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NFTs hot topic of discussion among musicians and industry experts

The billion-dollar music industry has shown recent interest in nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as musicians everywhere are beginning to understand the power of moving away from centralized business models. 

This concept is currently being demonstrated by early innovators like the popular rapper Snoop Dogg, who recently acquired Death Row Records with plans to transform the company into the first NFT recording label in the Metaverse. Country music icon Dolly Parton also recently launched her first NFT collection dubbed “Dollyverse,” which consists of tokenized artwork and music as part of a promo for her album Run, Rose, Run. 

NFTs: A topic of discussion during the 2022 Grammy Awards

While notable, the intersection of music and NFTs was brought to fruition during the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, which took place on April 3, 2022, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The Grammys may very well be one of the most important events for the United States music industry, as a series of awards presented by the Recording Academy are given to recognize outstanding achievements within the music sector. 

Given the rise of NFTs, nonfungible tokens were hot topics of discussion during the 2022 Grammy Awards. Trevor Noah, comedian and host of the 2022 Grammy Awards, joked mid-way through the event, “You know it’s been rough when your favorite artists go from trying to sell you music to pictures of digital monkeys.” The remark was referencing the Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection. But, NFTs proved to be more than just a chuckle during the Grammys this year, as industry experts expressed interest in nonfungible token use cases. 

For example, Tia Smith, Grammy governor and co-chair of the Music Video Committee, DC Chapter and the owner/executive producer and director of talentedSOL productions, told Cointelegraph that she is interested in learning more about NFTs and what they mean for the creative community as a whole:

“NFTs seem like a very viable form of expression and commerce. There have been so many different industries adopting NFTs, and I’m very interested in creating content and forming partnerships to create NFT artwork as an extension of music, television and film.” 

Tia Smith (center) with Cointelegraph senior reporter Rachel Wolfson (left) at The Grammys 2022. Source: Tia Smith

Smith added that her wheelhouse is film and television production, noting that this particular industry has undergone a number of transitions over the years. “We’ve seen the inception of film, video, digital, high-definition and so forth. But, there are other ways music and aspects of art are thriving, so I’m very much interested in the evolution of film and NFTs,” she remarked.

While the NFT sector is still an emerging concept for music industry experts, Smith shared that she can understand how nonfungible tokens could soon be incorporated into major live shows such as the Grammy Awards moving forward. “We are living in the age of intellectual property and this is just another extension of this,” she said. 

It’s also notable that a few mainstream musicians decided to launch NFT collections during the Grammys this year. For example, the American rapper and record producer Gerald Earl Gillum, also known by his stage name “G-Eazy,” told Cointelegraph that he was extremely excited and honored to launch his first NFT collection at the Grammys this year. Known as “The Geralds,” this collection was created by the graphic designer Dzanar and launched on the NFT music platform built on Tezos’ OneOf NFT platform. G-Eazy explained that this drop features 10 unique 3D-NFT avatars that represent his diverse personality:

“Anyone who knows me would say I’m an eclectic person with different interests and hobbies. So there are different avatars in this collection to represent that. For example, there is the ‘snowboarded G’ who loves the mountains and there’s a black leather jacket G with slicked-back hair who gets on stage to perform.” 

While “The Geralds” collection is certainly unique, it’s important to point out that G-Eazy may be the first artist to showcase an NFT collection at The Grammys. G-Eazy elaborated that this was important for him, given the pace of innovation today. “You have to pay attention to what’s going on, and this is where the world is now,” he commented. G-Eazy added that he has always been a big believer in art not being limited to one medium, noting that both of his parents are visual art professors. “I grew up appreciating many different forms of art and I think this is all cross-compatible with various industries.” 

In addition to G-Eazy’s NFT collection being launched during the 2022 Grammys, Colin Fitzpatrick, CEO of Animal Concerts — a platform that helps artists enter Web3 — told Cointelegraph that the Avila Brothers presented and unveiled their new hit track at the Resorts World Hotel in Las Vegas for the first time. “The track features Billy Ray Cyrus and Snoop Dogg and is called ‘A Hardworking Man.’ Animal Concerts are executive producers,” said Fitzpatrick. According to Fitzpatrick, an upcoming NFT launch will soon follow the newly released track. 

NFTs hit the red carpet this year, but why? 

While it’s noteworthy that NFTs were a topic of discussion at The Grammys this year, it’s important to point out that early NFT use cases came into development in 2017. As such, some may be wondering why it took over five years for nonfungible tokens to enter the spotlight. 

Josh Katz, CEO of Yellow Heart — a marketplace for music NFTs and live-event NFT ticketing — told Cointelegraph that one year ago, no one in the music industry really knew what nonfungible tokens were. Yet, Katz believed this changed when the American rock band, Kings of Leon, released one of the industry’s first NFT albums with Yellow Heart in March 2021. “Following this album, everyone in the music and entertainment industry started paying attention to NFTs. The more creative artists jumped in first, then everyone else started to poke around,” said Katz. 

Fast forward almost a year later — Katz believes that the music industry is now seeing mainstream adoption of NFTs given the potential around nonfungible tokens:

“For years, we’ve had multiple formats of music content, whether this has been CDs, tapes or streaming platforms. But, now, fans want to be a part of an experience. They want to gain access to perks and utility, so NFT platforms are now releasing NFT music that a certain amount of fans will buy from innovative artists. This will soon become another revenue stream which many people in the music industry are now realizing.” 

To put this in perspective, Katz explained that traditionally, recording artists and musicians receive micro-payments from streaming services like Spotify that then go to a third-party record label, publisher and others. “All of these entities take a percentage of the payment and the rest trickles back to the artist. We call this the 90/10 rule, where an artist will take home only 10% of their earnings and everyone else gets the other 90%.” With NFT albums, however, Katz noted that an artist can sell a lot less and keep 90% of their earnings or more. Katz added:

“The 2022 Grammys represents an inflection point where creativity is on display. NFTs are the future of the industry and the smarter artists at The Grammys are aware of this.” 

Crypto companies sponsor the 2022 Grammys to further innovate 

Given this, it’s also notable to point out that two crypto companies served as main sponsors during The Grammys this year. Binance, the popular cryptocurrency exchange, and OneOf, a green NFT platform working with musicians like G-Eazy, both had a major presence at the 2022 Grammys. Lin Dai, CEO and co-founder of OneOf, told Cointelegraph that he was excited to see tier-one companies in the blockchain space bringing crypto and NFTs to The Grammys:

“The Recording Academy is the most important institution for the music industry and we know they are very selective when deciding which companies to align their brand with. We are excited that more and more crypto and blockchain companies are getting involved with the biggest tent pole events in music, sports and lifestyle and we expect the trend to continue.”

Binance logo on display at The Grammys 2022. Source: Rachel Wolfson

A Binance spokesperson further told Cointelegraph that Binance wanted to have brand visibility through its recent partnership with the Recording Academy. “We are exploring various avenues in which we can bring Web3 technology to the music community,” the spokesperson said. While innovative from a marketing perspective, the Binance spokesperson added that moving forward, Binance will be educating the Recording Academy’s members on cryptocurrency and how blockchain can help make their business more forward thinking and financially secure. 

Indeed, this appears to be the case for both musicians and businesses within the entertainment industry. For example, MGM Resorts International — the venue where The 2022 Grammys were hosted — recently announced a partnership with Yellow Heart to issue NFT tickets for its newest production, “Timeless.” The show features the dance crew, the Jabbawockeez, and will be Las Vegas’ first NFT ticketed performance. 

Andrew Machado, senior vice president of digital design and business adjacencies at MGM, told Cointelegraph that NFTs for ticketing could provide value for guests. “They turn something as mundane as a concert ticket into a living breathing digital object that can change with each situation such as entering the venue for a show or after the show as a collectible.” Machado added that the creator now has a one-to-one relationship with the NFT owner, meaning they can airdrop holders new content. “For example, in the case with Jabbawockeez, NFT holders will receive food and beverage credit at MGM’s Level Up lounge,” he said. 

In terms of issuing NFT tickets for a major event like The Grammys, Machado believes it’s possible, but only time will tell. “MGM Resorts sits at the intersection of entertainment and gaming and we believe NFTs can play a part there, but time will tell on consumer adoption.”