Here we are, afloat on the sea of our time, holding onto our dreams. Clinging to music, the soul of our lives. These are the songs we’ve been gathering, the storm we’ve been chasing. This is us, from the inside out.
The Paint Shop and the Art Gallery
Imagine a paint shop. A huge, sprawling warehouse filled with cans of paint; every colour you can imagine and then some. Imagine you could have any amount of any colour you want for just $9 a month. What a deal! If you need to paint your house or bedroom, you can’t beat it. Nowhere else can you get more paint for less money. This is Spotify. Imagine a small art gallery next door to the paint shop. They sell original 1-of-1 paintings and limited-edition prints. The paintings are surprisingly expensive and the prints are more affordable. Nobody comes into the art gallery asking to buy “the canvas with the most paint on it” because they’re trying to get a good deal... MORE
Fans, Speculators or Both?
Extra! Extra! The NFT universe is expanding at light speed! The era of digital collectibility is upon us! NFTs will disrupt the music industry! It’s all very exciting (and I mean that sincerely) but something is sticking in my craw. Something is keeping me from fully believing the message of music NFT evangelists. What is it? What is it? Maybe it’s this: NFT platforms often assume that fans are speculators and that speculators are fans. I think it’s a mistake to conflate fandom with speculation. A fan is a person who falls in love with an artist and their work. Love is blind and irrational. Love cares nothing for markets, secondary sales, or the inner workings of cryptography. Fandom is as fandom does. A speculator, on the other hand, loves the thrill of the chase. Understanding markets, secondary sales and cryptography is critical in generating ROI. The fan and the speculator are two very different animals. While some people embody a bit of both, generally speaking they’re two distinct species. Were you the kid who collected comic books to read them, follow the story lines and fall in love with the characters? Or were you the kid who kept your comics in plastic covers, hoping to sell them for a profit down the road? Maybe you did a bit of both but one approach or the other probably resonates more strongly with you. My point is: fans and speculators are not one and the same. What does that mean for the way we design products, platforms and services around collectible digital art? It means what it has always meant: know your customers and speak to them in their language. Early-adopters, especially in the crypto world, are likely to be more tech-savvy and have a stronger speculator streak. It makes sense to put technology and ROI at the forefront of the conversation. For speculators, the fun is in the hustle. But these same talking points can be alienating to fans who have no interest in ROI. The bigger the NFT world becomes, the less important ROI will be to the average collector. The question for artists, developers and platforms at this still-early stage is: who are you speaking to? Fans, speculators or both? Do you indulge the speculator’s appetite for tech and ROI or speak in simplified terms that appeal to the fan’s love for the artist and their work? Anyone who has ever built a campfire knows that the fuel changes as the fire grows: first it’s paper and twigs, then thicker branches and, finally, logs. If it’s true that the NFT revolution is upon us, it means that we’re no longer burning paper and twigs. It means we’re not speaking to early-adopters. It means we can’t assume that fans want to be hustlers.
Aug 01, 2022 1:29 PM - 1 min read
There Will Never Be Another Beeple
There Will Never Be Another Beeple. Here’s what that means for music. Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? Where were you on September 11, 2001? Where were you when Mike “Beeple” Winkleman’s “Everyday’s: The First 5000 Days” sold for $69 million at Christie’s? The Beeple sale was huge. It was a huge pile of money and a huge moment for NFT art. On March 12, 2021, NFTs turned a corner and entered the public discourse. In an industry where “firsts” are prized, this was a “first” for the ages. As a musician, I was cheering from the sidelines wondering if music might be next in line to reap the rewards of mainstream NFT adoption. If so, who would emerge as the Beeple of the music industry? Would it be Jay-Z? Beyoncé? Justin Bieber? Or a previously-unknown breakout artist? My guess: none of the above. It sounds pessimistic but let me explain. I don’t think there will ever be another Beeple. It was a moment in time, the product of a perfect cultural and financial storm. What’s more, I don’t believe there will ever be an MP3 that sells at auction for $69 million. Even if it was Jay-Z singing opera with Beyoncé on jaw harp and Justin Bieber on hurdy gurdy I still don’t think it would garner anywhere near that kind of money. Why? I wish I knew. We simply value visual art differently than we do audio art. A JPEG can sell for millions, but not an MP3. (The most anyone has every paid for an audio recording was the $4 million PleasrDAO acquisition of the 1-of-1 Wu Tang record *Once Upon A Time in Shaolin.)* What does this mean for music? Well, if you can’t sell a single song for a million dollars, maybe you can sell a million songs for $1 each. But who has a million songs? Songs take time to percolate and to produce. And there’s the catch-22. Right there. In order to succeed in the music-NFT landscape, songs need to scale. For most artists, selling a song – or even 100 songs – to the highest bidder won’t be enough to generate a sustainable level of income. But what if one song could be assembled in a million ways? And what if each unique rendition of the song could be bought, sold and re-sold by fans? This is the promise of ever.fm: turning one song into a plethora of musically meaningful renditions, each like a spark struck from the flint of the song’s master. With no definitive version of a recording, a song becomes the sum of its renditions, each helping to express a unique facet of the artist’s vision. In my view, there will never be another Beeple. What’s more, audio art will always be valued differently (read: more modestly) than visual art. But this may be a feature, not a bug, especially during recessions and bear markets. If we can just solve the problem of song scaling – creating many meaningful 1-of-1 renditions from a single master – we may never need another Beeple.
Aug 02, 2022 4:34 PM - 1 min read