In the Beats of the Blockchain

Can Music and NFTs Dance Together?

Illustration by Dagapa

The crypto art market is high flying and developing at an extremely fast pace. Record sales are happening as the traditional world of art dips its toes into the avant-garde digital art scene. It is not surprising, even for a newbie in the field like me. Artists are always aware of technological developments, finding novel ways to explore them and open up new possibilities. It wouldn’t be different with the blockchain.

NFTs (a kind of digital file based on a contract that is unique and whose ownership can be verified) have been used since mid-2017 to circulate and sell digital art, games, music, tickets, and many other things. Since then, a whole world full of demons, funny creatures, weird sounds, and all sorts of creative work can be found and bought on marketplaces that are part of the blockchain.

And now the beats enter the scene.

Digital music is not that new. We’ve been listening to digital (instead of analog) audio files since the 1990s. What changes with the blockchain is that music can circulate in the market as NFTs. It assures ownership at the same time that it frees the independent musicians from being devoured by the giant labels. An alternative way that is very aligned with the contemporary-digital-decentralized-blockchain-culture. Yes, this word doesn’t exist, but it explains quite well the times we are living in. The big deal of blockchain is to have a decentralized system that assures the safety of the network without intermediaries. In the case of money, there is no bank. In the case of music, as you can guess, the artists or groups of artists can offer their music without dealing with the market of the big labels, and reach directly to their audience.

Music in the form of NFTs is quite new. Vandal from DAO Records was one of the first musicians to start using NFTs. “Late 2019 I got back on Twitter and discovered Crypto Art. Finally, the creatives were in the Blockchain space, something I’d been waiting a while for and it was like I’d found my tribe! As a musician, I immediately asked the question and began experiments adding music into the unlock feature until Mintbase allowed us to include the audio player and actually listen to the music right there on the NFT. I wasn’t the first to explore offering Audio with NFTs, I have to give credit to Connie Digital and Zplit”, he recalls.

Every new endeavor needs some support and someone who develops it further. Beyond crypto art, Mintbase was the first platform to implement the audio feature. “The team has always been supportive of our initiatives and with the progress they are making with NEAR we are anticipating even more amazing features that cater to musicians and artists alike. The fact that you can own your own store and minting contract is important and empowering for building out the tools for a new music industry ecosystem”, says Vandal.

Out of the first tests and attempts, DAO Records was created. It is a platform that advocates music on the Blockchain through the distribution of NFTs. “Our primary focus has been building a community and onboarding new artists into the growing ecosystem. As we are all still evolving in this space, a lot of what we’ve been doing is experimental. We like to think of NFTs as experiences and often combine events in virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels”, explains Vandal.

The NFTs music scene is growing.

Tomm Zardoz is another artist that jumped into the blockchain with art and music. With a background in electronic music, entering the new world of NFTs was almost a natural path for him. “Being born in the 70s, it was inevitable to get trapped by the rave scene and techno parties in the 90s. In the early 00s, I also became a VJ, designing visuals from scratch. It was natural to start bringing all my DJ and producer friends to the crypto world. They are always struggling to find new audiences and distribution channels, so the NFT scene was a great new world to explore and experiment with new ways of creating and distributing music. I like to support electronic music producers because their tracks could fall into the hands of some DJs that always appreciate some exclusivity on their music collections. And the blockchain allows this ‘exclusive ownership’ that other regular music stores cannot provide”, says Zardoz.

To showcase his own productions and artworks created by other artists, Tomm founded “It’s a museum and a gallery at the same time, where visitors can enjoy a curated selection of works and buy art from some artists”.

The future is bright and sound.

There is already a lot being done on the blockchain. But there is much more to come. Something that can explode the medium if we think of the canonic sentence of Marshall McLuhan “the medium is the message”.

“I see a future where the formats for creation established by technical limitations of CDs and MP3 players are gone and we will see more crazy experiments where the boundaries between audio, video, streaming, studio, and live recordings are blurred. We are just at the first baby steps of an unprecedented technical revolution, and I am really excited to witness what the near future will bring to artists and music collectors”, sees Zardoz with an opening to very new ways of combining all art possibilities.

Vandal gets right to the point: “NFTs are the future of music. Period. Amazing innovation is upon us and we’re excited to be there and pioneering the way!”

Crypto art — or, much better, let’s call it crypto culture — is developing fast. We are already in the future. There is no way back. Some things come to stay and change the patterns in which we live. Let’s deep dive into the beats of the blockchain and dance into the rhythm of our contemporary-digital-decentralized-blockchain-culture.

Filmmaker, storyteller