As a career-long visionary and innovator, I’ve been at the forefront of several major iterations of content-related waves and platforms over the past several decades. Each of these waves has enabled greater empowerment for content creators and deeper fan engagement. And for the creators, it’s also unleashed new revenue streams, including something we refer to as “direct to consumer” monetization which is enabling a tsunami of creative output across a range of segments in a $100B+ market (source: Influencer Marketing Hub).
First we had Web 1.0 (dawn of the Internet — early days, then high-speed Internet, web sites, mobile explosion, and in my case helping to launch the earliest initiatives around artist direct-to-fan (DTF) models in the mid-90s when Todd Rundgren and I launched Patronet — pre-cursor to Patreon — in the mid-90s). Other artist DTF models of the day included efforts by Prince with the NPG Music Club and David Bowie with BowieNet (pioneers all). And of course this phase included the disruption of Napster, Bit Torrent, the launch of iTunes, et al. That lasted about a decade.
Then Web 2.0 came along about 10 years ago, which focused on things like the rise of social media platforms where like-minded communities gathered, user-generated content was born, SmartPhones and the rise of the app world, and we had experiences like second screen (consumer engagement across and between multiple devices), et al. Over this decade, we’ve witnessed an exponential increase in social media/UGC platforms, especially with the use of graphics and video (visuals). In this era, we experienced something referred to as “The 2nd Renaissance” — a term coined by Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon — to describe a feedback loop between tech and content creators that drives the expansion of creator-type jobs and changes how society interacts with media and ‘influence’.
This creator economy is being embraced in a big way by venture capitalists (VCs) with increasing levels of investment in tools and platforms across industries that foster the interaction between creators and fans. And crypto is enabling a whole new set of opportunities for digital creation, placing the creator at the center of its own economy — no longer held back in distribution or monetization by monolithic media companies.
This past year in 2021, we’ve entered Web 3.0 — which has really started to pick up speed over the last six months in particular as I write this. Web3 includes the metaverse — immersive content and virtual in-world community experiences, the blockchain as a system for recording transactions and asset ownership as a digital ledger in the crypto world, and NFTs (non-fungible tokens which themselves are collectibles in the form of “one of one” cryptographic assets housed on a blockchain that are unique and can’t be replicated).
One of the leaders in the metaverse space (for music) is Roblox (worth about $28B and has about 50M users as I write this). Long-time colleague, Jon Vlassopulos is VP & Global Head of Music, and he’s leading the charge with all sorts of creative things in music on the platform including facilitating unique virtual concert & festival experiences, listening parties for artists and fans, and other innovative music experiences. These opportunities provide for richer artist-to-fan interactions, fan-to-fan interactions, and new revenue streams.
And in tandem with the metaverse, we’ve seen nothing short of an explosion of NFT sales in 2021. There’s quite a bit of uncertainty and skepticism with NFTs given the massive growth in a relatively short period of time, but many believe they are here to stay having gained traction particularly among younger demographics as a way to engage more deeply with their favorite artists (and with each other in fandoms).
One of the things NFTs enable is the opportunity for artists to get upfront funding from their fans without giving up the rights to their ownership and taking big revenue cuts — which was **exactly** the vision Todd and I had when we launched Patronet over 25 years ago (!). And in tandem, fans as “investors’, can participate in a share of the success of their favorite artists financially as well as with intrinsic satisfaction.
Several artists are experimenting with NFTs, such as creative music producer 3lau (pronounced “Blau” aka Justin Blau), who sold 33 NFTs on the third anniversary of his album Ultraviolet for over $11.7M, making it one of the largest music NFT deals to date. He has also launched his own venture, Royal, which enables fractional ownership through its own version of NFTs, and last Fall secured $55M in a Series A round raise.
And more recently, Julian Lennon (son of the late Beatle) auctioned off a set of Beatles memorabilia from his personal collection as NFTs in support of his philanthropic venture, The White Feather Foundation.
The truth is there is so much happening in this space on a daily basis, and I’m paddling as fast as I can to come up to speed on the broad range of opportunities that the Web3 era enables in music and other realms. Others who are a little further along than I have done podcasts and written some highly informative pieces which I encourage you to dive into if you’re keen to learn more. Here’s a collection of just some of the resources I’ve found to be among the most insightful — but truly there’s a plethora of information out there (let alone a steady stream of events showing up on the landscape consistently):
*Peter Csathy’s CreatTV.Media — a long-time trusted colleague in the digital media space (especially in music), Peter hosts a podcast called “Fearless Media”, and offers a wealth of insights on Web3 here. He features guests on the cutting edge of Web3 activities aimed at music and other media (films, games, etc).
*Variety’s Intelligence Platform also offers a broad range of well-researched reports and insights that cover every facet of music and entertainment’s next frontier in Web 3. Here’s just one example.
*How NFTs Could Re-define the Future of the Music Industry by Jake Fraser for Venture Beat
*The Creator Economy & 2nd Renaissance — a terrific PDF I recommend highly; by Bitkraft Ventures
*Web3 is the Future, or a Scam, or Both — by long-time journalist colleague Peter Kafka
*Unpacking Music Royalty Investment NFTs — by Tatiana Cirisano
*Real Vision — an on-demand financial TV channel focused on fintech and Web3 initiatives, including an emphasis on the music, media and entertainment worlds. They also host highly curated dynamic events.
*NFT LA — taking place in Los Angeles, March 28–31, 2022
*Web3 Summit — taking place in San Diego, May 18–20, 2022 (full disclosure, I’m programming music track panels for this event).
— — —
So as you can see, Web3 is emerging as one of the most dynamic of all the waves we’ve experienced thus far related to multimedia platforms and new forms of content creation, engagement and monetization. Watch this space as we’re only on the cutting edge of this new era which promises to be a game-changer.