NFTs & Music: Sustainable or a fad? 📀

Hi, Ravdeep here. 👋

Perfunktory is a newsletter that aims to break down trending subjects in the field of Music, Technology, Gaming and Culture as perfunctorily as possible. Keeping it perfunctory helps the discourse to be as candid as it can be.

Newsletter: Perfunktory

Let me guess: You’ve been hearing about NFTs from every Crypto bro 😎 on your Instagram feed, your WhatsApp group which discusses investments all day or even your favourite ‘Life Guru’ preaching to you about their NFTs rather than life lessons and you’re just wondering — WHAT THE HELL ARE NFTs?

Well, just like every other person who will explain the concept to you starting with a “Basically they are…”, I’ll try to explain what NFTs are with an elaborate analogy.

In GIF: Crypto Bro tries to sell bitcoin to Office Manager, circa 2021

What does NFT stand for and what are they? 📀

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Token. So, what is ‘Non-Fungible’ exactly? It means that they are not interchangeable. If I give you ₹50 and take ₹50, we both still have ₹50 in value. Hence, a currency note is ‘fungible’. NFTs are unique and are not trade-able one-to-one like a ₹50 currency note. Each NFT is exclusive to its owner. Hence, they are ‘non-fungible’

How do I get NFTs? 💻

NFTs are digital assets that are stored on digital ledger called ‘The Block chain’ and whatever happens on the block chain always stays on the block chain. To buy these NFTs, one needs Crypto currency like Ether etc.

Now for the analogy 🧠

Imagine the movie ‘Jingle All The Way’ happens this year. Along with the physical renditions of the ‘Turbo Man’, the company that makes it decides to sell digital renditions of the dolls. Now the only problem here is that these digital renditions are fungible in there present form, as in they can be copied X number of times, sent to X number of people and all of these people would have the same picture. Let’s assume the picture is named TurboMan123.png.

This is exactly the case where NFTs help. Now when a customer, let’s call them Amy, buys the NFT for a Turbo Man picture, it won’t just be a copy of TurboMan123.png, it would be a digital certificate of authenticity that Amy is now the owner of the file which has been transferred to them on a particular date for a particular amount of money. Since the ‘Block chain’ is involved, so the details of this exchange cannot be deleted, duplicated or tampered with.

The NFT is the proof that you own the ORIGINAL rendition of a digital asset that you can flex in front of your friends and family (like they care…). There are several types of NFTs being ‘minted’ which can range from Artworks, Music, Tweets, GIFs, Videos, even articles. *end of analogy*

So, what else do the sellers get beside crypto? 🏦

There are provisions that creators can set in their NFTs. One of them is the ability to set a royalty that the creator receives on every subsequent sale of that particular NFT i.e. a resale. This allows them to have a steady source of income throughout their life every time the NFT gets resold on the secondary market (reselling platforms such as SuperRare, Foundation etc.)

Just like art, musicians have also started minting songs as NFTs, which allows them to take matters in their own hands, allowing them to set the price for streams. Musicians can also sell original recordings, mint concert tickets as NFTs to avoid scalping, live performances, live-streaming and digital artwork.

Anyone in the music industry done this yet? 🤷‍♀️

We have several musicians who have done something or the other in the various options available to them in the world of NFTs:

3LAU (Music Tracks)

3LAU (pronounced “Blau”), an Electronic artist, sold his album “Ultraviolet” as an NFT for its 3rd anniversary, setting the record for the highest price paid for a single NFT ($3.6M) at the time. In total, he sold 33 tokens at various prices, but the highest tier included a custom song with the winner’s creative direction, unreleased music unlockable on 3LAU’s website, the 11 songs on “Ultraviolet”, and a vinyl edition of the album. 3LAU gamified the final minutes of the auction (each new bid prolonged the auction), and that’s when prices really started to soar — to $11.7M combined.

3LAU was always deeply embedded in the block chain meta, even before NFTs became a thing. Previously, he has organised a block chain-powered festival that allowed attendants to use crypto to buy tickets, merch, food etc.

UMEK (Live Performances & Livestreams)

UMEK, a Techno DJ, tokenized his live gig and livestream. The idea of using NFTs to book artists for a livestream gig could also bring this concept closer to smaller artists who can’t possibly generate the same amount of buzz as headliners.

Kings of Leon (Ticketing)

Kings of Leon were the first band to release their album as an NFT, but more interesting, they cooperated with their ticketing partner YellowHeart to bundle it with concert tickets. They created three editions of tokens. One gave the buyer a digital download plus a vinyl edition of the album, the second came with a unique piece of art, and the third included four front row tickets for future tours.

Grimes (Digital Artwork)

Grimes and her digital avatar War Nymph were ready for this. Her first collection of NFTs included ten sets of tokens. Some works came in thousands of copies, like the “Earth” and “Mars” animations of cherubs holding a weapon over the planet, set to her original music. The most expensive token was the one-of-kind one-minute video “Death of the Old” — featuring flying cherubs.

But as with everything that starts, there is time period where the fad overtakes sustainability of the medium in question. Although these musicians listed above have successfully made money off of NFTs, this will not work for everyone.

Scams, easy distribution of files on the internet and high gas fees (‘gas fees’ is the amount that you need to pay the platform to mint your NFT) can really hurt independent artists and artists with smaller fanbases who might not have other revenue streams to support them venturing into the unknown world of NFTs.

I believe only time will tell how the NFT space evolves as it is still in its nascent stages but the prospects look good. I am personally more inclined towards seeing how the resale market demand for these NFTs develops which is the reason why people are spending a ton of money in the first place.

If you’re a Musician/Artist Manager/Label Head who is looking towards the NFT route for your career, I would love to get in touch and discuss more on how do you plan to take it forward. You can email me at ravdeep (at) vflambda (dot) in

Feeling very bullish about NFTs being minted by Indian musicians — independent and/or signed.

Recommended reading for NFTs:

The Non-Fungible Token Bible | OpenSea

NFTs, explained | Mitchell Clark, The Verge

Music, Gaming and Tech News this week:

Music Mondays 🎵 | 31st May ’21 (Click Here)

Gaming Wednesdays 🎮 | 2nd June ’21 (Click Here)

Tech Fridays 💻 | 4th June ’21 (Click Here)

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Perfunctory — an action carried out without real interest, feeling, or effort. We perfunctorily discuss Music, Technology, Gaming and Culture.