If you’ve ever had an amazing idea, put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, brush to canvas, or even just hummed a melody into a mic… putting things out into the universe is how artists make their mark. And while many of these avenues for creativity are tangible, the inherent nature of digitized consumption today means a majority of creators’ art now lives online. This is why NFTs have suddenly become such a big deal — and why they represent a powerful new tool for creators.
NFTs bridge the gap between artists excited to sell their creations and fans jumping to consume them — a direct line between the two parties. It’s a frictionless process between buyer and seller, with no middlemen, acquisition fees, or the evaporation of profit. The elimination of these barriers gives the creator full control of their work and in turn, strengthens their connection to fans, allowing an authentic, direct transaction to take place. In a powerful new way, it means giving control back to artists who may have felt discouraged by the trials and tribulations of distributing work online and the fear of their work will be compromised or distributed illegally. So what does this mean for visual artists? And now, with the advent of the NFT in the world of music, what does minting music to the blockchain mean for musicians?
For ages, artists have taken to physical media to make their mark — oil paints, embroidery, graffiti — the possibilities have been endless, but traditionally existing in the tactile, physical world. But when you think of artists today, the very essence of that role trickles into every medium, and most recently, well into the digital one. While people could easily go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to view their favorite pieces of art, the famous gallery has now taken to an online viewing experience due to today’s health climate. And with the surge of digital artists that create their original prints through software, the internet is saturated with images of original works, all unique in their own way. The struggle has always been this: How does an artist assign value to their work online when it can be easily duplicated, saved, viewed?
NFTs answer this question head-on. Digital media can be consumed and duplicated endlessly, but none of those copies will have the unique, original crypto data attached to it that will certify it as a true, original piece of art. Additionally, it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for artists: They can now create limited edition, one-of-one prints that they can sell rights to. It’s simply genius.
Here’s where things get interesting. Visual artists have always had some point of visual reference with their art — prints, paintings, frames, galleries… Usually, there has been some connection with the physical world. But musicians haven’t — live performances, streaming audio iTunes downloads… these are ephemeral. How can musicians sell their performances, when an audio file isn’t even a tangible, physical object? Well, in a powerful way — the age of NFTs changes all that. Indeed, music isn’t something you can hang up on a wall, or carry in your backpack, but now there can be a unique original that a fan can own in a way they’ve never been able to before.
For established musicians, the implications are game-changing. Bands now have a new and more direct way to engage with their fans. Raine Maida, lead singer for Our Lady Peace and the Chief Product Officer at S!NG plans to remove a single from the band’s upcoming album called “Spiritual Machines II” and mint it as an NFT on the S!NG platform. He puts it this way:
“The ability to sell directly to your fans and monetize that in ways that we never really thought of before — is a tectonic shift that’s happening. When you see artists who don’t have a huge following selling completed works [and] when there isn’t that middle-man, fans will engage and participate. It goes back to the day when we were starting out playing in clubs and you’d put out a signup sheet at the merch table to get emails from fans, why did we want that? Because I wanted to talk to them directly. And socials, Twitter, Instagram, I think it helped for a minute, but it does dilute that relationship.”
But it’s not just completed works that can be minted as NFTs. For every song you hear on your favorite streaming service, many thousands of versions, stems, out-takes, hand-written lyric sheets — a treasure trove of material from the fan’s point of view — can be created as NFTs. This becomes even more poignant for a beloved artist who has passed; a way for their fans to access and enjoy a lifetime’s work — a way to transcend their music and legacy forwards. Dion Liverpool is the former manager of A Tribe Called Quest and is currently working on a major project involving the creative works of the late Phife Dawg. “We’re only beginning our journey learning about the potential of NFTs, but the promise of bringing Phife’s life work closer to his fans is so important. We see blockchain and NFTs as being a big part of this and we’re very excited.”
Longer-term, the implications for younger musicians might be even more profound. In the past, a young musician would have a daunting path ahead of them and if they did find success, any number of people would immediately demand their cut. Now, a sixteen-year-old musician can engage directly with a group of fans — selling her work directly to them without having a record deal — responding to their requests, engaging directly with them, and building her repertoire with the people who love her music most. To make even a few dollars on a first sale (and collecting royalties as that piece of work continually grows) is powerful motivation to keep going.
In the coming weeks, S!NG plans to connect a NFT marketplace directly to the app to help creators do just that. Whether selling a NFT is the end goal, or simply sharing it securely with those who are excited to collaborate on your most prized work, we’re here to help you put out the work you’re proud of, and without hesitation.
And we will all benefit from that.