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Music NFTs fever heats up with 3LAU and Kings of Leon


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Haven’t you launched an NFT yet? What are you waiting for? Grab an audio doodle from your studio outtakes, commission some terrible fantasy or sci-fi novel cover-artwork* and/or a GIF of a funny animal – cats are a saturated market by the way, so we suggest pivoting towards penguins, bonobos or blobfish – and STONKTASTIC RICHES are yours for the taking! Or are they?

We’re in a moment of intense hype around non-fungible tokens of all kinds, music included. But the sums of money being spent on the early examples of the latter are real. Grimes sold $5.8m of her NFTs in 20 minutes last week, while Mike Shinoda recently made tens of thousands of dollars from a single NFT, including a new song. Now artist 3lau (aka Justin Blau) has set his own record: $11.6m of NFT sales.

He created a collection of 33 NFTs and sold them on a site called ‘Dshop’ using an auction process. One of them, which included the option for the buyer to record a song with 3lau, sold for $3.6m. Other NFTs in the collection could be redeemed by their buyers to get unreleased music, special-edition vinyl, bonus songs and other rewards.

His management company YMU is now planning to launch more NFT auctions for their other artists. Dance stars (and tech early adopters) RAC and Steve Aoki might be the obvious picks, but Common, Liz Phair and Rancid could be among the more leftfield choices. We’d also like to be a fly on the wall when/if the company pitches the idea of an NFT to Morrissey…

Someone clearly successfully pitched the idea to Kings of Leon, though. The band are releasing their new album tomorrow (5 March) and it will include an NFT version sold in partnership with Yellowheart – the blockchain ticketing startup co-founded by The Chainsmokers in 2019, which now appears to have added NFTs to its business.

NFT Yourself‘ will also be an auction, kicking off tomorrow and based around the new album. Variety reported that there will be six ‘golden tickets’ with rewards including front-row tickets to any Kings of Leon concert for life, as well as artworks “celebrating the album’s release and Kings of Leon’s legacy”. The full reveal of the band’s NFT collection comes later today: around 12pm UK-time.

Are Kings of Leon fans into blockchain? Are blockchain fans into Kings of Leon? We’re going to find out, and this is just the tip of an approaching iceberg of music NFTs scrambling onto the bandwagon. As with any new tech trend, what’s important is to steer a path between overexcited evangelism (the ‘this will revolutionise the music industry!’ view) and head-in-the-sand grumpery (the ‘this is a stupid bubble!’ view).

There will be lots of bad music NFTs in the months ahead. There will be some brilliant ones, particularly those where the artists are genuinely, creatively engaged in making them brilliant. Some of the bad ones will still make lots of money, and some of the brilliant ones will flop. Keen observation and an open mind to experimentation will ensure we come out of that period with a realistic sense of how NFTs might play a longer-term role in artists’ incomes.

*To be clear, this isn’t a ‘fantasy and sci-fi novel cover artwork is terrible’ generalisation. There are so many wonderful examples for those genres. But if you love fantasy and sci-fi, you’ll know how bad the bad artwork can be: and you’ll be recognising its tropes in NFTs regularly…

Stuart Dredge

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