Can You Sell Your Music as an NFT?

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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.

Vinyl Guide bannerIf 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.

Tony van Veen in the Disc Makers lobby

About Tony van Veen

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.

10 thoughts on “Can You Sell Your Music as an NFT?

  1. What Glade said. If you sell it – ie sell your right of ownership – you will only profit from it that one time and never be able to sell it again as you will not own it from that point on unless you buy it back. That would probably cost you more to buy the rights back which means it’s a losing affair. Not many folks sell things at a loss as would be the case in this scenario.

  2. Respectfully, a question: Am I missing something? Wouldn’t putting out one of my creations, famous or not, as an NFT establish my original ownership of said work, thus proving to be a true alternative to copyright with the Library of Congress? Would it be way more expensive?

      1. The government doesn’t make money from copyright registrations. The Library of Congress provides a service to protect creators by registering their work. It is more likely that it costs more money to maintain that database of works than the registration fees bring in.

    1. It would establish ownership as much as writing it down as sheet music, or recording it as a demo. And those are much easier and (I assume) cheaper to do. An NFT is really a “go to market” tool, not a copyright registration tool. When you have something to sell, an NFT is an option. But if you want to officially register your ownership, then you still need to do so with the US Copyright Office. This is the only way to assure that should you need to litigate for copyright infringement, that you can collect damages and legal fees.

  3. NFT’s: selling off your rights, which is the antithesis of the indie movement, but without any the benefits of joining a label. Maybe consider it for something silly that you don’t care about, but be very, very sure that you will never want it back.

    1. You don’t HAVE to sell off your rights. You could do a limited release of a song as an NFT and auction off, say, 50 copies to fans. This is a business model that is in its infancy and rapidly evolving. No one knows where it’ll end up.

      1. yah this is the obvious play. sry but this blog post seems a bit too sure of itself. “beware of the danger of the nfts” c’mon this is obviously a threat to media manufactures

    2. You’re not selling off your rights to anything. You’re simply selling the claim to own the original file to someone. Like a first print comic. You still own the rights to the song as the artist and can still put your stuff on Spotify and YouTube and all the other platforms. Besides, you can potentially have even more benefits than selling through other channels since you could attach a contract that entitles you to receive a share of the artwork every time it sells. So, unlike selling an original painting early on in your career as an artist for cheap and then never seeing a penny of those millions it is worth after you become famous, you could actually receive let’s say a 10% share whenever it switches hands.

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