Most deals between music companies and NFT startups have felt exploratory and experimental: toes being dipped in unfamiliar waters to gauge the potential opportunities, but also the risks. Warner Music Group has been both early and active among the major labels on this front.
The company was part of an $11.2m funding round for startup Dapper Labs in the days when the latter was still best known for its CryptoKitties collectibles game, rather than its current big NFTs hit NBA Top Shot.
In May 2021, WMG followed that with a partnership with avatar-creation startup Genies, with NFTs in mind. Last week it inked a deal with startup Blockparty to work on NFT drops with artists, and now WMG has yet another non-fungible partner: OneOf.
That’s the company that launched in May 2021 armed with $63m of funding and the backing of Quincy Jones Productions, with deals in place to make NFTs based on Doja Cat, G-Eazy and Whitney Houston, as well as an emphasis on environmental sustainability with its choice of blockchain technology.
WMG’s OneOf deal is label-wide, and will see OneOf creating NFTs for various artists on WMG’s rosters, although no specific names have been announced yet. It was interesting to note the mention in WMG’s press release of OneOf’s capabilities for “NFTs from collectible and generative PFPs, to music royalties, and IRL experiences”.
(PFPs being ‘profile pictures’ if you’re wondering: the Bored Ape Yacht Club side of the NFTs market for images sold as potential profile pictures on social media. But it’s the thought of WMG being involved in NFTs that include music royalties that really piques our interest.)
Four partnerships – Dapper Labs, Genies, Blockparty and OneOf – suggests that WMG is casting its net wide to figure out what to do with NFTs in the longer term. That thought process also came out at the NY:LON Connect conference earlier this month, with comments from Jillian Rothman, new business & ventures, interactive & gaming partnerships exec at WMG.
“I want to be authentic to the technology,” she said. “If it’s something that doesn’t need to be built on a blockchain, well, don’t built it on a blockchain! I think we also want to make sure that we’re utilising the tools and technology that we have appropriately and actually taking advantage of it, but not doing things just because it seems trendy or it seems sexy at the time.”
Rothman later expanded on what might be authentic and appropriate for NFTs specifically. “I think as we progress further and further, whatever NFT project or web3 project you embark on has to have some sort of purpose, whether it’s to provide utility, to connect people, to provide access, to share something,” she said.
“We are being very decidedly careful about the ways we introduce music and musicians into it. We’re trying really hard to make sure that artists who are interested [in NFTs] are educated, have a roadmap… I think there’s going to be less and less one-off drops, and more and more micro-communities built around projects or around music or musicians.”