There was a time when people marvelled at owning vinyl records of legendary singers and evergreen songs. Today, these real-world assets have their digital counterparts as NFTs.

The experiments of converting music to NFTs lead to the development of another variant of NFTs. Media files and music can now be linked to NFTs with the true ownership claim given to an individual.

This transition of music from fungible good to being tokenized has benefited artists in several ways. From having a direct reach to a new audience and loyal followers to providing a premium experience to listeners.

NFTs also allow musicians to keep roughly 100% of their earnings without having to worry about the record label and streaming platform cuts — which is why it’s well-received by artists.

Recently 12-time Grammy-winning singer John Legend announced the launch of his music and social NFT platform called OurSong. Branded as a ‘social commerce platform,’ it will enable creators to easily make NFTs called ‘Vibes’. What sets it apart from the other platforms? Collectors don’t need cryptocurrencies to buy NFTs here and can deal directly in USD. The app allows collectors to bid on ‘Vibes’ using USD which is then converted to Ether and exchanged for an ERC20 token by OurSong. This makes the process quite smooth and easy for those not quite familiar with crypto trading.

Many other artists have sold their albums as music NFTs to garner maximum audience in the digital space. For instance, Kings of Leon’s album When You See Yourself was sold as multiple NFTs in March 2021. Meanwhile, Grimes and Nas have released NFT versions of their tracks. Canadian singer Bryan Adams’ “Heat of the Night” also exists as an NFT on OpenSea.

Additionally, dedicated marketplaces like Airnft help musicians and budding artists to create and tokenise their music. This form of NFT art can be traded using cryptocurrencies and stored in crypto wallets. American musician Justin Blau, aka 3LAU, took to this trend quite early. In February 2021, he sold a collection of 33 NFTs titled Ultraviolet reportedly earning US$11.7 million.

On the surface, music NFTs may appear like the blockchain alternative to buying tracks on iTunes. However, when you buy a track on iTunes, you only buy the right to listen to that music. There’s no asset ownership on iTunes – only a license to listen to what you’ve just paid for. In contrast, music NFTs let anyone listen to tracks but also confer ownership over that file through an NFT.

Music NFTs might sound counterintuitive: Why buy the music you can already listen to? The answer to that question is the same as buying JPEGs anyone can right-click and save. Markets, or people, find value in ownership of provably unique and original assets.

For some, that value could come from a closer relationship with the artist they like. For others, it could be financial exposure to an artist who they believe will thrive. If the artist becomes successful, the value of the music NFT they’ve invested in could rise.

Music NFTs can generate lucrative revenue for some artists. One music NFT supporter @Cooopahtroopa estimated that Bajan rapper Haleek Maul made $226,800 in music NFT sales on Catalog, while his annualized Spotify earnings are just $178. When asked about the figures in the tweet, Maul confirmed to CoinDesk that he’s made 81 ETH from five Catalog sales, which at the time was worth more than $250,000.

There is a wide range of potential use cases for music NFTs. They can be used to grant access to discounted concert tickets, special areas at concerts or meetups with the artist. It all depends on how the artist wants to structure the NFTs they issue. After all, as Wired editor Kevin Kelly has long argued, all artists need are 1,000 true fans who will support them – and NFTs help capture that idea for an increasingly digital world.

What do NFTs and metaverse music indicate for the future of the music industry? NFTs can transform the relationship between artists and their audiences. No label, distributor, streaming site, or social media platform is needed for a direct transaction between the individuals who create music and those who listen to it.

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