For years, crypto believers have been trying to put music “on the blockchain”. And while beginners and investors say there is potential, many artists – at least so far – remain unsure. Some services they fired, but most are aimed at artists who are already immersed in blockchain technology. What about crypto-rejecting musicians who just want to be paid for their work?
Enter Nina, a new digital music market in the spirit of Bandcamp and Discogs. Led by Mike Pollard, a former from Arbor Records, it was launched yesterday at Solana – an energy efficient alternative to the Ethereum blockchain.
When a musician posts their album on Nin, they make it available for free streaming, as they would on Soundcloud or YouTube. But they also issue a limited set of tokens, which are not platform specific. Purchasing an album token does not give you a digital copy of the music, but it may entitle you to special benefits below.
“You can think of tokens as a kind of modular loyalty program, potentially,” Pollard said. “If an artist wants to say, ‘Ticket sales go 30 minutes before people who have this token,’ [they could], or you could make a mismatch with the token. There is a kind of value that we will not necessarily prescribe. ”
It is up to the artists to create that value and to choose whether to offer special benefits to collectors. Nina plans to offer music from Ryley Walker, Homeshake, Aaron Dilloway, C. Spencer Yeh, Georgia, Cloud Nothings, Bergsonist, Horse Lords, Jeff Witcher and others.
The purpose is that Nina only allows purchases in the USDC (US Dollar Coin) – a popular “stable coin” that is tied to the value of the US dollar. It is still a crypto, but it is much less volatile than Ethereum or SOL, the original Solana blockchain token.
It is an approach designed to address one of the fundamental problems with cryptocurrency and the emerging cultural sphere known as “Web 3.0”: accessibility. For many artists, crypto (and especially cultures around NFT) remains a punchline. And navigating unknown crypto exchanges, unhosted wallets and token exchanges can be daunting.
Polard, who comes from the music world, is very aware of all this. He spent time in technology, as a programmer for a Silicon Valley startup (and as a freelancer for a company that became Mediachain Labs, a startup co-founded by crypto investors Jesse Walden and Denis Nazarov), but with Nina trying to reach a wider audience. “I think in order to attract people who don’t care about cryptocurrencies, you really have to step out of things like that,” he explained. “Currently, education on blockchain stuff [involves] too many words that people do not know. And you have to feel like you’re making some ideological change. But I think the benefits of blockchain can be delivered without having to drink Kool-Aid completely. ”
“$ 5 USDC” is somehow friendlier than “.00023ETH.” And you won’t find the “NFT” initialism anywhere on Nina’s website either. “Musicians make music, they don’t make NFT,” Pollard said.
Solana’s choice over Ethereum clarifies some other potential problems, namely a fee system that is too high (forging “free” NFT can still cost about $ 200 in fees, depending on the time of day) and a consensus on the proof of operation mechanism, which includes a significant environmental cost.
In the way that the online Discogs market manages the sale of used physical CDs, LPs and cassettes, Nina manages the secondary market for its tokens. If you buy a token for an album or song and end up with it at some point, you can easily sell it to someone else. The musician also received a share of each of those sales.
John Elliott, who records as Imaginary Softwoods (he used to be in the band Emeralds), was among the first artists to transmit music exclusively on Nina. His new song, “The Hi-Lonesome Conifers (edit), ”Was available yesterday in a 25-token edition. It was sold out within hours.
“I really like the idea that I can actually make so many remaining sales in the used market, if people really buy the thing and like it,” he said.
Where Bandcamp charges a fee for each purchase, Nina charges one fee in advance, for setting the song, and then mostly gives up. When you buy an artist token, they get all your money, less the nominal transaction fee; Nina then takes the fee for the secondary sale, which comes from the pocket of the user, and not from the musicians.
just an observation: so amazed @nina_market_ 🙏 The best #blockchain protocol– published in the past NFT on the Foundation, never had any sales. Posted an epic on Bandcamp -> earned $ 30 today- Posted a song @nina_market_ made 6X more than what I did on the bandcamp today with that paypal fee
– bergsonist (@bergsonist) November 19, 2021
Nina is obviously still in her infancy, and it remains to be worked out. Because these tokens have inherent financial properties, there is always a chance that speculators will come in and raise prices – such as ticket scalping, but for blockchain tokens. This is already happening at Discogs, where collectors of rare records are turning albums like stocks, buying at a low price and selling high. Another problem is that at the moment you can’t do much with your token after you buy it, except to resell it.
For now, however, the platform is an attempt for musicians to try something new. Streaming was great for the music business i less great for most musicians. It’s hard to make money on Soundcloud. And Bandcamp, while great at channeling money to artists, only lowers fees special occasions. Pollard bets that Nina can attribute value to digital music in a whole new way.
“There’s a big increase in artists who aren’t afraid of the word ‘Web 3.0,'” he said. “I think some people see that this is going to be a really exciting way for them to get out of their addiction to a platform that sucks a lot of fun out of music.”