It’s relatively easy to make a music NFT, but marketing them well? That’s a separate challenge, and a really important one if you want to both cut through in this noisy space, and ensure fans understand what they’re buying.

At our Sandbox Summit Web3 Special conference yesterday, a pair of sessions explored this challenge. It began with Music Ally’s head of audience and marketing Marlen Huellbrock offering some tips on marketing music NFTs.

“It takes very significant planning and a lot of buy-in from the artist. You can’t just expect to drop an NFT and it will sell out and you will make lots of money,” she said.

“This buy-in from the artist is super-important: they really need to communicate with their fan community… really showing as an artist that they are active in this space, they have a long-term interest, and there is more coming than just this NFT drop.”

Huellbrock cited research by UTA showing that in the US, three in five people are aware of the term NFTs – aided by a blizzard of press coverage in 2021 and 2022 – but only one in five considers themselves fairly or well informed about how NFTs work, even though two in five are interested in learning more.

“That’s the task of the marketing team: to educate the audience in what it is, why it’s valuable to them, and maybe to make them interesting as well!”

Huellbrock said it’s vital for artists and their teams to “evaluate how web3 native their fanbase is” before doing anything with NFTs: if they’re not, there’s a real risk of fan backlash.

She also offered a warning for any artists thinking of offering ‘off-chain benefits’ with NFTs – for example physical goods, VIP access to live shows and other money-can’t-buy experiences.

“It comes with some challenges, such as where there are things like lifelong access to concerts. How long is that actually? Or if a fan has already used this real-life experience, what happens if they sell it on? How is this being communicated?”

Huellbrock also talked about some of the NFTs that have created tensions within fan communities. The Wombats, for example, did a good job of giving fans a step-by-step guide on how to buy NFTs, but their drop still led to tension on their Discord between fans and crypto enthusiasts who’d come for the release.

“This is not to say the team did something wrong, it’s just a learning of how difficult it can be navigating this space of marketing NFTs to the fanbase versus to larger crypto enthusiasts.”

Her final advice focused on the scale of initial NFT campaigns. “It’s better to start small and validate this demand and sell out the first collection, rather than launching with a big collection, making it super-expensive, and not selling all of them.”

marketing music nfts panel

Huellbrock then moderated a panel to discuss NFT marketing in more detail. She was joined by Anya Du Sauzay, head of marketing at Parlophone; Kieran George, head of NFTs and blockchain at Soundr; and Josh Dalton, community manager at Serenade.

How can you understand whether launching an NFT is right for an artist? “You have to start with the why before the what. Why are you doing it? Why is the artist doing it? How is their audience going to benefit from this?” said Du Sauzay.

“At the core of NFT opportunities is ownership for fans, but what are they actually gaining as part of that? That’s often not thought about. You always have to start there and have really, really clear reasons as to why you’re doing it.”

“Often we get to ‘What’s the exciting idea? What’s the press angle on this?’ Forget all that. Really think about the fans first.”

George suggested that the strongest marketing message for NFTs is artists explaining to fans why they are creating and selling them, and how this fits into their wider incomes.

“For artists that are being very successful in web3 spaces right now, their move into this world is partly a big reaction to failings in the web2 world and areas in that which haven’t worked for them,” he said.

“The amount of money that they’re paid by streaming platforms, building proper social networks that really work for them… the better you can really get to the core of that, and help your artist communicate that to your audience, the much better placed you are when it comes to selling the products that you’re trying to put out there.”

He offered some advice to artists still wondering whether or not to explore this space.

“If you can’t answer the ‘why should your fans collect it, why will they find it useful?’ questions, web3 may not be for you. You may be looking 18 months down the line,” said George.

“You don’t need to be in NFTs now to research them or understand them. Go and look at every single project that you can, and try things. Go and buy something: it doesn’t have to be a couple of hundred dollars. Understand the pain points that all your fans are going to hate you for!”

Dalton agreed. “You have to accept that you’re going to have to spend some time learning yourself before you can try and start educating anyone else,” he said.

“Some artists think they can just turn around a really quick cash grab on it. There are definitely quite a few out there, I won’t mention any names!”

“The best thing they can do is spend three to six months [educating themselves]… for artists and their teams it’s super-important that you educate yourself to a really good foundational level so you actually understand what you’re communicating to people,” he continued.

“You can’t expect your audience to buy in to what you’re doing if you’re not fully buying into it yourself.”

Du Sauzay continued the thread. “If the monetary value is the first thing you’re thinking of, it’s doomed to fail for the artist and their audience,” she said, before stressing again the importance of artists being fully on board.

“If the artist is genuinely engaged and cares about being in this space, they should be driving it: front and centre in explaining it… and communicating it in a way that feels right for that fanbase.”

Dalton returned to the point about artists talking honestly about their motivations.

“One of the strongest assets the artists have in all this is the story they have behind why they’re doing this. People are so hesitant to talk about money and talk about royalties,” he said.

“But this is not Elton John getting paid $100m. It’s independent creatives who want to fund their passion, and you have fans out there who want to help fund those passions.”

“If an artist compares NFT earnings to how much they’ve been paid by Spotify or Apple, that in itself is a really strong marketing asset. ‘It’s great that you stream my music on Spotify, and I’m glad you do that, but it’s not going to pay my bills… how about going and supporting me in a way that takes a step beyond that?’”

There was time before the panel closed for Dalton to also deliver a warning about focusing on the perceived ‘utility’ that can be added to a music NFT while undervaluing the music itself.

“We start to get into quite dangerous territory when we think that music itself is not a utility,” he said. “We have been so conditioned after the last 15 years of streaming platforms and low payouts to think that the music itself does not have a value.”

Music Ally’s Sandbox Summit Web3 Special was held in association with Cirkay, Fanaply and Global Rockstar, and supported by Tuned Global. You can read all our coverage of the sessions here.

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