Against streaming – blockchain reaction

On April 9th, McDonald’s France launched a new type of game: a competition for exclusive NFTs. An aberration to add to the long list that undermines the media reputation of NFT (non-fungible tokens, “non-fungible tokens»In French), these digital objects that are revolutionizing the art market, but whose economic boom hides everything that technology can allow to free artists. Because until now, serious financial blows have led to the prevention of debate about the NFT technology – web3 – this decentralized network that was made possible by the blockchain and which allowed the emergence of cryptocurrencies. As more and more journalists and researchers point out, the stake, especially with regard to music, is nonetheless crucial. It could indeed allow musicians overwhelmed by the pandemic crisis to find economic ways out of the streaming impasse, the income of which is minimal for the vast majority of creators. And why, by restoring the ideal of scarcity, not revive the idea, accepted most philosophically and not necessarily accompanied by responsible consumer practice, that music can be a work of art of immense value.

But musical NFT, how does it work? The “tokenization” process is the same as for any other media, JPEG, or mage outfit in a video game. “Mining” a work in NFT means making it unique by assigning a title deed to it, whereby the public can organize an auction and assign a value to it that will be validated by the blockchain. This assessment has nothing to do with the content of the work, which can be disseminated in other, more traditional ways (physical or dematerialized), which in no way affect its authenticity. Joan-Mael Penot, a researcher and composer who creates his music under the name Maelstrom, is one of the first French musicians to “raint” one of their works on the Catalog platform. In his opinion, the interest in NFT audio at this stage is primarily due to the long-term sustainability provided by blockchain technology, which will allow dematerialized music to exist in a less dangerous way: “I’m going to mine a track in the Catalog, and if the Catalog goes missing tomorrow, my NFT will still exist through the Ethereum blockchain. Nothing to do with centralized platforms like Spotify, which, if gone, would make their content catalog disappear. This issue of archiving is an important issue for the future.“.

Techno prophets

At this stage, the musicians who “minted” their works in the NFT and turn to sales sites are mostly techno prophets, announcing their exit from the dystopia imposed by Spotify and Cie. There is the American pseudonym RAC, the mega-star of the three-Grammy-nominated remix that was one of the first to create a media buzz after selling NFT audio for an impressive 70 ETH (almost 140,000 euros), Canadian DJ Jacques Green, who rapped six seconds of one of the their songs in the NFT for $ 23,000, or the American band Kings of Leon, who are minting their new album using gadgets. Others, such as Aphex Twin (accompanied by digital artist Weirdcore), Grimes, MIA or Arca, have put up hybrid works for sale according to their interest in new multimedia technologies; but if their prominence has allowed their auctions to be publicized, these established artists are ultimately least concerned about the possibilities of web3 and an open marketplace that is infinitely customizable to create in parallel with the traditional industry. “With NFT, music changes the paradigm– explains Joan-Mael Peno. NFTs are translating music from a broadcast-type industrial model to a model based on artwork and artistic practice.“For example, questioning the principle established by centuries of the physical recording industry that a song should be worth the same price as another song.

And the music lover must become not only a collector, but also an active supporter of the scenes he follows. He is also free, depending on his temperament, to behave like a predatory speculator or activist. Thanks to the open marketplace of web3, creators can share their income with their “early supporters“. Joan-Mael Peno:”The artist sets the percentage that he will receive each time the NFT is resold and changes ownership. The first buyer can also choose a percentage [appelé “slice”] next resale“. A way to not only recoup your investment, but also encourage yourself to invest in musicians who are just starting their careers, or even become an integral and active part of their network. In other words, the artist creates his own community through which collectors can access exclusive content. , be notified of upcoming releases, but also collectively decide on the number of copies of NFT to be produced and sold by this artist as a way to announce how it will be funded.


As if to thwart the received ideas of NFT as a model of the art market entirely devoted to speculation and extremely wealthy collectors caught up in market fluctuations, the NFT audio market could especially benefit from the actions of the determined public structures of the DAO (“decentralized autonomous organization“), Genuine Buyer Cooperatives, which some, like Peno, compare to companies that are friends of the museum, others, like researcher Matt Dreichurst, to guilds. Rather than defending the financial interests of collectors, the most dedicated DAOs intend to allow activists anyway. of music scenes to support and invest collectively, to the best of their means, and to act directly on social and artistic destinies, and economic creators, through labels, collectives, even the media, integrated into these scenes.

In other words, it is definitely utopian at this stage: much more than the dematerialized and degenerated ersatz of the contemporary art market, DAOs can participate in creating a properly decentralized music ecosystem organized around the artist and those who empower him to create. Funded fairly by those most interested in helping the artist thrive – those who love music above all else. Like an echo that emerged decades later at the dawn of the eighties, but adapted to the increasingly complex conditions of our time.

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