Is NFT Star Daniel Allan Web3’s First Breakout Music Act?
Fourteen-hour days on Discord, failures and massive risks: what it takes to be successful in Web3.
On July 20, Daniel Allan woke up to a sold-out collection of 1,000 music NFTs, named Glass House — making approximately 72 ETH ($136,000 at the end of July) in less than 24 hours. No record label. No marketing campaign. No viral TikTok hit. Just 1,000 true fans showing up to support him. “It was one of the most emotional moments I’ve had,” he says. “It was the last thing I saw coming, genuinely.”
To outsiders, this might look like an overnight success — another artist making a quick buck from NFTs — but according to Allan and his team, that couldn’t be further from the truth. It was the biggest risk of his career.
Two years ago, Allan moved to the West Coast with the dream of making a living through music. “I just wanted to go out to L.A., crash on people’s couches, make beats.” And like most emerging artists, that’s exactly what he did, with a side-gig delivering groceries with Instacart.
Early on, Allan found a strategy that worked for him in the music industry. He would sign three-track record deals with internet labels like BonFire and Seeking Blue, making accessible electronic pop music, and taking a small advance to cover his rent for a month or two. In between, he picked up mixing and mastering jobs. It paid the bills but it wasn’t glamorous or creatively fulfilling. “Pretty early on in that process I realised that I didn’t see a way out of it, outside of having a viral TikTok moment.” Intent on making music as bold as Kanye West and Flume, Allan was never going to be content making beats for other people. He just needed a way out.
First Allan pursued the traditional industry route. He put on a show in his friend’s backyard and invited everyone he knew in the music industry. And it worked. A few major label offers came in but when he looked closer the figures didn’t add up. A three-album deal would leave him with less money than he was making already, and deep down he knew that a record deal was not a golden ticket. “I’ve learned that my friends in L.A. fall into two categories,” he says. “Friends that want to sign a deal and friends that want to get out of their deal.” Maybe there was another option. In a twist of fate, someone else was at that same backyard show: Cooper Turley.
Turley is one of the leading figures in the Web3 music industry. He’s an investor in more than a dozen Web3 music platforms and he’s one of the largest collectors in the space. He’s also a music addict. “Cooper’s superpower is that he’s a very good fan of music,” Allan laughs. “If you go to any show, he’s always the guy dancing even if no-one else is.”
After the show, Turley introduced Daniel to Web3 and told him about a new platform called Catalog where musicians can release a version of their song as a single NFT, known as 1/1s. Despite the mania of NFTs that swept through pop-culture in 2021, music NFTs were still a huge risk. “Music was not something that people were tokenising at all,” Turley says. “There were probably less than 10 artists on Catalog at the time.”
But Allan took a chance anyway. “I didn’t have that much to lose,” he shrugs. Allan minted his first song on Catalog in April 2021. Turley bought it for 0.69 ETH ($1,637 at the time). His second track was quickly bought by Brett Shear, another prolific collector in the space and partner at Kygo’s crypto fund, Palm Tree Crew Crypto. That was the game-changer. A complete stranger had paid him directly for his music. “It was the craziest moment. I didn’t have to do a crazy marketing campaign. I just made a beat and somebody valued it as art which is something that was so foreign to me.”
Instinct kicked in. “Let me try that again.” In the next few months, Allan sold six NFTs on Catalog for a total of 3.8 ETH ($7,600).
“That’s when it clicked for me that it was going to be something special,” Turley says. “A lot of artists come in, release a music NFT, they sell out, and then they’re nowhere to be seen. But Allan was being so consistent that it allowed me to take a bigger chance on him.” Turley came on board as Allan’s project manager for something even bigger: the Overstimulated EP.
The Overstimulated campaign was something no-one had ever done before. Allan asked the community for a 50 ETH advance in exchange for 50% ownership in the EP, all executed through NFTs. It was structured like a record deal, but owned by his fans and community. It sold out overnight.
Another easy success? Not exactly, Allan says. “A lot of people look at me as the kid who raised 50 ETH in 24 hours, but what most people didn’t see is what I did that entire summer.”
In the months leading up to the Overstimulated release, Allan spent eight hours a day on Twitter and Discord. He sent out messages to everyone in the Web3 music space. He dropped into dozens of Discord servers to say “gm” (good morning) and make connections with music NFT collectors. He spent all day on calls and Twitter Spaces to learn everything he could about NFTs. “I was always down to be the stupidest person in the room even if that meant only 5% of people got back to me.” And the beauty of crypto is that it never sleeps. “I would ask a question at 3 in the morning and someone would reply.”
In Allan’s words, that sellout was the result of “working all f—ing day.” By the end of the campaign, the Overstimulated EP had 87 backers — at least 50 of whom Allan had made personal connections with beforehand. He built the foundation one collector at a time.
From there, everything exploded. “In a lot of ways I had to become a CEO. It got to a point where I couldn’t talk. I had 14 hour days of phone calls.” Allan didn’t have a record label, but he did have 87 collectors who now had a stake in his career. He needed to find a way to scale the project and get more people involved. He needed a community manager.
Henry Chatfield had a history in the music industry and became fascinated by music NFTs in 2021. “I don’t know how I can help, but I want to help,” he told Allan via a cold-call DM on Twitter. The pair connected immediately and spent hours every week working on ways to engage this new community, such as creating a group chat for all the collectors. “A lot of the collectors have now become friends,” Chatfield explains. “They’re talking about projects and working on things together. So it’s become this amazing connected network of various nodes now.”
Not only is Web3 changing revenue structures, it’s also forcing a change in the way that independent artists set up their teams. Instead of a traditional management company and record label, Allan has a project manager handling token economics (Turley), a community manager (Chatfield) and collectors (many of which could be considered investors with a stake in his music through the Overstimulated project).
Over the next six months, the team experimented with almost every strategy in Web3. Allan released three limited edition tracks through Sound.xyz. He partnered with Beat Foundry to drop a generative music collection. He crowdfunded a songcamp in Miami to collaborate with other artists. Finally, he had the time and money to make the music he wanted. His sound has since shifted from electro pop with saccharine vocals to a more mature production style and hip hop collaborations.
In total, Allan estimates he’s generated around 320 ETH ($606,000 at today’s prices) across all projects, but not everything was successful. The collaboration with Beat Foundry dropped in the middle of the May crypto crash and sold only a third of the collection. “I’ve had a lot of flops,” he says. “I’m trying to be public and vocal about the Ls as much as I am about the wins. We’re writing history with what we’re doing, but I don’t think I have the perfect road laid out.”
The hardest part is finding time for music. “I never want the music to slip through the cracks,” Allan says. “I care about that a lot, I want to make timeless records.” But the Web3 model requires less sleep and a lot of work. “If you’re asking me how to balance it, I don’t have an answer but I will tell you it’s really f–king hard, which is why I don’t think it’s necessarily for everyone.”
Being successful in Web3 currently requires a relentless entrepreneurial edge but that effort and consistency is rewarded. “Web3 music is more about time than talent right now,” Turley says. “At a certain point that will change and talent will win out. But for the people that are just showing up every single week, tokenizing all their songs, that’s the X-Factor I’m personally looking for.”
For all the hard work, Allan is now close to becoming Web3’s breakout artist. “That’s something that I’m fighting towards,” he openly admits. “Fortunately Web3 has opened a lot of doors for me in Web2. It’s helped me collaborate with artists that I look up to so much.”
Allan and his team agree that Web3 is not here to overthrow the music industry (yet). Web2 distribution models, streaming and radio campaigns are still required to break an artist into the mainstream. But Web3 is beginning to prove itself as a new launchpad for emerging artists, a way to crowdfund your early career and connect with your first 1,000 fans.
And if Daniel Allan is the first Web3 native artist to break out, he will bring those early fans with them on the journey, not just as fans but as collectors and investors in his music. The consequence of that could be enormous.