The music and tech world collide once again as Beatport welcomes itself into the land of cryptocurrency. Back in April, Beatport, the online electronic music store, announced they would begin accepting Bitcoin as a form of payment beginning this June. This makes them the first major music retailer to do so. The recent surge of NFT’s within the music industry further cements the idea of crypto and music becoming a perfect meld. Alongside this announcement, Beatport has also partnered with crypto.com to release an NFT titled “Music for Future Dance Floors”. An audio visual NFT compilation of unreleased music. But with the NFT music still available to be listened to on Youtube, it raised the question of what even is an NFT, and why would you want to buy them?
The term NFT has been floating about for some time now, and if you’re anything like myself than you you’ve seen many artists jumping on the band wagon and begin selling NFT’s as well. To break it down, NFT stands for Non Fungible Tokens. They can be used to buy absolutely anything. From art to music, and games. All in their digital format. They can be an image of Lindsay Lohan’s face, a Nyan cat meme or even a video clip of Michael Jordan dunking a basketball. Believe it or not the very first popular NFT were cryptokitties. Yes, you heard that right! Digital cats… So similar to buying an original painting, you can be the owner of the original ‘digital’ version of a painting. But this doesn’t stop copies being made, just like how we can still listen to Beatport’s NFT on Youtube. So what makes people want to spend hundreds, thousands, even millions on these original NFT’s?
NFT’s are digital assets run on the Etherum blockchain. The value of cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, go up and down based on the stock market and economy where as NFT’s value is based on the demand. The more someone wants the original digital asset, the more value it is worth. One dollar equals one dollar and one bitcoin equals one bitcoin, however one NFT does NOT equal one NFT. This is where the term ‘non fungible’ comes in. It kind of feels like a big kid game of trading cards. If you buy two trading cards, one is very rare and the other one has multiple copies, than the demand for the rare one goes up and so does the price. Although they are both cards, they are worth different values. If you want to sell the rare one, the price depends on how much someone is willing to pay for it. If the rare card all of a sudden becomes unpopular, and no one wants the card anymore, the value goes down. Similar to investing into real estate, there is the risk that over time the house will become less valuable or potentially more valuable based upon the demand. Having it as a digital asset is another way to invest. DJ 3LAU describes it as “Issuing digitally identity to digital media”. (cryptonews.com)
So that is why people buy NFT’s but what’s in it for the artist? Allowing the artist to sell their art, music, or visuals directly to the consumer cuts out the middle man of an agency, art gallery, or record label. The creator gets all the profit and full rights to their creation. There are no blurry lines in ownership or rights. The creator sells directly to the consumer and everyone involved in the creation gets the credit. This means sound engineers, songwriters and producers all get a fair cut of the royalties as well. Something that has been lacking until now. NFT’s have changed the landscape for the way art and music can be sold, giving back the power to the creator and allowing you to directly support your favourite artist.
This could be the next thing to bring back exclusivity to electronic music. DJ sets are blasted all over the internet and music hardly remains private. 3LAU shares an idea on the LA Blockchain Summit podcast how a token to an NFT could be shared through a QR code at the gig venue of an unreleased song. Live DJ moments that were only heard in the moment can be shared as exclusive content through an NFT. Giving the attendees a chance to own the original set, making the event that much more exclusive and desirable.
Over the past two decades there has been a huge shift in the way music is sold as well as consumed. We have seen the death in CD sales as LimeWire and Youtube to MP3 copying took hold. Streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music were introduced, therefore making listening to music easy but taking away the profit for smaller artists. Ableton and Fruity Loops have made copying music easier than ever, but then vinyl records found a new consumer in those desiring the tangible feeling of ownership. The trends of music consumption have gone through a rollercoaster of moments of disposability and moments of appreciation. NFT’s may be the next wave of trends that allow us to value both the product and the artist.
Words by Gabrielle Runzer