nft image

Sure, as a musician you can make money by selling an NFT that’s pretty much just an image, an animation or a musical video clip. Some have made millions from exactly this.

However, if non-fungible tokens are going to be a sustainable, long-term part of artists’ businesses (and their creative output) we think they need to be more than just a glorified GIF.

As part of the preparations for our upcoming Sandbox Summit Web3 Special conference in June, Music Ally has put together a list of some of the NFT projects that may point the way forward. This isn’t about sales value, or popularity / success even. It’s about ideas that seem to offer potential for more experiments in the future.

It’s also not ranked: we think number 20 is as interesting as number one! So read on for a taste of how NFTs are being used to explore communities, music creation and rights-sharing, among other features.

1. Imogen Heap’s Endlesss NFTs

Throughout her career, Imogen Heap has relished experimenting with new technologies as part of her creative process. Her partnership with startup Endlesss was a good example. Heap improvised some tracks using Endlesss’s music-creation app; commissioned visualisations and sold them as NFTs. More than an animated GIF? What’s interesting here is the flow from a music-making app to an NFT – something Endlesss is now gearing up to explore at scale.

2. Mike Shinoda’s generative mixtape

Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda is another artist who’s been at the forefront of new techs and platforms, from Twitch to NFTs. His ‘ZIGGURATS’ project saw him turn fragments of music into tracks that fans could mint as NFTs – with a unique album artwork and music mix for each one. An early attempt to see if the generative approach that has been used for avatar projects (e.g. Bored Ape Yacht Club) can also be applied to the building blocks of music.

3. Verité’s ‘By Now’ revenue-sharing NFT

NFTs that include a share of an artist or songwriter’s royalties are increasingly common now. Independent artist Verité was one of the first examples however. For her single ‘By Now’ she sold 2.3% of its master recording revenue, in perpetuity, as an NFT. She wrote a guest column for Music Ally explaining the motivations behind the project. And since then, she has returned to the concept in partnership with startup Royal.

4. Timbaland’s ‘Producer Mix’ series

By now you may be getting a sense that we’re very interested in the crossover between NFTs and music creation. Timbaland’s ‘Producer Mix’ series is another example. Each NFT includes sounds from his upcoming ‘Opera Noir’ EP, but fans who buy more than one will be able to use an ‘online mixing machine’ to play with the audio themselves. It’s a pointer to a future where NFT projects treat fans as creators, not just consumers.

5. The Wombats’ ‘metaverse-ready’ NFTs

With a lot of debate about the environmental sustainability of NFTs, it was good to see UK band The Wombats pitching their first drop as ‘carbon-negative’ (via a carbon credits purchasing program). But the NFTs were interesting in other ways too: “metaverse-ready” with bundled avatars to use in virtual world The Sandbox, and the promise of access to unreleased music, VIP tour tickets and a virtual concert.

6. 0xmusic’s generative music DJs

Another playful music project, with 777 NFTs – each of them a ‘generative music DJ’ that will spit out new songs on demand for its owner. And again, this treats the buyer as a creator in their own right: they can download the MIDI files to use in their music-making. According to 0xmusic, the initial collection sold out in less than a minute, and has since generated more than $1m in secondary sales.

7. Parker McCollum’s Gold Chain Cowboy Black Card

While electronic-music artists have been at the forefront of music NFT experimentation, other genres are represented too. Country artist Parker McCollum has been enjoying success with his ‘Gold Chain Cowboy Black Card: Signature Edition’. This is one of the better attempts so far to create a fanclub-style community around NFTs, with private jam sessions, meet’n’greets and secret airdrops for fans who bought.

8. The Amazons’ Fan Pass

British band The Amazons were the guinea pigs for a ‘Fan Pass’ technology developed by social commerce firm Cirkay. They sold 100 ‘digital box set NFTs’ that included a pre-order for their new album in vinyl form. However, in the months leading up to its release, buyers would also get exclusive content including photos, demo clips, handwritten lyrics and videos.

9. Kingship

Or as we’re thinking of them: ‘the NFT Gorillaz’, which may be a little reductive for one of the most ambitious projects so far. Dreamed up by Universal Music Group’s 10.22PM label, Kingship taps NFTs superbrand Bored Ape Yacht Club for this cartoon band’s members, with the NFTs giving fans access to a virtual world, the music itself, and exclusive stuff around that.

10. Monstercat Relics

Electronic music label Monstercat was early into NFTs, including selling some for as little as 50 cents to widen the audience of buyers. Its ‘Relics’ collection tested out some other ideas: full-length songs and animations that will be usable in metaverses including Jadu and Decentraland. Meanwhile, each NFT’s rarity level upgrades according to the real-world performance (e.g. streams) of its track.

A quick promotional interlude, if we may. NFTs will be high on the agenda at the Sandbox Summit Web3 Special on Tuesday 28 June in London, with tickets available to attend in-person, or stream it live with access to a recording afterwards. Relevant sessions include label execs’ thoughts on NFTs and all things web3, and panels on how NFTs are evolving and how music NFTs can best be marketed. See the full agenda here. The event runs from 9am – 6pm UK-time at Hijingo, 90 Worship Street, London, in association with CIRKAY and Fanaply, and supported by Tuned Global.

11. Nas’s Royal NFTs

Mentioned earlier, Royal is the music NFTs startup founded by musician 3lau to work with fellow artists on selling NFTs that include a share of their streaming royalties. Hip-hop veteran Nas is one of those artists, launching NFTs based on two of his tracks. Fans expecting to earn a massive profit may need to moderate their expectations, as our number-crunching showed, but as a way for fans to support artists they love, what Royal is doing is very interesting.

12. Disco Fries’ Rcrdshp drop

Rcrdshp (think about it) is one of the web3-native music brands that have sprung up, selling out of its own NFTs as soon as they drop. It wants to become a platform for artists to do more though. Dance duo Disco Fries were the first to try its Rcrdshp Studio ‘makerspace’, getting fans involved in a recording session via voting, and turning the results into an NFT – and a Twitch/YouTube ‘closing party’ when it dropped.

13. Avenged Sevenfold’s Deathbats Club

Like Parker McCollum, rock band Avenged Sevenfold are taking the idea of an NFT-infused fanclub and running with it. Its 10,000 deathbats NFTs have been snapped up by fans, providing them with access to the band’s Discord; getting them to the front of the line at concerts; exclusive merch and (for the rarer editions) perks including meet’n’greets and show tickets for life.

14. Lukas Graham’s streaming rewards

Fans couldn’t buy Danish star Lukas Graham’s first NFT: they earned it. He worked with Fanaply on a drop that provided his NFTs as rewards for streaming his new single and his back catalogue on Spotify. It was structured as a contest, complete with leaderboards for fans to see how they ranked. Fanaply CEO Grant Dexter has previously outlined his vision of music NFTS to Music Ally: “It’s fandom, community, flexing and sharing..

15. MusicFund

Another example of a community, rather than just a collection of NFTs. In this case, buying one of MusicFund’s tokens gets you access to a community focusing on discovering new artists and new music, with voting rights every month on which three emerging musicians should get an ETH donation. Events and charts are also part of the evolving community.

16. Synthopia

We’re back in the land of generative music NFTs here, with a project involving another early adopter from the electronic-music world: Gramatik. Each Synthopia token is also an audio seed, generating music that the owner has full rights to use (via stems) for editing and remixing. Access to Gramatik live shows is another perk, with a DAO called Audioglyphs also a key part of the package.

17. RAC’s web3 operating system

We’re not done with the dance mavens just yet. RAC was another early evangelist for web3’s potential, and he’s following through with a decentralised fan community – racOS – built around his NFTs. Working with startup HiFi Labs, he’s built a site where owners can unlock exclusive playlists; chat to one another and get an exclusive experience in virtual world Decentraland. Plus, it’s got marvellous 90s-computer-desktop vibes! RAC told us all about it in March on a Music Ally Focus podcast.

18. Kyle’s MFT with Opulous

No, that’s not a typo. Opulous, a web3-focused spin-off from distributor Ditto Music, has coined the term ‘MFT’ (Music Fungible Token) to describe what it’s doing with artists. Which is, in a nutshell, selling rights to music royalties in a way that the company says complies with financial regulations in the US. An example of this in action is with independent artist Kyle, who is selling MFTs including royalties from his latest album ‘It’s Not So Bad’.

19. Beatport’s Synth Heads

Nowadays, Beatport is far more than just a download store for dance music, and NFTs are one of its latest expansions. It teamed up with Plastikman and deadmau5’s startup Pixelynx to mint a collection of 3,030 Synth Heads NFTs, with characters based on – you guessed it – synths. Buyers join the Synth Heads community, with festival passes, discounts on music software and hardware, metaverse events and avatars, and other perks promised.

20. Stickmen Toys

This is a very intriguing new project involving Warner Records, who’ve launched a ‘free-to-mint’ collection of virtual Stickmen toys. Owners will get access to a ‘The Playground’ community; to live events; with merch, physical collectibles and first dibs on future NFTs too. Plus, each NFT comes with a 30-second music track, generated from a base collection of stems created for the project. One to watch.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, we’d love you to join us at the Sandbox Summit Web3 Special on 28 June. You can buy a ticket to attend in-person, or an online ticket to watch the livestream and access a recording of the event afterwards. Besides NFTs, the event will explore DAOs, web3 music services and the metaverse – all laser-focused on what they mean for music. See the full speaker list here.

Lead photo by Andrey Metelev on Unsplash

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