LimeWire has a licensing deal… with Universal Music Group


Music industry veterans will be forgiven for boggling at this headline, but it’s true. One of the most infamous filesharing brands is now a licensing partner of the world’s biggest music company.

Of course, the LimeWire of 2022 is a very different beast to the one that made its name as one of the most popular tools used for music piracy back in the day.

It’s being relaunched by Austrian tech execs Paul and Julian Zehetmayr as an NFTs marketplace with an initial focus on music. They raised $10.4m in a token sale in April to fund those plans.

Where there’s money, there are opportunities to work with music rightsholders, and UMG is the first to sign on the dotted line, with a global deal.

Its artists and labels “will be able to leverage the LimeWire marketplace as an additional platform to explore unique ways to engage with fans through digital music collectibles and Web3, and generate new revenue streams”.

That includes licences for “music-based NFT projects” on LimeWire including “audio recordings, audiovisual content, backstage footage and any artwork and images”, with LimeWire suggesting that artists “can release bonus tracks and exclusive material, sell uncut or backstage content, and much more”.

It’s the kind of deal few would have predicted at the height of the original LimeWire’s legal battle with labels in the mid-to-late 2000s. Then again, the concept of NFTs would have taken some explaining then too…

This deal is part of a wider trend for major labels to seek out partnerships with a range of companies in the NFTs and web3 space.

UMG’s deals have included Ikonick (through its merch division Bravado), Genies and Curio, while its web3-focused 10.22PM imprint is launching an NFTs-infused cartoon band called Kingship with Bored Ape Yacht Club.

In March, UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge offered his views on the potential for music NFTs during the company’s quarterly earnings call.

“You may see one-off NFT drops. I’m far more interested in a long-term sustainable business model where this product, this opportunity – and I include the metaverse in that – is part of the conversation with our artists where it’s baked into their long-term marketing campaigns,” he said.

“I want it to become something sustainable and long term as opposed to just a headline today about something that everyone talks about for an hour. I want it to be baked into our business.”

Also in that call, UMG’s digital chief Michael Nash suggested to analysts that “you can think of web3 and NFTs as kind of the tip of the technological spear of our overall ecommerce strategy with our artist roster”.

Written by: Stuart Dredge