Here’s how Web3 is transforming the music industry

The era of streaming and Covid-19 has made it difficult for many musicians to earn a living and develop deep connections with fans. Web3 is about to change that.

The modern era has brought mixed blessings for musicians. On the one hand, streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music have allowed artists to reach large numbers of people around the world. At the same time, these same streaming platforms are notoriously stingy; Apple Music pays artists around $0.01 per stream, according to the Wall Street Journal, while Spotify would pay even less. Rates this low might be enough for the small handful of superstars with billions of streams, but for the vast majority of artists, it’s a pittance.

There’s also the fact that – as many vinyl aficionados are quick to point out – some intangible aesthetic quality has arguably been sacrificed in our need for the instant gratification that streaming provides, with its repeat and shuffle playback. Back then, artists could expect their fans to listen to an entire album cover to cover, perhaps lying on the couch and admiring the intricate details of the album cover. There are definitely some old-school types today who still listen to music this way, but it’s no longer the norm.

Although our music consumption habits have changed dramatically, the sources of income available to artists have remained largely the same. Most musicians, then as now, depend on touring for their bread and butter. And touring, then like now, sucks. Those of us in the stands and on the dance floor usually only see the romantic moments of an artist’s tour (concerts). But the vast majority of many music tours, especially those of up-and-coming artists, are pretty much relentless rides of stress – planning logistics, talking to venues, eating cheap food, sleeping on buses and being away from spouses and children for long periods of time.

But as painful as touring can be, it was a dependable paycheck. Enter Covid-19, and it all comes to a screeching halt. The grip of the pandemic on the live music industry is beginning to loosen, but it will be some time before concerts return to their pre-pandemic status quo – if, in fact, they do one. day.

All this to say: this is a difficult moment in history for musicians. Fortunately, web3 might be able to provide an antidote to the suffering.

How web3 puts control in the hands of artists

Trying to define web3 is a bit like trying to define social media. It’s nebulous, an umbrella term that encompasses both specific technologies and a radically transformative social phenomenon. That being said, here’s a decent working definition: web3 is the third rung on the evolutionary ladder of the World Wide Web, which revolves around the twin pillars of decentralization and transparency, unlike top-down hierarchical control models that have prevailed on the Internet since its inception in the early 90s. Web3 is based largely on a technology called blockchain – essentially an immutable digital ledger – and gave birth to cryptocurrency, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) , the Metaverse, and other modern tools that are transforming the way we interact with technology and each other.

Web3 is still in its infancy, but it’s already starting to reshape the music industry. Take the Metaverse, for example. “Metaverse” is about as slippery a term as “web3,” and different companies have come up with different definitions and visions of this virtual space. But however you choose to define it, it’s clear that the metaverse has opened up a vast new horizon of possibilities for musicians – not only creatively, but also in terms of connecting with fans.

“The most important keyword when it comes to music in the metaverse is accessibility,” said Ben Ferguson, director of operations and marketing at Soundscape VR, a company that works with artists to create personalized virtual experiences recently. . The Drum. “Think about it, what’s the cost of going to Bonnaroo?” With a minimal budget, you could miss $1,000 to $2,000. It’s a big shift, and suddenly this music festival event becomes this tangible thing that you can afford to do… [but in the metaverse] anyone in the world with access to a [VR] headphones can open up a whole new world of entertainment.

Ferguson also points out that the Metaverse can offer artists a less painful alternative to the rigors of spending months on the road for an IRL tour. “From an artist’s perspective, I think it’s really exciting,” says Ferguson. “Especially when you look at artists who have been road warriors all their lives – they’ve gone out, they’ve made a living performing at festivals or shows, and they’re getting to a point where maybe the body can only take so much. It is really expensive. [Artists might find themselves thinking] I still have a rabid fanbase, I still need to produce content and pitch stuff to them, but I’m just not ready to spend months on the road, away from my family, away from home. me, living in a suitcase. Virtual reality solutions then become another paradigm shift. »

“Control” is another key word at the heart of the music industry’s gradual transition to web3. In the past, control was largely in the hands of record executives and other industry bigwigs, often to the chagrin of artists. The talented and naive young musician who entrusted a significant portion of his future earnings to a money-hungry label at the start of his promising career has become something of a trope in the music industry. But web3, as some of its proponents are quick to point out, can make contracts much more transparent, trustworthy, and less prone to legal vagaries or other fatcat bullshit that can get artists in trouble. “Blockchain removes that because ultimately you have a public ledger, you can see everything, you can see who owns what [and] you can effectively claim it,” says Jake Murphy, co-founder of Ape In Records, a company that leverages crypto to empower emerging artists.

Future opportunities and challenges

Blockparty is another company working to empower artists with web3, particularly with NFTs, which the company’s chief executive, Vlad Ginzburg, calls “the common use case for crypto.”

“We want to make sure that…artists are in control of their typing process [and] in control of their contract,” says Ginzburg. “We want to make sure their collectors have meaningful ownership and meaningful access.”

Blockparty recently announced a partnership with Lively, a platform that was founded during the pandemic to allow artists and creators to connect with their fans virtually. This includes, according to Lively co-founder Alicia Karlin, “one-on-one lessons, meet-and-greets, album-listening parties, private DJ sets — really anything you could think of to monetize your time and catch up”. back to when it was really scary for musicians. Lively began tapping the NFT market as a potential revenue stream for its customers when Marc Brownstein, the company’s other co-founder and The Disco Biscuits bassist, saw a tweet posted by a fellow musician comparing his earnings. streams to those of OpenSea, a major NFT marketplace. The latter has largely eclipsed the former.

“It was just a huge eye-opener for a lot of artists who can instantly see that there’s something going on here in the web3 space,” Brownstein says. “Artists have a moment.” For Browning, NFTs began to look like a powerful tool that could help artists regain control of their careers — and rekindle a thriving connection with their fans — at a time when it was beginning to look like the light of day. music industry could be choked out, at least temporarily. Music IRL could have been suspended, but music on the web3 had just been born.

Education remains a major hurdle for musicians looking to break into the web3 space. NFTs, Ginzburg insists, are simpler than most people think; he describes them as tools for “using decentralized databases to have proof of ownership that is 100% provable”. And yet, Browning himself admits that it took him about six months to fully settle in with a digital wallet after receiving his first NFT as a gift. “There were many steps [and] it was an awkward process for integration,” he says. One of the main goals of the new partnership between Lively and Blockparty is to ease this education barrier by simplifying the onboarding process for musicians.

Ginzburg also says that NFT drops shouldn’t be treated as some sort of cookie-cutter strategy; each should be tailored to the creator’s unique goals and audience. “We want to encourage creators to distill their creativity and its impact on their communities, and to think about, ‘How can I give more agency to my audience, and what do I hope this NFT brings my audience to do?…is be a value add, do something creative, add to the web3 space and take agency in what you hope to happen with your community.Similar possibilities exist in the metaverse; platforms such as Soundscape VR are beginning to work directly with artists to develop personalized virtual experiences based on each artist’s vision and existing fan base.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this new web3 music scene is the speed at which it has grown. Just a few years ago, web3 was highly specialized, bordering on esotericism. Today, it is approaching mainstream status, a promotional, public relations and profit strategy, which – like social media – could possibly be considered essential to the livelihood of any serious musician. There’s a long way to go, plenty of experiments to do, and a whole lot more money to be made – both by the artists and their expert web3 guides. As Karlin says, “There are so many opportunities…we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg of what’s going to develop here.

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