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How NFT’s Can Give Ownership Back to Musicians and Creators

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There is a phenomenon happening on the Internet — NFT’s, or non-fungible tokens, are going viral, and many people are asking “what the hell is an NFT?”

The unique technology based on blockchain and cryptocurrency has an intriguing opportunity to drastically change the landscape of the music and publishing industry in favor of artists, who would be able to reclaim full ownership of their content and revenue streams in a post-Napster Internet.

An NFT (or non-fungible token) is a unique cryptocurrency token that represents unique assets like art, music, property titles, works of writing, in-game items, digital collectibles, investments, collateral, tracing physical items, event tickets, coupons, etcetera. In this sense, it’s much less of a “currency”, and more of a representation of goods and services.

Top Shot, an NFT marketplace developed by the NBA, allows people to buy player highlights, with a LeBron James dunk selling for $208,000. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, stated on an episode the “The Quest”: “If this was 1995 again, coming up with these types of applications, I’d be going nuts…I’d be going to every musician I know right now. I’d introduce myself, like I did back in the day with Broadcast.com, to make anything digital. Same with movies.”

Adam Sarkis, an artist manager for Chicago rapper Vell Le Villain, is building an app called Spree whose focus is empowering content creation and content ownership through NFT’s. Sarkis states: “Spree is a social network that is a one stop shop for developing, selling, collecting, and showcasing NFT content. We believe Spree can empower a new breed of influential content creators that will be ultimately able to monetize their content with much larger access to earning money from their creations.”

NFT’s showed up on Sarkis’s radar when he was introduced to Milwaukee-based NFT entrepreneur Garett Luagavitz who is creating an NFT platform called Cipher, allowing rappers to rhyme over a marketplace of beats, to mint their music as an NFT, and be able to collect or sell, respectively.

The NBA has it’s own version of an NFT marketplace, NBA Top Shot, currently leading the charge in digital sales for one-of-a-kind collectible sports highlights, averaging roughly $18 million in sales daily. Closely trailing behind NBA Top Shot, visual artist Beeple sold a digital art piece last week for $60M.

Erin Magennis, CTO of Spree, believes music is the next phase of mass NFT adoption. “We believe this is an opportunity for musicians to begin earning revenue from the art they create, and for them to be able to restore an ownership that hasn’t really existed since the death of the CD.” Mainstream acts like Tory Lanez, Kings of Leon & Grimes have recently tapped into the NFT music space, while less mainstream artists like 3Lau are relying on NFT music as an identity, with 3Lau’s recent NFT music recently selling for $11.6M on auction.

Especially since COVID-19 struck its first blow roughly one year ago, with fewer in-person performances, musicians have been struggling to earn revenue in an era where 100,000 streams on Spotify garner only a $400 paycheck. Underground artists like Supa Bwe of Chicago have adapted, however, selling EP’s on an NFT platform called Zora, Supa recently tweeted that he plans to release his entire back catalog available to purchase as NFT.

Michael Kirsanov, COO of Spree, states that “dropping a song, meme, or video can be like dropping your own IPO — every time you make content, you have an opportunity to earn if the content is additionally minted into an NFT. We (at Spree) believe creative content should be treated as an asset – in theory, we want you to be able to use your meme as a down payment for a house. Culture should be that valuable.”

The Spree team encourages creatives to reach out to them if they need help getting their content into the world as NFT’s, given the early stage development of many existing platforms. They seek to make the process as easy as possible for creatives in the time before their invite-only beta drops in late April. The Spree team can be followed on Instagram and Twitter with the handle @spreemeplease.

Music journalist based in ATL but from VA. Connect: @tracymitchellva