What are NFTs and Crypto Art? A Guide With Top Examples Of Musicians In The Space

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You’ve probably seen the term NFT floating around. Some of you have seen it so much that you may be feeling out of the loop. Or maybe you don’t really care, but then you probably wouldn’t have clicked this article.

Should you care? Simply put, yes. It isn’t some fad or short-lived thread. Just like how iTunes and streaming platforms digitalized the music listening experience, NFTs are digitalizing the art and collectibles world. 

We want to keep things simple so you can get a better understanding of what NFTs are. We will soon be diving deeper into all aspects of NFTs to keep you updated on the most exciting drops that are happening with some of your favorite musicians.

Definition

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Tokens—which simply means that the token can not be recreated or replaced.  “Fungible” = able to be replaced, so “Non-Fungible” = not able to be replaced. This means it is unique.

Fungible example: Dollars and coins can be exchanged for one another, and are worth the same value. In other words, one dollar of one country’s currency can be exchanged for another, they share the same value.

Non-Fungible example: Imagine two similar cars. Even if it’s the same exact car they can’t be interchanged for the exact same value. There are various factors like how old, any wear-and-tear, and if any alterations have been made.

There are various types of NFTs under the main umbrella of the term. Two of the biggest groups include digital art and digital collectibles. Today we are just going to be talking about digital art, specifically what’s happening in the music world. 

NFTs use the same blockchain technology that cryptocurrencies do and make digital assets both trackable, verifiable and in most cases, scarce. These are things that have never existed before and are what enable both digital art and digital collectibles to exist.

The actual NFT is a digital token that points to a photo or video. There are other uses, but these are the primary forms.

NFT Marketplaces

NFTs are sold primarily through secure marketplaces. The most prominent that exist today include:

  • Nifty Gateway: Purchase NFTs using a credit card or cryptocurrencies like Ether. This is unlike most of the other marketplaces that require you to make purchases exclusively in EtheWhile. That’s a simple step, but it’s a huge barrier.
  • SuperRare: They only feature 1 of 1’s. It’s heavily curated. The auction format allows  owners to accept the top bid at any time, often with a 24 hour countdown to notify collectors about when it will end.

There are more open source platforms where anyone can create their own NFT without curation or approval. 

  • Rarible: Open platform for anyone to create NFTs without needing to be approved.
  • OpenSea: NFT marketplace where you can create NFTs without having to pay transaction costs in ETH.
  • Block Party: Emerging NFT platform built on the NFT protocol.
  • Makers Place: Bespoke auction house offering unique NFT schemas for creators.

We will be diving deeper into these platforms in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are a few different type of releases to be aware of:

  • Auctions: This varies between platforms, but bids are placed either publicly or in silent auction.
  • Drawing: This is basically a raffle where you enter and only are charged if you are chosen. This is a recent form of drops implemented with limited editions to prevent bots from grabbing them
  • Open Edition: For a specific amount of time (usually 2 – 15 minutes), an unlimited amount of NFTs can be purchased. This could result in 0 purchases or thousands. 

As of early January, there were a handful of NFTs launched by musicians or in collaboration with them. Now more are starting to surface every week.

We have compiled some of the highlights to help make sense of this all. When you see the money these artists are making, it really brings home how much NFTs will be able to influence the industry.

RAC held the record for most expensive single sale of $26,185 on SuperRare.

RAC is a well established musician and has even won a Grammy award, among other accolades. He collaborated on a video animation with Andrés Reisinger that featured an exclusive RAC’s sound bite called “Elephant Dreams”. On October 10, 2020, it sold for $26,185 via SuperRare. At the time this was the most expensive music related NFT to date. 

3LAU has done many different releases, opening the door for musicians into this wild frontier. He brought in over $1 million in sales in under 8 months through a series of different drops.

3LAU has been a huge advocate for blockchain / crypto technology. He even went as far to launch his own music festival powered by the Stellar blockchain. He has become a pioneer in helping musicians break into the space. For his venture, he’s partnered with respected digital artist Slime Sunday for a majority of his drops, and the two have done plenty of releases so far. They have worked with most of the major marketplaces like Nifty Gateway, SuperRare, Blockparty, Makers Place and Flamingo Dao.

For his latest drop, he showcased his recent single ‘Everything,’ inpartnership with Nifty Gateway. On top of receiving the digital NFT artwork of the single, the purchasers are receiving a physical representation of the song in the form of a soundblock (see picture below). 3LAU brought in over $252,000 on this drop alone.

You can read more about his thesis around NFTs and digital collectibles in his blog post “Building The Investible Layer of Music”

deadmau5 has delivered three drops so far and has brought in just under $500,000 in sales.

As one of the most popular names in dance music who’s been a huge early adopter of technology, it makes sense why he’d be getting in on this too.

He launched his first NFT in December 2020 when he sold a 1-of-1 audio-reactive video via SuperRare that sold for $49,777, instantly becoming one of the most expensive single NFT sales to date. He quickly followed that up with his own digital collectibles company called RAREZ, and during the first drop that he did with WAX, he sold out of the initial 6000 “packs” of random digital collectible items ranging in value. bringing in $96,940 in sales. 

He’s also partnered up with Mad Dog Jones, an artist who’s been making a name for himself within the space. They worked together by having deadmau5 offer up original music and Mad Dog providing his signature style that incorporated some mau5 heads into the artwork. This collaboration was with Nifty Gateway and brought in over $340,000.

Deadmau5’s RAREZ “packs” are not digital art, but digital collectibles, it’s similar but different in a lot of ways. Stay tuned for a more thorough breakdown of that space. 

Two Feet teamed up with 18-year-old digital artist FEWOCIOUS and made over $1.05 million in their first drop together.

Singer / producer Two Feet collaborated with wunderkind FEWOCIOUS, an artist who’s had immense success in the NFT community. The drop was launched in partner with Illumino Art—a rising NFT agency that connects musicians with high-caliber visual artists. Using Two Feet’s music and drawings and FEWO’s art, they created a 4 piece collection. 

Whoever bought the “CryptoCaster,” which was an open edition NFT priced at $999, would be entered into a raffle to win a 1-of-1 physical guitar (the exact model Two Feet uses) painted by FEWOCIOUS. The response was unreal. At the time they broke the record for the largest single music-related NFT to date, topping out at just under $1.1 million in sales in 24 hours. 

Gramatik just this past week broke the record again for a solo musician drop bringing in just under $1.5 million in sales in five minutes.

While this was his first official NFT drop, Gramatik has been making a name in the crypto space for a minute. Outside of being publicly outspoken on social media about cryptocurrency, he’s also put his money where his mouth is. In 2016 he released a song called “Satoshi Nakamoto,” named after the alleged creator of Bitcoin. In 2017 he released his very own crypto token. Then in 2019 he continued the crypto spirit by releasing “Vitalik Buren,” named after the official public creator of Ethereum, the second most popular currency in the space. 

For his NFT drop, he released his two popular crypto-themed songs in NFT forms along with visuals, as well as releasing two new exclusive songs through two other NFTs. He’s been building crypto credibility for years leading to amassing a fanbase of collectors which could have possibly been a driving factor for having such a massively successful drop. 

While one of the main focuses of this piece is to showcase how musicians are utilizing NFTs today, there are an endless number of examples from non-music specific creators, most of which have some history working with musicians in the past.

Beeple made over $3.5 million in 24 hours for his most recent release.

One of the most popular digital artists on the planet, the king of the everyday render, Beeple flipped the NFT space upside down in December 2020. He included a physical product alongside the digital NFT purchase. You not only received your secure digital asset but a physical chest that included a small digital screen to display the animated visual art. It also included a certificate of authenticity and a sample of his hair. 

This drop was a game-changer. On top of the art being great, the inclusion of physical art was regarded as one of the main factors towards his success here.

Mad Dog Jones has the most successful drop to date, amounting to $3.9 million. 

Mad Dog Jones, a digital artist who’s worked with artists like Run the Jewels and deadmau5, recently had the highest-grossing drop to date. He brought in $3.9 million in 24 hours.

The combined hype around Nifty Gateway and Mad Dog’s clever structure to have collectors accumulate NFTs as keys to a deeper puzzle made his most recent drop “Crash + Burn” a massive success. 

Justin Roiland sold his line drawings for over $1 million.

We’re seeing creators from hit shows like Rick & Morty get involved with NFTs too. Lead designer Justin Roilan released a collection of original line drawings, including the most infamous one of The Simpsons titled “The Smintons”. He brought in over $1 million, in partnership with Nifty Gateway. Diehard fans rushed to get their hands on these sketches.

What’s Next?

If you’ve made it this far, we want to thank you for reading! We’re excited to be sharing a variety of new content in the coming weeks to help guide and educate you on this very exciting new space. We’ll be running interviews with both musicians and digital artists to get some insights from the key players.

Whether you’re an NFT expert or a complete beginner, let this post serve as a testament to how NFTs offer new and creative ways for artists to connect with their true fans and add value to their work. While most of the examples today showcased A-tier NFTs sold at high price points, we fully expect more artists to offer new ways to participate in the creator economies of tomorrow.

To stay up with our future coverage on NFTs, follow us on socials and subscribe to our mailing list. Get ready for the NFT revolution that has already begun.