New pathways: Analyzing music NFT release strategies from underrepresented genres
tl;dr To date, music NFT sales have largely been concentrated in Electronic and Hip-Hop genres, accounting for nearly 75% of all primary sales revenue. How do artists in other genres like pop, rock, and Latin — which are much better represented in other verticals of the music industry, including streaming and touring — deal with smaller representation in Web3? Do these genre differences even matter when it comes to making an impact?
Building off of our Season 1 and Season 1.5 research, the Water & Music community interviewed nearly 20 different artists and community leaders from underrepresented genres in Web3, to learn about the role of genre in shaping long-term branding strategies as well as artist sentiment around the technology. Interestingly, we found more similarities than differences across genres. While being from an underrepresented genre or scene certainly helps early on as an artist new to Web3, key tactics for long-term success in the ecosystem — including 1:1 collector relations, frequent communication and public speaking, and narrative-building — are ultimately genre-agnostic.
A full list of contributors to this report is at the bottom of this article.
Over the last year, Water & Music has looked extensively at artist and platform onboarding strategies for Web3. We interviewed 13 prominent artists in the fall of 2021 right off the back of a hot NFT summer, then followed that up with a deep dive into the significant music NFT platform players in the winter of 2021 — all alongside tracking primary sales ($160M+) in our music/Web3 database.
According to our findings, 74% of music NFT sales in 2021 were in either Electronic or Hip-Hop genres. This figure is drastically incongruent with other music-industry sectors — in which we tend to see other genres take a relatively greater market share of sales or consumption, with total distribution of sales being slightly more even across genres. (As one example indicator, the market share of total music sales volume in the US so far this year is approximately 27.65% for R&B/Hip-Hop, 20.41% for Rock, 12.83% for Pop, 8.04% for country, 6.43% for latin and 3.44% for dance/electronic, according to Luminate.)
This study seeks to gain insights into the NFT sales strategies and sentiments of Web3 music artists in underrepresented genres.Interestingly, we found that while being an early mover in a niche genre can have a positive impact on NFT sales, the actual tactics for growth and onboarding — namely time spent in community, 1:1 collector relations, frequent communication, public speaking, narrative-building, and brand creation — are all genre-agnostic. These findings suggest that lesser-represented genres do not necessarily require genre-tailored approaches for Web3 releases. Rather, it could be suggested that artists focus on creating a more personal connection between themselves and their audience — i.e. to be more “themselves” and less filtered.
We hope this study acts as an actionable starting point for individuals and teams tasked with developing sales and promotional framework strategies within a constantly shifting Web3 landscape. Our case studies below speak to the generalizability of strategies across genres, and highlights the power of authenticity as a north star in approaching Web3 releases.
This study builds on Water & Music’s previous Web3-related research projects and interviews conducted over the last year, including:
- Web3 onboarding strategies for music fans (Season 1)
- Music-industry sentiment towards Web3 (Season 1.5)
- The state of music DAOs (Season 1.5)
- Music NFT platform onboarding (Season 1.5)
We employ a case-study approach to investigate commonalities and differences in approaches across genres for music NFT releases. In total, we interviewed 19 Web3 musicians and strategists, representing pop, heavy metal, classical, Latin, and various hybrid genres. We leveraged the Water & Music community through an open process that saw input and contributions from members throughout, across project ideation, qualitative interviewing, and analysis.
Full interviewee list, in alphabetical order of first name:
- 0x0 (multi-genre music DAO)
- Annika Rose (Pop)
- Ben Kessler (Pop/Singer-Songwriter)
- Cristina Spinei (Neoclassical)
- Fifi Rong (Avant-Pop)
- Heybela (Latin)
- High Tropics (Indie Rock)
- Kaitlyn Raitz (multi-style)
- Kasbeel (Latin)
- Rain Phoenix (Ambient Jazz / Singer-Songwriter)
- September Mourning (Hard Rock / Heavy Metal)
- SLOE JACK (Alt Rock)
- Tarot (Indie Pop)
- Tulengua (Latin/Hip-Hop)
- Violetta Zironi (Singer-Songwriter)
- Weinbagz (Future Funk)
- Xcelencia (Reggaeton / Latin Alternative)
Across interviews, participants were asked to answer a series of critical questions regarding genre experimentation, platform strategy, NFT utility, promotional efforts, and future plans. Artists self-reported their genre affiliation, although many recognized the difficulty in classifying themselves in a single genre, and some did not feel easily aligned with a given genre designation.
Experimenting beyond genre boundaries
As Water & Music has covered previously, the concept of genre in the modern music business is as high-stakes as it is nebulous. As Web3 investor, operator, and influence Cooper Turley found out with his “Music NFT 100” tweet, attempting to classify and box artists is dangerous and difficult, regardless of the distribution channel in question. Unsurprisingly, many Web3-native artists mentioned disagreed with the genre with which Turley had identified them.
Still, it is helpful to consider artists’ efforts in how they approach their place in the musical landscape, when it comes to informing thoughtful, deliberate experimentation. Do artists vary significantly from their usual stylistic approach in their Web3 releases (assuming they could define a standard practice in the first place)? Or, do they feel that their NFT drop was closely aligned with their prior genre specifications?
The team behind Pop artist Annika Rose (as represented by Alex Salibian, co-founder of record label Nvak Collective — hereafter, “Annika Rose”) stressed that while being early in the Web3 movement provided some first-mover advantage, this benefit was not predicated on any particular genre designation. Rather, they focused their energy on “elevating” the quality of releases and the artist’s communication and storytelling strategy. Heavy Metal artist September Mourning echoed this sentiment, insisting that audiences appreciate quality releases and that artists interested in releasing NFTs should “do good shit.” Similarly, Alt-Pop artist Fifi Rong told us that “genre is actually the least important thing,” stressing “uniqueness and story above all.”
Experimentation in Web3, then, often encourages or even requires a new branding point-of-reference for incoming artists, including revamped visual identities and fresh perspective to reintroduce the artist in a more holistic light. For example, Latin/Hip-Hop group Tulengua underwent a brand reboot before releasing their first NFTs, pulling almost all of their songs from traditional DSPs. 0x0, a DAO-based music initiative that previously released Web3 music in various genres (notably with characters from the Bored Ape Yacht Club), experimented with designing a 3D virtual band for their latest Industrial Metal release.
The opportunity to reimagine and reintroduce acts as a whole hints at a broader trend: Some artists see NFTs as a new creative canvas more open to blurring genre and experimentation compared to the traditional music industry. For example, Neoclassical artist Cristina Spinei is combining digital synthesizers for the first time throughout her Web3 releases: “I just got a synth and am trying to be more experimental… The whole ethos of the Web3 space seems more open for dissolving genre spaces.” Pop Singer-Songwriter Ben Kessler similarly expressed that, in comparison with Web2 releases, he could be “a little looser with it, [and have] a little less pressure,” adding that artists will do well to “lean into the novelty” of being unique in the Web3 space on the basis of their underrepresented genre. This sentiment is echoed by Indie-Pop artist Tarot who believes, “Web3 gives you room for experimentation so you don’t have to overthink.”
Several artists we interviewed, including Spinei, multi-style cellist Kaitlyn Raitz, and Future Funk artist Weinbagz, have released on Async, a generative stem-based art NFT platform that found early success with classical groups like Verdigris Ensemble, whose music lent itself to this new release format. On the platform, listeners can purchase and combine different versions of different stems to create variations of a given song. In our interview, Weinbagz highlights how the platform encourages collaboration in a truly Web3-native way: “I can’t stop thinking about generative music and how all that stuff fits together, and that is really not possible without this [NFT] tech.”
The role of platforms and marketplaces
Currently, Web3 music marketplaces are highly fragmented across blockchains, communities, and user experiences. Web3 musicians continually navigate new headwinds when it comes to shifts in platforms’ onboarding methods and priorities, often without guidance or points of reference within their respective genres. Despite the openness of NFTs as transferable assets, theoretically viewable on the blockchain across multiple platforms, the current ecosystem of NFT platforms is functionally siloed. This presents artists with a unique challenge to decide where and how they want to court fans.
Our research revealed three distinct avenues Web3 musicians are using to release music and develop their individual platform strategies:
- Generalized NFT Marketplaces
- Music NFT Marketplaces, and
- Customized Minting Homepages
Generalized NFT marketplaces
Many musicians in lesser-represented genres use generalized NFT marketplaces to fast-track audience-building in Web3. Generalized NFT marketplaces allow artists to mint on large platforms like OpenSea or Rarible, enabling secondary sales and broadening the potential addressable audience to NFT enthusiasts who aren’t looking specifically for music.
That said, this route provided mixed results for the artists we interviewed, many of whom had a long-term goal of moving off these marketplaces into more focused options. While Singer-Songwriter Violetta Zironi, who incorporates complex, off-chain utility into her releases, has been using OpenSea successfully, she expressed in our interview that her ultimate goal is to develop a customized minting site. Weinbagz also saw generalized marketplaces as a debut opportunity, noting: “The lazy minting was a great entrance to build off of… [But] looking back I do wish I would have deployed my own contract a while ago and not done as much on the shared contracts.”
The mixed results for our participants on generalized NFT marketplaces proves a few salient points. Firstly, it is possible for some musicians to grow a following on generalized sites. Secondly, and perhaps more centrally, the lack of focus on music on today’s largest NFT marketplaces makes it difficult to stand out — leaving an inherent desire from artists to funnel users to customized, self-deployed and self-managed smart contracts.
Music-specific NFT marketplaces
Launching an NFT drop on more curated music NFT Marketplaces like Catalog and Sound.xyz is often an attractive step for Web3 music artists — if, of course, they manage to get accepted. While some artists argued that the choice of platform is mainly irrelevant given the artist’s inherent responsibility to drive traffic and close the sale, highly curated platforms create an exception with their built-in brands and collector bases. Sound.xyz, for example, provides a platform and promotional engine around each drop (including dedicated Twitter Spaces premiering the music) that increases the chances of the drop selling out. For Reggaeton/Latin Alternative artist Xcelencia, partnering with curated marketplaces comes down to bettering the chances that he will be noticed, seeing them as “an opportunity for discovery and for me to get some recognition.”
Some artists feel the current options for curated marketplaces do not suit their needs adequately. Ben Kessler commented that the barrier of entry is too high on many curated platforms. Latin group Tulengua cites a lack of platforms for the Spanish-speaking community, noting the gap as a massive opportunity for builders. For them, the notion that Latin music is somehow the underdog “won’t last for long,” given the prominence of Latin genres in the wider music industry.
Customized minting homepages
The final route we explored was a customized minting site — namely, a website owned, created, and controlled by the artist, where fans can mint NFTs directly.
Custom landing pages alleviate one of the significant roadblocks many artists face; as summarized by Ben Kessler, “Artists are largely at the mercy of platforms.” Violetta Zironi questioned: “Why do you need a platform? Why do you need another middle person? Why do you need someone to do the job for you when you can do it?” She is not alone in that mindset: The sentiment that, eventually, custom pages are a favorable detachment from platform oversight was popular among our respondents, who cited data transparency and control as significant factors.
Multi-genre DAO 0x0 offered a concise explanation for why artists are willing to learn the ins and outs of controlling the minting process, positing, “We’re only limited by what we can build.” This perspective lends to the broader narrative regarding constrictive clauses and overreach in the traditional music industry and reaffirms that, given the option, many artists prefer to opt out. However, Annika Rose and Nifty Sax suggested that developing custom contracts, webpages, and minting experiences would have to come after dabbling with other, more general and ready-made marketplace formats first, given the complex learning curve involved.
The value of iteration across platforms
Importantly, all of the interviewed music artists in this report have not limited their music releases to one marketplace. Instead, they have cast a wide net across a mix of marketplaces — curated and non-curated, generalist and music-specific — embracing as many channels as possible to gain exposure and feedback from disparate communities. Many had success on one platform, but little response from others. This game of learning through iteration — or the “throwing-the-spaghetti-at-the-wall approach,” as September Mourning put it — is quite common when approaching Music NFT Marketplaces.Beyond solely reach, there are creative benefits to mixing it up; as HeyBela noted, “I think that when you work with more people, they will bring more ideas.”
The role of utility
In line with our previous Web3 research, we define utility as the wide range of on- and off-chain benefits that come with purchasing an NFT. Of the artists we interviewed, there was no standard approach to utility, with each artist approaching the question on individual terms and through systematic trial and error.
In fact, the topic of utility tends to be divisive within the Web3 music community, in part because the potential approaches are evolving so quickly. On the one hand, the sentiment that “the music itself is the utility” implies no further benefits are necessary for collectors to buy, and that value rests solely on interest in the artist and the music. Many of the artists we interviewed insist that the focus must be on the music’s quality and process, so as to set healthy boundaries with collectors. Weinbagz, who grants commercial rights to stems from his releases, concedes a degree of ambivalence toward the meaning of utility in music NFTs: “The utility thing is sort of hard for me to wrap my head around because a lot of times… I just like making stuff.” Kaitlyn Raitz, who uses donations to charity as a frequent form of utility around her NFT drops, cautions against over-promising, citing the risk of “putting the artist in this place of having to do so much for the reward.” Rock band High Tropics voices similar concerns: “If you go all out on utility, then you have to do that for everything single drop… it would be expected.”
On the flip side, many artists have implemented complex utility strategies to complement their work and deepen engagement with their community of collectors. For this group, utility is an essential vector for a level of self-directed experimentation that would otherwise feel impossible. Along with verifiable, immutable transaction data and provenance through blockchain technology, providing utility around NFTs allows artists to explore new release strategies with additional benefits by identifying buyers and granting digital, physical, or IRL rewards that fit their frameworks.
Ben Kessler continues to experiment with utility and has explored token-gating stems and private chat communities. He’s now building a homepage that acts as a hub for token-gated and metaverse experiences. Xcelencia has also explored token-gated experiences, but is shifting the way he’s considering utility to be based more around IRL experiences. Tarot took a similar strategy: “[The release] featured a token-gated live performance, where anyone who holds a Tarot NFT can come into my live performance.”
Violetta Zironi has applied a sophisticated utility approach in addition, paraphrasing:
I offer, depending on which and how many NFTs you have, weekly Zoom concerts, free access to the next collection… If you have two common [tokens], you get to enter a collaboration raffle… and the winner of the raffle gets to collaborate with me on their project. If you have five common ones, you automatically get free lifetime tickets to my concerts for you and a plus one. If you have one of the rarer ruby or silver frames you get the free tickets and vinyls in perpetuity. If you have a gold frame, you get all of the above plus a signed poster shipped to your home, forever. If you have a diamond — and there are only five in the whole collection — you get all of the above plus the opportunity to come to the studio with me when I record my albums. Of course we have other types of utility, like free mints… If you have all of the nine frame tiers, from amber to gold, you get a free mint of the acoustic versions of the song with a sketch artwork… which is going to make those acoustic NFTs super rare and valuable. After that we’re going to mint five more acoustic [versions] with a special trait, a special look to it, and we’ll do an auction for those.
Still other artists see community contributions as the key prerequisite to grant utility — such as Annika Rose, who will offer differing levels of utility around her NFTs based on community involvement, not necessarily linked to sales. The most active community members will receive what she terms “gifts”; that gift may be a token, or an opportunity to “work with the artist” on future releases. Indie artist Kasbeel is exploring “pre-selling a show that is backed by the token… If that show happens then the token is burnt.” Beyond these examples, many artists are still testing the boundaries of what utility means and implementing new strategies every day.
Regardless of how artists incorporate utility in their drops, we uncovered a salient throughline: Everyone is interested in deepening connections with collectors and communities. Not every experiment around utility yields tangible results, but moving toward closer relationships is a bright north star.
Marketing, awareness, and getting to fans
We discovered many commonalities in artist and platform onboarding strategies in our prior research, including participation in critical Web3 gathering spaces (esp., Twitter Spaces and Discord), partnerships with adjacent Web3 projects, and manual, human outreach to collector bases before and after the initial sale. These tactics appear again in the marketing strategies of the artists we interviewed for this series.
While being one of the few Web3-native artists in a given genre can be an early advantage, our interviews suggest that genre does not appear to impact the marketing strategies of artists releasing NFTs significantly. The potential boost from being an early mover in a genre space does not supplant the need to engage in a robust awareness effort.The artists we interviewed were tapped into the demographics and psychographics of their audience, but seemed more concerned about building genuine relationships with collectors, and in turn with growing the wider collector base of music NFTs regardless of their genre preferences (more on this later).
Every artist we spoke with echoed a longstanding belief that a prerequisite of an artist’s success in releasing NFTs is time spent in relevant Web3 communities — especially given that the music NFT collector base still comprises a niche market. Numerous artists noted that nearly all of the collectors of NFTs today are already familiar with Web3; conversely, fans from other Web2 sources bought Music NFTs in minimal numbers. Consequently, the musicians we interviewed have found the most success focusing their time on interacting specifically with Web3-native communities.
Active involvement in the primary Web3 town squares (Twitter Spaces, Discord chats, etc.), particularly in collaboration with other artist and project communities, is the top way that the artists we interviewed put in the work to inform and introduce themselves to potential collectors and collaborators. Cristina Spinei considers her collectors “colleagues” in many cases, implying the close linkage via a shared stake in the artist’s success. SLOE JACK similarly stated: “if I support them, they might feel like they want to support me.”
Beyond showing up in the relevant communities, authenticity and consistency are also critical to the marketing efforts of the artists we interviewed. The music NFT community can feel small, so SLOE JACK suggests the centrality of “treating everyone with respect.” HeyBela points out that “as long as you are being authentic,” you will provide value to collectors. Similarly, Kaitlyn Raitz advises: `“the number one thing is… just being a genuine person.”
In our Season One report on artist onboarding strategies, Hip-Hop artist Famous Dyl shared his method of partnering with other NFT projects and communities to drive awareness and sales. At the time, he was an early mover on that tactic; it has since found legs with other artists we interviewed, including 0x0, who partners with PFP projects, and Cristina Spinnei, who collaborates often with visual artists. Nifty Sax pointed out that for more extensive collections, partnering or becoming a part of larger communities like a Profile Pic (“PFP”) project can help with moving volume. Famous Dyl and Nifty Sax shared that purchasing a PFP from a given collection and engaging with members of their Discord community, or routinely spending time on their Twitter Spaces was an effective promotional strategy, as long as you express genuine interest in the community and are actively connecting. Violetta Zironi also advocates for partnering with established PFP communities, claiming that “PFP communities are where the majority of people are in the NFT space.”
While participating authentically in Web3 town squares is essential, some artists noted the grind required of musicians to keep up this routine. There are challenges to showing up and doing so authentically in the multitude of spaces, while also maintaining a schedule to create great art. Kaitlyn Raitz leverages Twitter by, for example, posting videos of herself playing cello to “highlight the fact that what I’m doing is kind of different from a lot of people.” However, she points out the difficulty for artists to manage community engagement, pointing out the provincial nature of communities: “I think the individual communities can get pretty insular, kind of just supporting each other… It’s not sustainable in the long term.”
Building a narrative emerged as a critical trait of several successful projects cited by the artists we interviewed. In Nifty Sax and Fifi Rong’s 10-week academy, which guides selected artists through NFT strategy and tech fundamentals, long-term narrative building as a skill was a prerequisite for acceptance. Nifty Sax demonstrated a line of questioning to us: “People buy into you. Do you have longevity? The brand. Can I trust you? Are you a good investment?” He also said those who have trouble communicating their story “will have a hard time.”
Nifty Sax spoke about his emergence as the “sax guy” and how this helped establish his brand and separate him from other projects. Tulengua has built a narrative on a compelling mission with their work, shining a light on cross-border life for those living between California and Mexico, supporting the assertion that the story was the most crucial aspect of the project. Artist Rain Phoenix leveraged Discord to host regular “campfires,” which pulled thematically from a pivotal scene involving a campfire in the film for NFT source material.
Of course, such a manner of project presentation is not unique to NFTs, as compelling narratives have been a driving factor of success for art from time immemorial. That said, given the complexity of blockchain and NFTs as underlying technologies, narrative carries even more salience in Web3 communities for social and creative cohesion.
Tradeoffs+ redefining metrics for success
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the music/Web3 landscape today is the veritable, one-way chasm between Web3 and Web2 music communities. Whereas Web3 collectors are often willing to jump that chasm and follow the artist on various social media channels and streaming platforms, very few from the Web2 side can be convinced to buy NFTs. As Kaitlyn Raitz succinctly states: “The fans from Web2 — how we get them over is the battle.”
One key factor in the one-way chasm is a lack of awareness of the wide range of what NFTs in general can offer. Xcelencia notes this lack of awareness is particularly acute in the Latin Music community: “Everyone is still trying to learn and understand it.” That said, this chasm has not deterred him from finding ways to activate his Web2 Audience or coaxing fans into online Web3 spaces. As he puts it: “I say, go to the platform and listen to the song or come join the Twitter Spaces and listen, live,” while recognizing the challenge: “It’s not gonna happen now. It’s probably not gonna even happen next year.” Kasbeel, who is based in Colombia, sums it up similarly: “My fans, because of their demographic, are not knowledgeable of NFTs.”
Tarot notes that lack of awareness is not confined to any particular demographic, but rather is a far-reaching issue: “It’s a little difficult to sell to people who don’t know what a [digital] wallet is yet.” Evidence of a lack of awareness regarding Web3 Music is illustrated by Cristina Spinei’s appearance on American Public Media — a mainstream media program that, according to the artist, did not boost her NFT marketing efforts significantly despite its broad reach. Rain Phoenix points out that fandom itself doesn’t result in jumping the chasm: “What was interesting is that… people who were fans of the film, and loved the things we were doing in Discord or on our Podcast, [would] not convert [to NFT buyers].”
What, then, are the metrics of success in a music NFT drop, according to the artists? While the artists we interviewed are discovering new ways to increase sales in the primary and secondary markets, they concurrently view community development, quality work, and personal, authentic connections as the most relevant signs of success.
In a recent Water & Music report, we questioned whether secondary sales volume was necessarily the healthiest measure of success and longevity for a given artist or NFT collection. If yes, that means that artists would arguably benefit more financially from attracting speculative parties over long-term, loyal fans, which could have a detrimental effect on community health.
This tradeoff was reflected in our artist interviews; while selling out a collection is always a welcome achievement, sentiment has moved away from the centrality of selling out in place of other aims. High Tropics voiced this widely-held perspective in our interview: “Don’t approach NFTs as a cash grab opportunity. Build collectors slowly over time… building up a collector base of 100 collectors is much more attainable than one million Spotify monthly listeners.”
0x0 pointed out that selling out does initiate more secondary market trading due to collectors’ sense of FOMO, but also lamented the limitations of secondary market activity, observing the limited experiences afforded to collectors after the initial sale. In response, they are considering new strategies while planning virtual concerts and events for their next drops. SLOE JACK emphasized the fleeting nature of selling out, making clear that community involvement implies longevity, a much more desirable outcome. Similarly, Tarot is tracking “reach and interconnectedness” over sales. Selling out was not expected by Kasbeel and, moreover, selling anything via NFTs: “I think our most notable results are the sale of my NFTs. I never thought it would happen. I was very skeptical at the time when we started this journey.”
Other Web3 music artists noted the tighter connections with fans as a big win. Violetta Zironi feels that her work is now directed more closely to her fans than through an intermediary like a streaming platform, engendering a brand refresh. Ben Kessler notes that collectors may become engaged fans, suggesting that collectors “want to see you out there doing things, and not just Web3 releases.” Tracking the artist beyond the release is more than a side-note for HeyBela, who sums it up: “I don’t want people just to buy my music; it is about creating a community who appreciates what you do and that is going to support you in all the aspects, in all your facets as an artist and as a person.”
Conclusion: Where genre fits long-term
Being in an underrepresented genre in Web3 could be generally beneficial, as it offers collectors something new from a creative and aesthetic standpoint, and can help artists drive awareness in the early stages of a project.
But the question remains, is genre an essential factor in music NFT sales long-term? Several factors complicate this answer. Given the wide-ranging NFT strategies of music artists across genres, highly divergent approaches have found success, across a wide spectrum of utility and community-engagement strategies.
Still, there are some notable throughlines. For instance, many Web3 music artists cast a wide net of experimentation with existing marketplace solutions and NFT minting solutions to gather more data on the NFT market, in parallel with developing their own custom minting sites to reduce platform reliance. As detailed in the marketing section above, fostering deeper, more authentic connections with collector communities was a prime indicator of success, with equal if not more weight compared to sales volume.
We also can’t ignore the one-way chasm between Web3 collectors and Web2 audiences across genres. Web3 collectors follow artists on social media and listen via streaming services, but efforts to assimilate new fans from Web2 are fraught with persistent mainstream concerns about the technology, such as financial and technical inaccessibility and environmental impact (in spite of the Merge) — concerns that will not be appeased overnight.
Ironically, bridging the one-way chasm from Web3 to Web2 might require taking genre differences more seriously. It’s well-documented across other sectors of the music business that fans in different genres and music scenes exhibit significantly different consumption behaviors. For instance, Hip-Hop and Electronic artists and fans are consistently early adopters of new technology including streaming and Web3, while Country and Classicalconsumershave only meaningfully entered the streaming conversation in the last five or so years. Touring economics also vary widely across genres, with Billboard’s top touring charts for 2021 leaning heavily towards Rock, Pop, and Latin artists. Convincing fans in these more mainstream circles to adopt Web3 may require meeting them where they’re at in terms of their everyday behavior and level of tech adoption, which arguably needs to take variances in consumer behavior and tech adoption across genre preferences into account.
In the meantime, though, the Web3 music artists we interviewed emphasize the value of educating oneself about blockchain technology, building core community connections, and taking a more nimble approach to experimentation with the technology, regardless of one’s musical background. Flexibility in both platform and onboarding approaches is critical to success, as Tarot notes: “It’s important for artists in this space to not just be in one spot… we need to learn how to leverage each tool available.” While difficult to manage the complexity and quickly evolving Music NFT ecosystem, Ben Kessler similarly encourages artists to “just mint something” — to simply start, experiment, and explore, while “leaning into the novelty” of being in an underrepresented genre in the ecosystem. Rain Phoenix underscores that community participation is paramount: “Really it’s just digging in and… really becoming part of that community a hundred percent, where you are associated with it because you are in it.”
All these guidelines together point to a compelling argument for why early-stage artists should engage with Web3 as a technology and as a culture. The music/Web3 ecosystem seems to give artists across genres the ability to launch their careers in an experimental system that feels genuinely alternative to the mainstream machine, with tools to build their own custom models for music distribution, financing, and fan engagement without the limitations of predefined industry boxes.