Music and Blockchain: Introducing the Future of Sound

April 11, 2022 — NEAR Team

After more than two years of a global pandemic, following what seemed to be a never-ending sequence of postponements, rescheduling, and cancellations, live music has returned in full force. From destination festivals to elaborate arena shows or even regional theaters and local clubs, venues are opening their doors to once again allow artists to perform and connect with their fans. 

At the same time, musical artists’ revenues have also been shrinking in the centralized streaming music model dominated by big tech firms. On the most popular streaming services, a single track needs to be streamed more than 300 times to generate $1 in royalties for the artist. To further complicate payouts, rates are rarely paid at a flat rate per stream, agreements are ever-changing, different tiers and subscriptions impact pay rates, and streams are more valuable in various areas worldwide.

Just as musicians had to pivot during their absence from the stage and find new and meaningful ways to stay connected with their fans, the Web3 community has been incubating ideas in using blockchain to disrupt both the music industry’s physical release and streaming music models. 

The future of music is being written today, on NEAR, by a vibrant and diverse community of artists, developers, fans, and more. Various music projects, led by teams of Web3 developers and entrepreneurs, are working to give power back to music artists while breaking down the walls between them and their fans. 

This series will explore how artists, producers and musicians are taking control over their assets, and building music on NEAR.

An industry saturated with problems 

Even with Web2 streaming music platforms, the recording industry’s model has remained essentially unchanged for nearly a century. Most record labels have one goal — maximizing profits. They hold on to as much of their earnings as possible and dictate unfavorable terms when establishing contracts with most artists, save for a handful of superstars able to negotiate more favorable agreements.

As traditional album sales have given way to streaming services, musicians often receive only fractions of a penny per play on popular streaming services. A vast and perplexing network of labels, publishers, distributors, royalty collectors, and other middlemen make getting paid as an artist an inefficient and exceedingly lengthy process with little transparency. 

As a result, touring and merchandise sales have become necessary to earn as a musician in 2022. But as touring revenues fell over the last two years, musicians have more cause than ever to disrupt the traditional song and record publishing revenue.

Faster, more efficient creative control

Cutting-edge protocols for NFTs, fractional ownership, smart contracts, and real-time on-chain settlement of royalties make blockchain and the music industry a natural pairing. A blockchain boom in the music industry is imminent thanks to NEAR Protocol’s robust feature set already in use and hugely successful in areas like, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). 

With each of these technologies, the architects of music’s future envision more manageable, faster, and more accurate payments for artists’ work. Through smart contracts, the existing, painfully slow process of royalty payments could be reduced from multiple months to mere seconds. Each time a listener presses play on a song, musicians could be paid near instantaneously, primarily due to NEAR’s Nightshade being theoretically capable of millions of transactions per second. 

Smart contracts that settle royalty payments in real-time will obliterate the need for third-party middlemen, leaving more money in the hands of the artists and creators. Artists will be empowered to establish direct seller-consumer relationships with their fans, with blockchain technology as the foundation. 

Beyond being extremely fast and super secure, NEAR’s blockchain is global in scale and exceptionally transparent. Fractional ownership already implemented on NEAR will bring a new level of transparency in proving ownership over a specific piece of music and confirming every individual with a claim to its copyright. Artists can have access to all streaming and fan activity data instead of the limited access to watered-down data that they currently receive from their label, distributor, or streaming platforms.

Writing the future of music on NEAR

The future of music is one where a radical change to the way music publishing, royalties, launching and managing record labels, and even building music software will be achieved. NEAR Protocol’s amazingly reliable and consistent blockchain is home to several exciting projects, each shaping the evolution of Web3 technology that can power the multi-billion-dollar recording industry. 

Experimenting with audio NFTs, virtual events, and decentralized communities, the NEAR-based DAOrecords are building tools to enable musicians to “harness the power of the blockchain revolution.” Artists retain full ownership of everything they create and are not restricted by any contract. The label has now worked with over 100 artists, released over 350 NFTs, and produced over 50 virtual events for an ever-growing community. 

“At its core, a label is just a facilitator,” says Vandal. “The new Web3 record labels will most likely be DAOs, providing funding, support, resources and even minting and other services an artist might require.”

“Their role will generally remain the same,” he adds. “But with shared ownership, transparency and a blockchain-inspired business model is what will make it appealing to artists.”

DAOrecords’ vision of the future is a music industry where artists have control over their music and the relationship with their fans and community, all within their economy powered by the NEAR blockchain.

Designed for the metaverse and the play-to-earn era, MODA DAO is a decentralized technology network and community spearheading the “Music3” movement, their term for the music industry’s Web3 adoption through NFTs, micro-licensing, DAO governance, and DeFi. With a suite of creator tools, underlying infrastructure, and a publishing ecosystem, they effectively remove middlemen, increasing value between creators and fans. 

MODA is being established as a not-for-profit foundation to push Web3 music forward and establish a more sustainable future for audio creators. Powered by a DAO, holders of the MODA Tokens are invited into various ecosystem layers. They can back specific artists to increase their exposure and ranking or even stake into new songs before they are released, increasing visibility within the MODA catalog. 

NFT.HipHop is a collaborative NFT art series featuring the work of illustrator André LeRoy Davis, established through a partnership between NEAR, the Universal Hip Hop Museum, and Ed Young, co-founder of The Source magazine. A celebration of the history of hip hop and its most iconic artists, the collection features NFTs of 47 legends – from Eazy-E to Lil Wayne – to honor the 47th year of the hip-hop era. A prime example of synergy between music merchandising and blockchain, the pop-up marketplace also highlighted some engineering innovations, including the advanced NFT developer and user experience on NEAR.

Driven by fans and a thriving community 

NEAR’s roadmap includes an unwavering commitment to facilitating the decentralization of the network to the community. Just as power is placed into the hands of the developer and end-user community in blockchain, a shift of power from record executives and industry suits to the artists, creators, and fans will help realize the future of music.

NEAR x Music (NxM) is a community focused on music, events, NFTs, and music-forward tools. This vibrant, accessible, and inclusive community of artists, creators, developers, and fans fosters a unique environment where opportunities for collaboration are endless; and where knowledge, gleaned through community contributions, knows no limits. 

“NxM is a hub for all artists, producers, and people who simply love music by generating values for all customers through different streams and activities,” says the NxM Council. “We expand the NxM community by connecting music lovers on Web3 space and nurture organic growth through activities such as funding musician’s projects, events, community campaigns, and media operations.” 

Specifically, NxM helps musicians produce music projects and events with web3 tools like DAOs, NFT galleries, and marketplaces, as well as offline and online events. 

“NFTs and the use of smart contracts is a way to split profits amongst collaborators,” the NxM Council says. “Music specifically tends to involve multiple participants to make a release come together. But by using smart contracts, especially with the tools built into Mintbase, artists are able to write splits into their contracts for both initial and secondary market sales.”

Poised to shift the paradigm of the music industry as a whole, NEAR’s unique architecture serves as the foundation and natural home for platforms and tools aimed at improving music fans’ experience and guaranteeing artists’ control over their valuable work. In a truly decentralized fashion, a strong, engaged, and growing global community is at the helm of this movement. 

Paired with NEAR’s fast, secure, and scalable blockchain, this community of creators and consumers is becoming a formidable, rising force. Join NxM and the greater NEAR community as they prepare to usher in the future of music and write tomorrow’s verse.

Growth off the charts

From physical album releases to audio tracks in MP3 format available on digital storefronts, to entire catalogs being accessible within a streaming app, the recording industry has undergone several technological revolutions in even the last 20 years. Similar to how social music platforms have allowed artists to connect directly with fans and grow their influence, the advent of Web3 stands ready to once again change how artists and their fans create, manage, and interact with music. 

Today’s record industry isn’t working for the vast majority of artists. NEAR Protocol’s rich and robust underlying infrastructure is the perfect platform for the growing Web3 music industry to call home. A fast, secure, and scalable blockchain has allowed projects to demonstrate that blockchain-based music rights administration is feasible and has the potential to benefit creators and consumers in significant ways. 

As the global NEAR community places faith in indie artists, new companies, and industry figures, the momentum they’ve built will have no choice but to be recognized and adopted by the industry giants. Whether it’s the next symphony, chart-topping hit, or Indie B-side, the future of music is being written on NEAR, one note at a time.


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