It’s important to honour the relationship between fans and celebrities if NFTs are going to make a real contribution to both.
Celebrities, from Hollywood actors to top musicians are embracing NFTs right now as the next big thing to connect with fans and take back control from industry moguls.
Grabbing the attention of social media recently on US TV ‘Tonight Show’ clip of Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon discussing their Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs, joining other celebs including Reese Witherspoon to musician Eminem who’ve taken a shine to NFTs.
Certainly, NFTs seem to be gaining traction and possibly altering the music industry. After famous rapper Snoop Dogg recently bought Death Row Records to turn it into an NFT label, the musician underlined this point about their disruptive power, “If anything is constant, it’s that the music industry will always be changing. Blockchain tech has the power to change everything again and tip the table in favour of the artists and the fans.”
But there’s also controversy about how aspects of the current boom in NFT sales from leading figures within the crypto community. Last week in Time magazine Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin focused his wrath on the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs. Rather than his vision of Ethereum as the launchpad for everything from a fairer voting system to urban planning, he’s worried it’s become a plaything of the celeb obsessed world.
“The peril is you have these US$3 million monkeys, and it becomes a different kind of gambling,” he told Time. “One silver lining of the situation in the last three weeks is that it has reminded a lot of people in the crypto space that ultimately the goal of crypto is not to play games with million-dollar pictures of monkeys, it’s to do things that accomplish meaningful effects in the real world,” Buterin added.
From a creative perspective, what do NFTs bring to the world of artists and fans, that’s about establishing a real connection, that does deliver those “meaningful effects”?
The growth of NFTs
The news in late 2021 that Coinbase is entering the NFT market added further momentum, coupled with FTX launching a Solana-based NFT marketplace.
While the current dominant NFT marketplace OpenSea has seen up to 80,000 transactions a day its browser-based wallet is not super easy to use at times, and there have been security issues that have put people off.
That said in August 2021, OpenSea exceeded US$1 billion in gross market volume year-to-date for the first time. By late 2021, it had grown so much that it processed US$3.2 billion in volume in the month of December alone.
In 2022 competition for the NFT market hotted up when LooksRare launched, offering their minted platform tokens, $LOOKS, as airdrops to OpenSea users based on their spending on the platform.
Certainly, the Coinbase emphasis on usability, from initial minting to the discovery of new and exciting NFTs, is a sign of the growing accessibility of the NFT market.
And following Twitter’s rollout of profile NFTs, TikTok launched its first creator-led NFT collection, TikTok Top Moments, further underlining the power of the NFT market and the role of celebs including the likes of Lil Nas X through to Gary Vaynerchuk.
In another sign of the demand world’s most famous sports brand, Nike applied for a series of NFT trademark applications in November and followed it up with a collaboration with Roblox to create Nikeland, an online world, and the acquisition of virtual sneaker company RTFKT.
How are NFTs transforming the music industry in 2022?
Due to the growing popularity of NFTs, the emergence of decentralised streaming services such as Audius is gaining traction. Several musicians, including Deadmau5, Weezer, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and 3LAU have chosen to collaborate and contribute to the Audius music platform.
The growing number of musical artists who have joined the platforms shows the potential of NFTs in the music industry. 3LAU, an electronic music producer, issued the world’s first tokenized record album, raking in more than US$3.6 million, which was a collection of NFTs representing his best-selling album, with just 33 made.
In addition, Shakira recently collaborated with BossLogic to release her own NFT. This shows that NFTs in the music industry go way beyond music, which signifies where the music industry is headed.
Shortly after acquiring the Death Row record label, famous rapper Snoop Dogg released his latest album Bacc on Death Row (BODR) as a stash box of NFTs. Each of the 25,000 stash boxes costs US$5000. Each stash box includes 17 NFTs, one for each track on the album; collecting all 17 NFTs would entitle fans to benefits from the Rapper, like the opportunity to party at Snoop’s LA mansion.
In a recent interview, the rapper said, “Death Row will be an NFT label, we will be putting out artists through the metaverse […] Just like when we broke the industry when we were the first independent [record label] to be major, I want to be the first major in the metaverse.”
As more celebrities and artists resort to NFTs, digital collectibles are becoming a significant money source for musicians, particularly as the world recovers from a global pandemic.
To tackle the subject in more depth BigONE talked with Australia-based Dalton Grant, head of staff at Animal Concerts, which specializes in metaverse-based concerts, designing and minting NFTs, and working with artists recently including Busta Rhymes, Alicia Keys and Snoop Dogg.
Grant said that previously artists ended up with a small slice of the sales revenue, with the majority going to their record label.
With NFTs the biggest difference is that artists can not only create their own music but also release it directly to fans, bypassing major record labels, he said, “For the fans, this allows them direct contact with actual artists, which gives them a unique piece of their favourite artists, which creates a unique connection with the actual artist. For artists using a metaverse platform they can have an audience of two or three million, with artists from both Japan and New York.”
The last concert for Alicia Keys in Miami was also recorded in 3D to allow streaming in the metaverse, Grant added.
What are the risks for artists and fans?
The ever threat of scams and market manipulation has been with crypto from the start so it’s worth considering how this may impact the relationship between artists and fans, as NFTs are increasingly part of the relationship, the emotional bonding process if you like!
The subject got a pretty got going over on The Atlantic article from Amanda Mull ‘Celebrities and NFTs Are a Match Made in Hell’ which looked at the downside to celebrity endorsement. “Whether the technology itself will have more useful applications in the future is presently unclear. This is all speculative for now, in several senses of the word.”
While CoinDesk described the recent flutter of celebrity NFT activity and its questionable motivations as “perverse deal-making.”
Grant agreed it is important for celebrities, from Hollywood celebrities to sports stars, to take care to honour their fans, not merely pocket the money from NFT projects, “I heard about a story the other day of a footballer who ran off with fan’s money without delivering anything, and to be frank I think that’s really disgusting. If everyone is to benefit, and you do the right thing, and that community is supported by supporting you, then having integrity is very important and it is important to create something that lasts.”
Certainly, the recent headline that porn star Lana Rhoades has made off with US$1.5 million in an apparent NFT scam, after complaining about her “negative and rude” community is the mirror opposite of the kind of integrity required to sustain a viable NFT marketplace.
Another worry has been the recent US$320 monster hack of Wormhole, the bridge between Ethereum and Solana, which allows for cheaper minting of NFTs than using Ethereum directly. There’s also been controversy over the legal battle involving CryptoPunks, sparked by an issue with the original version of the code.
Clearly, with such innovative technology, there are going to be some mistakes made along the way so it’s good to hear of solutions helping creatives make good use of NFTs. One neat solution to the threat posed by bridging hacks to NFT transactions was unveiled last month by Ethereum-based platform Harmony, with a Bored Ape Yacht Club Passport.
The advantage of their bridge solution is that it does not move assets, instead, it confirms the asset ownership, and it enables artists and creators, put off from participating due to high gas fees to mint and collect NFTs as a result.
An exciting future for NFTs
When you think about it, it makes sense that NFTs will disrupt the existing trajectory of the music industry through personalisation and deeper connections. Joining the expert discussion Ben Appleby, founder of The Cake, said he looked back to the musician Prince, who changed his name to get closer to his fans and to distance himself from the record company.
“Now with financial freedom and blockchain and Bitcoin that removes those middlemen allowed financial freedom to do things with money that they hadn’t been able to do before because of these third-party counterparties. The artists are free to connect with audiences. They can sell and auction their own art in their own way. They don’t have to compromise on what they’re doing and the messages that are out there.”
BigONE Chairman, Anndy Lian said, “It’s important to honour the relationship between fans and celebrities if NFTs are going to make a real contribution to both. What I think we’ll increasingly see is the use of NFTs to build closer relationships between top fans and celebrities.”
Lian added, “Celebrities must choose the right channels to distribute their NFT IPs. For example, I think Mike Tyson’s NFT launch on Binance NFT Marketplace is a good choice. Redbull’s F1 Team signed with Bybit NFT Marketplace is also a good choice. This technology allows this kind of engagement to happen both at scale, across global communities, and at a very individual granular level, which I believe is exciting. We are just getting warmed up.”
Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.
Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.
An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.