What are Audio NFTs: A Primer

Audio NFTs are the digital equivalents of artist merchandise from which the artists can get royalty forever. 

Non fungible tokens or NFTs are non-replaceable digital goods and assets that are represented on a blockchain (typically Ethereum). The beauty of NFTs is that no one can tamper with it once it is created. People can buy and trade these unique digital items that are locked into the blockchain technology. Any art can be called as non-fungible as it is not easily transferred like a simple currency.

How do NFTs translate into the audio space?

Music copyrights are notoriously complicated with various intermediaries such as record labels, publishers, distributors, artist managers taking a slice of the pie before the original artist makes any money. The trope of the starving artist is real in the physical life.

Theoretically, the artist should get paid whenever their record is traded. But this is rarely enforced. Per a Citi report, only 12% of the total revenue generated by the music industry inched back to the artist. 

How do NFTs change up the music industry for Artists and Fans?

Audio NFTs, for the first time warrant original artists to earn royalties from their music forever. Warrant being the key word here, thanks to smart contracts which essentially programmatically enforce this whenever the music is traded.

Using blockchain to record and reflect the fractional ownership and copyrights of music has the ability to improve the royalty collection rates of artists.

What’s in it for the fans?

From the fans point of view, audio NFTs offer a deeper connection with their favorite artists. Once a fan buys an audio NFT, the artist gets a royalty. But if the fan were to sell the audio NFT, not only do they make money, but also the artist gets royalty. The whole incentive structure links the artist and the fan into a intimate creative arrangement.

What are the coolest Audio NFTs projects currently?

EulerBeats: 

The mathematical music project originally launched as a collection of 27 unique audio-visual NFTs called “Genesis LPs” (and later “Enigma”) which are algorithmically generated. Remember learning about the mathematician Euler in high school?  Each NFT record is generated by applying Euler’s function over the metadata from the purchase transaction. Which means the NFT buyer has an inherent role in the creation of the record. 

Once the 27 original NFTs were auctioned and distributed, each original disc/NFT can be re-engraved 119 times. Hailed by Mark Cuban as “the most genius idea ever”, the EulerBeats have a unique royalty model which ensures the original owners as well as the new minters get royalties.


DAORecords: 

A collective of artists that are looking to challenge the way the music industry works. Essentially DAORecords is experimenting on how to get the community to engage with the artists and their music.

They have worked with over 60 artists and have released over 350 NFTs so far, with their sound having a very hipster, eclectic vibe.

What is the future of Audio NFTs?

With the onslaught of streaming services, music is being forced into looking into new monetization models. Audio NFTs are a way for artists to find newer ways to engage with their audience, with the eventual goal of having alternate streams of revenue like selling their merchandise. Some artists have gone a step ahead and pre-sold their music to their community even before the music is released creating an alternative source of funding for the musicians.

NFTs could also be weaponized to tackle copyright infringements. Often music and beats are stolen without the knowledge of the original artist. Theoretically, a database of NFTs of all audio clips can be created. Each NFT will mark the licensing arrangement. Any usage of any piece of music would be programmatically bound to pay for it.

Audio NFTs are yet to see the explosion of interest that artwork NFTs have seen in 2021. The hype cycle will move from speculative betting to signaling mechanism to Audio NFTs being a legitimate source of earnings for artists.