Over the last week, the music industry has been overtaken by a new industry buzzword: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.
These unique digital collectibles are bought and sold with blockchain technology, presenting a new and lucrative virtual revenue opportunity for artists. As the music industry scrambles to get in on the action — and prices skyrocket — the last several weeks have come with a flurry of NFT announcements from longtime NFT proponents like 3LAU and deadmau5 along with newcomers, from Ozuna to Shawn Mendes.
Here are some of the last month’s biggest sales and moments in the music NFT space, tracing the technology’s rise from niche to next-big-thing. All prices are written as the estimated dollar equivalent of bitcoin, which is a fluctuating currency, at the time of sale.
Dec. 11: Deadmau5 makes his NFT debut
Deadmau5 has a history of leading the way on new music technology, and late last year he made his NFT debut with his “RAREZ” NFT packs containing animated stickers, virtual trading cards and other digital collectibles. The drop pulled in close to $100,000, and days later on Dec. 15, he auctioned off a single copy of “In Titan’s Light,” an audiovisual set in space, for more than $80,000. (His next NFT collection, “Slickmau5,” lands on the Nifty Gateway marketplace March 9.)
Jan. 27: Monstercat rakes in over $500,000 from its first NFT drop
Electronic label Monstercat entered the NFT scene with a collection soundtracked by signee Varien, and it raked in more than half a million dollars total, according to a spokesperson. The first drop, consisting of four otherworldly visuals designed by digital artist Giant Swan and priced at $350 to $450 each, was made available for just two minutes and brought in more than $180,000. A second drop made available 500 copies of a constellation-themed NFT pack for just 50 cents each, selling out in seconds.
Feb. 8: Mike Shinoda sells an NFT containing a 37-second audio clip for $30,000
The Linkin Park co-founder made his NFT debut with “One Hundredth Stream,” a 37-song clip played over a skull-like animation, which he auctioned off for $30,000. Shinoda — who explained his motivations for his fans in a Twitter thread — has since added a handful of more audio-visual NFTs to his page on the marketplace Zora that are currently going for anywhere from several hundred to thousands of dollars.
“Think of it like owning a 1 of a kind item in a game, or like ‘owning’ an Instagram post,” Shinoda wrote on Twitter. “It’s a weird thing to own, yes, but: Here’s the crazy thing. Even if I upload the full version of the contained song to DSPs worldwide (which I can still do), i would never get even close to $10k, after fees by DSPs, label, marketing, etc.”
Feb. 25: Iconic auction house Christie’s hosts its first-ever NFT sale
In a non-music-related but watershed moment for the NFT industry, digital artist Beeple kicked off a two-week online auction at Christie’s, marking the legendary auction house’s first-ever sale of a solely digital artwork and the first time that Christie’s has accepted cryptocurrency as payment. While the auction is ongoing, the top bid at time of writing is up to $3.5 million.
Feb. 26: Shawn Mendes releases NFT avatar outfits
Mendes became the first major pop star to embrace NFTs, teaming with avatar technology company Genies to create a line of a digital wearables for fans to attach to their own digital avatars, including a guitar, T-shirt, vest, necklace and rings. The digital goods netted Mendes more than $600,000, his team said in a press release, with all proceeds going towards The Shawn Mendes Foundation.
Creative studio, record label and management firm IAMSOUND partnered with NFT marketplace Zora on an NFT art exhibition vending original work by 12 visual artists and musicians, including Guapdad 4000 in collaboration with media company 88rising, Mura Masa, Yaeji and Toro y Moi on Feb. 26 and March 5. “For the superfans, this can be your grail,” IAMSOUND wrote in an Instagram announcement, and among the top-selling works, Yaeji’s single-copy digital pet fish sold for more than $27,000.
Feb. 27: Ozuna cashes in on digital teddy bear collectibles
The Puerto Rican reggaeton star made five editions of a teddy bear-themed digital collectible available for purchase, with some versions offered in a silent auction and others available for limited sale. Titled “Ositos” (meaning “teddy bears”), the collection included an exclusive run of 15 videos consisting of a bear animation made up of colored pills, set to 19 seconds of music. Each one sold for around $5,000, netting Ozuna close to $75,000 for those auctioned-off copies alone, while he raked in another roughly $380,000 through other limited-sale items.
Feb. 28: Grimes sells $6 million worth of NFTs
Grimes pulled in a fortune selling 10 digital art pieces, including both one-of-a-kind pieces put up for auction and collectibles offered at a set price. The highest-selling single item: “Death of the Old,” a one-of-a-kind video involving a cross, sword and flying cherubs and set to an original Grimes song, which the winning bidder took for nearly $389,000. The collection also included two short videos that sold hundreds of copies for $7,500 a pop.
March 1: Longtime blockchain proponent RAC announces a new NFT creative agency
Portuguese producer RAC is among the pioneers of music-related NFTs, with the $26,000 sale of “Elephant Dreams” in October among his recent successes. Now, RAC is launching his own NFT creative agency, 6. “The rest of the industry is scrambling to understand this and we’ve been doing it since 2017,” he wrote on Twitter. “If you want to join the best minds in the space and do this right, reach out.”
March 2: Mendes’ manager helps launch a new NFT marketplace
On the heels of his client’s avatar attire drop, Mendes’ manager Andrew Gertler helped launch the new NFT marketplace STURDY.EXCHANGE. Per Rolling Stone, Gertler’s AG Ventures partnered with and is leading an investment round for STURDY., the pre-existing creative direction and design firm (with clients like Drake and Travis Scott) which the new marketplace is housed under. “Our new platform offers one of a kind collaborations that allow fans and collectors alike to own a piece of history and connect with the world’s leading artists,” the company wrote on Instagram.
March 2: Disclosure produce a new song live on Twitch, and mint it as an NFT
The dance music duo made their NFT debut by producing a brand-new song live on Twitch, then immediately minting that track as a single-copy NFT and putting it up for auction. The piece, titled “N.F.T-N.R.G.,” sold the next day for roughly $69,000.
March 3: 3LAU rakes in a record-breaking $11.6 million for an anniversary NFT collection
Electronic producer and early crypto adopter 3LAU celebrated the three-year anniversary of his album Ultraviolet by selling 33 NFTs in an auction from Feb. 25 to 28. Successful bidders could redeem their NFTs for vinyl, unreleased music and bonus tracks and even experiences.
This week, the record-breaking results were in: The top-selling NFT from the collection, which included the chance for the buyer to record a song with 3LAU, fetched $3.6 million, marking a new world record for the selling price of a single NFT. The total auction intake of $11.6 million also broke the record for the primary sale of an NFT collection.
March 3: Kings of Leon say “NFT Yourself”
The same day as 3LAU’s record-breaking sale, Nashville rockers Kings of Leon announced “NFT Yourself,” a digital art collection of 25 unique pieces sold through NFT minting and blockchain system YellowHeart, with all proceeds benefitting Live Nation’s Crew Nation fund.
The two-week sale, which kicked off today (March 5), coincides with the release of the band’s eighth studio album When You See Yourself, which YellowHeart will also release.
The NFT collection includes a $50 exclusive NFT collectible packaged with a limited-edition physical vinyl, as well as an auction for six “Golden Tickets,” each offering four front row seats to one show of the buyer’s choosing on every Kings of Leon headlining tour for life. At the time of writing, the top bid for one Golden Ticket is $53,000.