Crypto Music: A Way Forward for the Music Industry

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Over the course of Summer 2020, crypto art duo Studio Nouveau released their first full album of multimedia music NFTs on the SuperRare platform.

This is an unusual way to approach a musical release, but it is an idea that Ture Olson of Studio Nouveau believes will revolutionize the music industry and empower musicians and composers.

But wait. What exactly is an “album of multimedia music NFTs”?

In the world of NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), there is a growing community of visual artists who are enshrining digital provenance in their art by minting NFTs using blockchain technologies such as the Ethereum Network’s ERC-721 standard.

Simultaneously, there is a much smaller community of music artists who are experimenting with this as well, minting what is often described as “audio NFTs” or “crypto music.”

NFTs being digitally native, visual artists will occasionally include an audio track with their digital art. Similarly, when creating audio NFTs, music artists need to include some sort of image to accompany the music. 

For Studio Nouveau, having specialities in music as well as visual art, they strive to do both of these things, presenting visual and musical elements of their work on equal footing. The pieces that they create are “multimedia” at their core.

A common mantra in the NFT art world is, “anyone can see it, only one can own it.” This sums up Studio Nouveau’s approach to their first album. Anyone can view and listen to it, but only one can own each NFT video from the album.

Ever since Ture initially learned about ERC-721 tokens, he knew that NFTs held huge potential for the music industry. His thesis revolves around the concept of supply and demand as it relates to the music industry.

Historically, apart from going to live performances, one needed to purchase a vinyl record, tape, CD, etc. to listen to one’s favorite music. This created a controlled dynamic of supply and demand that generated revenue for record labels and recording artists.

As digital music downloading proliferated in the 2000’s and evolved into the streaming-based platforms that many people use today, once a music recording is released on the internet, it is nearly impossible for the artist to generate revenue that was once possible in earlier periods of the music industry.

If you compare the existence of a digital music track to a cryptocurrency – a digital audio recording might be compared to a fungible token (bitcoin, ether, etc.) – each distributed or consumed unit is materially or practically the same. However, unlike bitcoin or ether, with the unlimited ease of accessing music recordings online and through streaming platforms, the supply of a musical track is practically infinite – only limited by knowing where to find a recording online, and the time you have to listen. 

Ture believes that NFTs are likely the antidote to the supply and demand issue faced by the music industry today, as well as a multitude of other issues faced by musicians. The immutable digital provenance that an NFT brings to a digital creation can be used to attribute value to music recordings in a way that was not possible pre-blockchain technology. 

This supply based concept has already proven very successful for visual art as demonstrated by crypto art platforms such as SuperRare, where artists mint 1 of 1 NFTs by default.  

As Studio Nouveau began their journey on the SuperRare platform this past Summer of 2020, Ture knew he wanted Studio Nouveau to create a full album of multimedia music NFTs, testing his thesis about how NFTs can be implemented by musicians. 

Studio Nouveau’s first album, titled “Audiovisual,” consists of 10 multimedia music videos. Each video is a 1 of 1 NFT minted on SuperRare. The first 9 videos are a combination of visuals (abstract digital sculptures placed within AI landscapes), music, and video effects. The 10th video is meant to represent the album cover.

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“Audiovisual” is the album cover for Studio Nouveau’s first album of multimedia music pieces. The image was created using a GAN fed with the landscapes used in all 9 pieces on this album, followed by detailed hand editing and modification. The music track was composed to reference sounds, melodies, and textures used in all 9 tracks on the album. Also included in the piece is the Etherscan transaction information for the tokenization of each piece on the album. Track list: Mist (SUPR 13167), Flow (SUPR 13175), Distance (SUPR 13181), Metro (SUPR 13204), Tectonic (SUPR 13220), Aerial (SUPR 13233), Bloom (SUPR 13262), Symbiotic (SUPR 13389), and Sirens (SUPR 13588).

For this album cover NFT, the visuals were created by using AI and hand editing to combine visual elements from the 9 primary pieces of the album. The musical track that accompanies this is a composition that incorporates themes and sounds used in the other 9 music tracks of the album. Lastly, a montage of the Etherscan transactions documenting the minting of each NFT track is displayed in succession. 

Studio Nouveau hopes that this type of album framework can be a model to empower musicians and composers, many of whom have been devastated by the near complete shutdown of live music performance globally that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Considering the typical earnings of visual artists on the various NFT art platforms to date, if more musicians were to experiment with this type of album release method, it could be within reach for many to earn revenue that would normally take millions of streaming platform plays to earn, cutting out a slew of middle entities in the process. 

This would also position musical creators to earn the secondary sales that accompany the resale of NFTs as has been established as the standard in the NFT visual art markets.

The increasing ease of access to blockchain decentralized applications and NFT minting platforms has set the stage for the music industry to incorporate new frameworks such as the ones currently being tested in the NFT space. The technology is ready and waiting to be implemented.   

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