures in April 2021, reportedly earning $1.3 million on the marketplace Nifty Gateway.
He also dropped NFTs of original instrumental beats that he produced himself as part of the collection.
The most expensive item was a video called Stan’s Revenge – that came with a pair of the rapper’s exclusive Carhartt Air Jordan collaboration trainers – selling for $100,000.
After Snoop Dogg acquired Death Row Records in February 2022, he made plans for it to be the first NFT record label.
Almost immediately, he withdrew the influential label’s catalogue from streaming services due to the low rate of streaming pay.
In an appearance on the Full Send podcast, the Long Beach-born rapper explained the potential of NFTs in terms of ownership and trading. Artists would benefit financially, whilst fans have the chance to become part of the legacy of a “classic record” or profit through selling it to second and third markets.
This summer, the Snoop Dogg Passport Series of collectibles was released. Evolving alongside his tour, it gave holders increasing access to exclusive artwork, merchandise, and behind-the-scenes content.
Canadian musician Grimes is known for her abilities as a multi-hyphenate artist, designing album art herself, often bringing influences of Japanese anime and science fiction together.
So, it is hardly surprising that Grimes joined the NFT craze with the release of her WarNymph Collection Vol. 1, including a series of ten digital artworks.
Some of these artworks were released as copied assets and others as originals, from which the electronic artist gained $6 million.
Most of this revenue came from two short videos titled “Earth” and “Mars” – underscored by original music – where a giant cherub is seen to be holding a weapon.
American DJ and electronic dance producer 3lau re-released his 2018 album Ultraviolet as thirty-three NFTs, and fans placed bids in an auction period between February 25-28, 2018.
The winning bidders had access to a range of rewards including special edition vinyl records, unreleased music, and bonus song NFTs.
3lau’s NFT design meant that anyone increasing a bid in the last three minutes would reset the clock at T-minus three minutes. After the reset occurred over forty times, 3lau’s earnings from that night were totalled at approximately $11.7 million.
In late 2022, news emerged that Luna Aura – co-author of the song “Walk Away” from the NFT album – had filed a complaint as 3lau’s compensation offer was below her estimated royalty share.
Daniel Dumile, stage name MF DOOM, was mostly known for his intricate rhymes alongside his signature metal mask and “supervillain” stage persona.
The British-American rapper was credited as a major figure for underground hip-hop in the 2000s and built himself an expansive fanbase. His sudden passing in October 2020 came one day after the close of his first augmented reality mask auction.
In 2021, more virtual masks were sold via the digital marketplace Illust Space as part of the “MF DOOM legacy auction”.
Ten percent of each resold mask will go to Dumile’s estate and family for the future.
As someone who always seems to be at the forefront of the intersection between music and technology, deadmau5’s venture into the world of NFTs has also been a great success.
After teaming up with WAX blockchain, the 2021 single “This is Fine” with Portugal The Man was released as one million NFTs. This meant that the song could not be heard through ordinary streaming platforms like Spotify or Apple Music.
Instead, fans were offered a unique experience with the chance for further rewards dependent on the number of NFTs acquired.
Dean Wilson, the manager of deadmau5, explained the potential of NFT use for artists, stating that there is now “a greater secondary market for the creator.”
In September 2021 it was announced that Doja Cat would release an NFT project, with twenty-six thousand Planet Doja tokens listed at $5 each.
“Golden tickets” would win the holder tickets to a Doja Cat concert with the potential for further rewards, and the project took an additional step of recognising winners as founding “Kittizens” of Planet Doja.
The rapper and songwriter’s highest sale from the launch was valued at $188,000 on the Tezos blockchain, which included two all-inclusive holiday experiences for fans amongst other perks.
Doja Cat’s second NFT release was a series of 3D headphones in collaboration with audio equipment manufacturer JBL, released in 2022.
IAMSOUND x Zora (Mura Masa, Toro y Moi, and more)
IAMSOUND describes itself as a “visual artist management firm” connecting music, art, culture, and marketing.
Founded in 2007, they set out to work with international brands and record labels with the aim of giving power and fair monetary reward back to artists.
In March 2021, British producer Mura Masa teamed up with the company and the NFT marketplace, Zora, to release digital artwork made for his 2020 album R.Y.C.
Commenting on the use of NFTs, Mura Masa (real name Alex Crossan) said that they present an “interesting alternative” to music streaming in a digital age where art has been devalued.
Other artists involved with the NFT collaboration project included Toro y Moi and Yaeji.
Kings of Leon
In 2021, the eminent American rock group Kings of Leon helped to break the mould on the use of NFTs in the creative space. Upon the release of their album When You See Yourself, the band launched two types of NFTs.
The first was a deluxe version of the album, only available for a limited amount of time, and the second was six exclusive lifetime tickets to the band’s shows.
The NFT album, released during the COVID-19 lockdown period, raised $500,000 for the band’s out of work crew members.
Primary Wave Music completed a deal for a 50% stake in the Whitney Houston Estate in 2019, and the following year, the music company discovered an unreleased demo that was made when she was 17.
On December 14, 2021, the demo was auctioned along with archival videos and images from her early career, generating $1.1 million in sales.
Rob Dippold, Partner, and President of Digital Strategy for Primary Wave Music said that the NFT drop allowed them to continue to tell Houston’s story in “new and creative ways.”
Pat Houston, Whitney’s sister-in-law, as well as President and CEO of the Whitney Houston Estate, added, “we want to continue Whitney’s legacy… what better way than to do it through the NFT.”
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