What the heck is an NFT? And is there any money to be made as an independent artist selling your music as one?
NFTs are all over the news. Record albums, paintings, and gifs of NBA players dunking are all selling for big bucks and the media just can’t get enough of it. So, what on Earth is an NFT? And is there any money to be made for you as an independent artist selling your music as one?
If you haven’t heard by now, NFT stands for non-fungible token. In essence, it’s a way to prove ownership of an original digital file. You see, with physical art, the original was always clear. There is only one original painting of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” There is one original open-reel master of Bob Marley’s Catch a Fire album. The originals, for obvious reasons, will always be worth much more than any copies that are made of them.
But how does that work with a digital files and digital art? Once an artist has created a digital piece of art, an image or a music recording, anyone who gets their hands on a copy has a copy that is equal in quality and, therefore, equal in value to the original. Up until now.
Digital proof it’s an original
An NFT allows its creator to add a bit of data to the electronic file or, more accurately, add an electronic file to a non-fungible token that proves its original provenance, where it came from, and who owns it.
This instantly makes an original digital file worth more than all otherwise-identical digital copies. After all, it is the original and you can prove it. That identifying data of an NFT sits on the blockchain. It’s basically a way to digitally track and register data in a universally accessible, global database upon which cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are also based.
And interestingly, because the data on the blockchain allows people to track who owns an NFT, NFTs can be bought and sold multiple times and their ownership trail will also be recorded and confirmed in that database. This allows owners to resell NFTs and the digital artwork they come with for a profit if they are inclined to do so. In essence, what an NFT does is allows you to prove your ownership and, as a result, it allows the digital creations to become collectible. Any kind of digital file can be attached to an NFT.
You’ve probably heard that digital artist Beeple recently sold an NFT of 5,000 of his digital images for a whopping $69 million at Christie’s Auction House. Grimes sold several NFTs of her recordings for about $5 million. And Kings of Leon launched their most recent album as an NFT. Heck, just about anything digital can be sold as an NFT. Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, recently sold the first tweet ever as an NFT for $2.9 million.
Are NFTs for you?
So, are NFTs for you and is there any money to be made? Well, in short, if you’re already rich and famous as an artist, then maybe. If there already is demand for your music, your digital creations have value that can likely be monetized as an NFT.
If you’re not famous yet, it’s too soon to think of NFTs as being a revenue opportunity. NFTs are really still a bleeding-edge concept. It’s no accident that many of those people buying NFTs for big bucks today are people who made big bucks speculating on cryptocurrencies — and they’re paying for the NFTs with those cryptocurrencies.
As independent artists, we have always been followers of technology that was first established and mainstreamed by major artists and the major labels. When CDs first came out, for example, they were developed and pioneered by the majors and the first artists on those CDs were all on major labels. It was only when CDs went mainstream that independent artists started adopting them and putting out their music on CDs.
NFTs are clearly not mainstream… yet. While many people are talking about NFTs because of the big valuations of some of these early sales, do you actually know someone who owns an NFT?
The future of NFTs
Yes, there are some interesting concepts being tested that are starting to get acceptance among digitally-savvy consumers like the NBA Top Shot digital trading cards, but it will take a while for NFTs to get broad acceptance among your likely fanbase.
NFTs are likely to become a fixture in the creative digital landscape, but at this time, it’s too early to consider them for your music. Once the format becomes mainstream and once consumers begin accepting and buying them in large numbers, you can start figuring out how to put your next creation out as an NFT. Until then, just keep an eye on the news and see how NFTs develop as a creative format. When it’s time to put out your music as an NFT, we’ll be back to explore the topic again.
Watch more great videos on the Disc Makers YouTube channel.
Tony van Veen is the CEO of DIY Media Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and BookBaby. As a college student, he played in indie bands, created his own LPs, cassettes, and t-shirts, and sold them at shows. Today, he collects CDs, vinyl LPs, and concert t-shirts to support the artists he loves.
How to monetize your music on YouTube
Why anyone can upload your music to YouTube (and why they haven’t been sued out of existence)
How to use Spotify Canvas to add looping video to your streams
When should a producer get a publishing split?
Fuel for your music career — a collection of music industry resources