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What do the major labels think web3 technologies will do for their businesses and the musicians they work with? For the introductory session at our Sandbox Summit Web3 Special conference yesterday, we asked them.

Well, two of them. Nadir Contractor is SVP, digital strategy and business development at Universal Music Group, while Lauren Blitzer-Wright is VP, business development at Sony Music Entertainment.

In pre-recorded interviews for the event, the pair talked about how they’re defining web3; how they see labels fitting into decentralised artist-fan communities; what they’re doing with NFTs; and what music can do in the metaverse.

“It’s really, really early days, and we’re not seein g aton of fans and the web3 community intersect,” said Blitzer-Wright.

“Though early, I think that we’re looking at this as an incredibly large opportunity for our artists to express themselves creatively, find new revenue streams and new commerce spaces, and exponentially grow their audience globally.”

Sony has worked on a number of NFT drops; has invested in NFT startups including MakersPlace and Snowcrash; and has run events for artists in Fortnite and Roblox.

“As adoption of web3 becomes more mass-market, we will continue to offer these experiences and educate our labels to give them a broader idea of what’s happening in this space,” she said.

Contractor talked about web3 as an extension of the work labels already do to help artists “maximise creative and commercial opportunities, cut through the noise, and build valuable fan communities” meanwhile.

There is a sense that major labels understand that they need to justify their usefulness in the web3 world: as an “opportunity to demonstrate more value to our artists” as Blitzer-Wright put it, rather than to assume they will be in control by default.

“We spend a lot of time educating our labels, artists and managers on anything to do with tax and legal questions, copyright issues, hundreds of different platforms, and making sure that our artists are making decisions that are best for them [and] that they’re getting compensated correctly,” she said.

“Our focus is to create a business model that makes sense in this space for our artists, and respects the rights of creators as well.”

Blitzer-Wright also talked about the risks around launching NFTs with artists.

“Gas fees; the [currently falling] value of crypto; environmental issues; an incredibly frustrating experience for actually buying an NFT. These are all situations that have fan backlash. And that’s a real thing.”

Sony Music’s biz dev team has talked to “50 to 100 platforms over the past year alone” as part of its efforts to figure out which companies can solve those issues.

“It’s not for every artist either. You have to understand and be interested in this space, and it has to feel organic,” she said.

“These artists should be setting up Discord channels. They should be setting up Metamask wallets. They should even be trying to buy NFTs and understand the process around this, so that when they come into this space, it feels like they have been in touch with the community, and they understand.”

Meanwhile, Contractor offered a checklist of what Universal Music is looking for when working with an NFTs marketplace or startup.

“Innovative music product vision for music NFTs; an understanding and respect for music rights; an understanding of artists, the music industry, and the valued relationships in both the industry and the artist community,” he said.

“And hen last but not least, innovative web3 technologies such as green blockchains, which are a very exciting opportunity.”

Both executives also spoke warmly about the opportunities in music / metaverse partnerships, while warning that scale is important for the major labels.

“All this needs to happen at scale if this is going to be a sustainable opportunity,” said Contractor.

“I think we’ve just scratched the surface in terms of what is possible with the metaverse. One of the most exciting things is the ability to reach multi-millions of fans globally,” added Blitzer-Wright.

Both also agreed that web3 is already creating new roles within the labels, just as previous technological shifts like e-commerce, streaming and social media have done.

“There will be new industry roles created that are focused on web3 opportunities. We’re already seeing specialised roles start to emerge,” said Contractor.

“There’s definitely a need for individuals who can bridge the gap between web3, artists and labels,” said Blitzer-Wright. “We’re seeing more teams formalised within the industry, within our company, to address the opportunities for music in this space.

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.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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