Creators are flocking to the NFT market, and musicians are clearly no exception. While they share some attributes and industry considerations with the greater artistic community on the blockchain, they also have unique challenges and considerations—rights and royalties management and project splits among them.
That’s the lane TuneGO, which already operates a tech platform that creates a digital fingerprint for individual songs and tracks associated metadata, is going for with its expansion into NFTs. The company is launching an NFT marketplace that provides musicians a unified platform to secure their content, protect their creative rights, mint NFTs, distribute to streaming platforms, and monetize via the likes of social media, video games and films.
TuneGONFT operates on the Flow blockchain in collaboration with Dapper Labs, the company behind NBA Top Shot whose studio partners include the NBA, NBPA, WNBA, WNBPA, Warner Music Group, Ubisoft, Genies and UFC. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Coatue and Union Square Ventures.
The new platform’s inaugural drop is an NFT from Method Man’s Tical World Comic Universe, part of a comic series from the artist that will also include unreleased music. TuneGO is also partnering with Hidden Beach Recordings on a long-term NFT initiative. John Kohl, co-founder and CEO, says an announcement with a major label is forthcoming, and several A-list artists have NFT content in the TuneGO pipeline.
“Our mission is to become the default marketplace for the music industry,” Kohl says.
Speaking about the general NFT opportunity for musicians, Lesley Silverman, who runs United Talent Agency’s digital assets division at United Talent Agency, says, “Not since Napster have artists really been able to directly monetize what they are creating on the music side. Across the board, this technology has the ability to empower creators to engage with their fans in more meaningful ways.”
The still nascent conversation around NFTs necessitates a real interest in the blockchain and crypto spaces by the artists and their fan communities, Silverman notes. “There are a lot of tools out there. Anybody who can help you speak that language is going to be a really important co-pilot right now,” she notes.
“Blockchain is reshaping how people use and interact with our digital world,” says Mickey Maher, head of flow partnerships at Dapper Labs. “Our partnership with TuneGO helps empower the creative community to harness blockchain to transform how they and their audiences create and consume content—while protecting what they own and market.”
Already steeped in the recorded music and distribution market, TuneGO’s NFT foray promises musicians the through line to connect directly with fans and monetize their art both within and outside of the traditional music business.
“We can work with labels, but our door is open to the independent community,” says Kohl, who says when TuneGo launched in 2013 independent music represented 35% of all industry revenue. “Today it is about 42%, and I see that growing every single year. I love the fact that the artists are becoming more educated with more tools to distribute their own music, the ability to get popular on social media. They don’t always have to give up all of their rights anymore, and if a label wants to come in later, they have a little more control.”
From the label perspective, Kohl says his current conversations tend to center around, “We don’t have the expertise, bandwidth or technology to do this. We need to partner with someone who does, and we need help with the execution and on the creative side.”
Perhaps most importantly for artists, the TuneGO platform houses the tools the music community explicitly needs to ensure every stakeholder—from writer to artist to session musician to engineer—are paid for their work.
The core of its NFT platform resides in the TuneGOVault, which thousands of musicians already are using for sound recordings. Among its key attributes is full transparency regarding creator splits. The platform tracks the revenue splits of the NFT sales—plus the master recording and publishing splits of the music associated with the NFTs—and requires all copyright owners, songwriters and publishers to review and approve the creative rights prior to the minting of the NFT. It’s a significant selling point of the platform, considering the average song today has upward of six stakeholders, sometimes as many as 10 or more.
“The foundation of music rights is still antiquated,” Kohl says. “Every year there are still billions of dollars of music royalties that are collected by collection societies and not distributed back to the creative universe. Sound Exchange literally sits on $500 million a year. They’ve collected the money and they say they don’t even know where to send it.”
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