When you speak to your peers who are artists, what’s the consensus around NFTs and blockchain? Are you seeing a lot of kickback or are artists and labels intrigued? What’s the response?
“It’s a real mixture — you either get real excitement or enlightenment when you spell out some of the things that might be possible. A lot of them are only seeing these gifs that are selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars and it’s just about getting people’s brains ticking on it. We’re all creative people by nature and I think once people realise what’s possible inside an NFT, or by building an app on the blockchain, [they get excited].
“A good way to explain it to people who come from a record background is Discogs. People will catalogue their collections on there, for what? They want to show people what they own. But no one knows they own that stuff for real. They get a kick of having a digitised version of their collection. If you charged £5 for your EP on Bandcamp and also minted 200 NFT versions that get you the same files, looks the same, but you get a digital version that lives in a crypto wallet, some people would rather have that, and might even pay a little extra for it. I’m probably one of those people. We’re not saying that people will stop doing things the old way, but some people will adapt and it will co-exist. There’s no great rush to it, some people will adopt it quicker than others.”
Obviously, major labels and huge artists can afford to fund the experiments that we’ve seen so far. When you’re talking about more independent scenes, labels and artists, what would be some of the utilities they could use to get on board with quickly?
“Here’s a good example: I work in a DAO, which is a decentralised autonomous organisation, called Friends with Benefits. Friends with Benefits started as a token that was minted and given out to a bunch of people who were friends with Trevor [McFreddries] who created it. You could then verify that you had it in your wallet to access a Discord server, which is kind of like a cross between a web forum and a WhatsApp group. Something small artists could do that have a little following or a crew around them is tokenise a Discord channel, let people claim some free tokens, [and] create a community and a vibe about what you’re doing.
“You could post things like behind the scenes footage of you in the studio, or early access to tickets, or a limited edition version of an EP that’s only available to people in the Discord. You’re cooking new utility in the token, making people invest in what you’re doing. You can give the token away in the beginning, when people realise the value of it, they will pay for it. That’s what happened with Friends with Benefits: enough people spoke about it that people were intrigued, and then it was about keeping the community vibe strong enough. But for artists, everyone's gonna come in with some common ground, be it a genre of music, a record label or an artist. The value is already there, you just gotta find the community.
“If I started a Plastician token, for example, and I made a million of them but held 100,000 for myself... If that token became worth £1 on the market, that’s a hundred grand in my bank that I can use to fund my next album or take a year off and tour. Straight away the community has given me access to funds I didn’t have to raise myself, or get a loan, or sell a bunch of my royalties to a label. This could empower artists, give them their own revenue stream and empower their community and followers too. Because if they got in early enough, and you work hard and do a great job of putting out great music, more and more people are interested in joining your community, the token price goes up, and everyone benefits from that.
“That’s the beauty of it really, it incentivises supporting musicians, which is something I think the music industry has suffered from a lot since we’ve moved into the streaming era. The value of music has almost disappeared to the point that people feel entitled to it for free — and why would they pay for it if they can get it for free? This way, you’re not technically paying for it, but if you support me as an artist because you like what I do by buying and holding this token, it’s going to allow me more time to do music. The problem with the streaming model, most of us as musicians spend like 5% of our time working on music and the other 95% is engaging with social media, getting content on Instagram, filming promos, writing a blog, promoting an event. If the community rallies around what you’re doing and it allows you to get on with the creative side, everyone’s gonna benefit. It’s similar to Bandcamp — the kind of people who buy your music on Bandcamp [as opposed to other platforms] will happily pitch in and help out, and they want to support you.”
What advice would you give to someone who’s reading this and wants to get involved or start their own community?
“I find a lot of my information on YouTube — if you hear of a crypto project that sounds cool, YouTube’s a great place to find out how it works and what it’s all about. The more you understand how things work, what they do, what’s the point of the token, what use does it have, why do people need to buy it, the more you start to wonder: what could I do? What would my token do? How would that look? Do some reading up on some electronic artist's NFT drops and what they did. Start following some of these accounts and subscribing to Disclosure, 3LAU, RAC, Richie Hawtin... these guys have been in the space for quite a long time, they’re doing interesting things, they understand it. Obviously, I’m going to mention Friends with Benefits as well. We have a local tier membership now, where you hold a token to access a community of people who know about these things, so it’s a really good place to go if you’re curious. There are a lot of musicians, developers, investors. Look into what DAOs are and how they work, and if it seems interesting to you then I’d definitely recommend getting involved.”