In the past year or so, three letters have dominated conversations in the tech world and, increasingly, in the music world, too: NFT (non-fungible tokens). With live music on hold and the viability of streaming as an income is called into question, artists, musicians and producers have been looking into the world of NFTs as an alternative and hopefully more sturdy way of making a living from their art.
If you’re still not entirely familiar with the concept, non-fungible tokens are basically blockchain-based ‘trading cards’ that hold digital content that can be anything from an image to a piece of music or video content. Recently, high-profile NFTs have been sold by Aphex Twin, Kings Of Leon, Grimes and Steve Aoki for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars. They’re completely exclusive and, for some, hold the future of the industry and put artists in complete control of their art and their money.
However, for Slovenian DJ and producer UMEK, we’re only just scratching the surface. We spoke to UMEK back in 2019 about Viberate, the music research and analytics platform looking to bring more transparency into the music industry. Rather than using NFTs simply as exclusive, albeit lucrative, memorabilia or one-offs, UMEK and the Viberate team propose NFTs and blockchain technology to be used for secure payments and to potentially completely reshape how musicians arrange bookings and monetise livestreaming. They plan to test out this idea in their April NFT drop.
“I’ve been actively involved in the crypto scene for the last couple of years, especially as Viberate, the music research and analytics platform I co-founded, also includes blockchain technology,” UMEK told Complex. “I was definitely inspired by NFTs and all the creative ways other artists went about them, but I wanted to push things to another level. That’s why my team and I developed the concept of a live gig NFT. Blockchain technology is wonderful for smart contracts, as it makes collecting payments effective and safe, all while protecting both parties in case something goes wrong. We’re all painfully aware that live events are returning very slowly, so this could be an opportunity for any artist, big or small, to make sure they have a booking waiting for them once live gigs are back in the picture.”
To get the ball rolling and introduce people to the concept, UMEK will be making five different NFTs available on the Blockparty marketplace on April 29 for just 24 hours. Two NFTs will cover gigs—one for a livestream performance and one for a live show. The owners of those tokens, be it fans or organizers, will thus be able to book UMEK for either an exclusive live event, or a livestream.
The remaining three NFTs will hold exclusive remixes of his breakout dancefloor hit, “Lanicor”, a track he holds particularly close to his heart as the breakout smash that changed everything for him. Recorded around ‘98 or ‘99, he says, “The track blew up, and there wasn’t a rave in 1999 and 2000 that didn’t have ‘Lanicor’ played at least a few times. My career definitely wouldn’t have been the same without this track. With NFTs I had the perfect opportunity to play tribute to it, and create a true collectible.”
For UMEK, the goal with this project is to completely change the way live music is structured and to change how artists and fans interact. “Livestreams are a sort of uncharted territory,” UMEK explains. “Nobody is claiming any copyright, there’s no agents involved. I think the main realisation here is, that you don’t have to travel all around the world to perform for fans, someone from across the globe can be willing to pay for your livestream, which you do from the comfort of your own home. You can’t go around handing high-fives, but you can create a livestream tailored to them, and they’re the only ones having that experience.”
UMEK’s NFT drop will launch on Blockparty on Thursday, April 29, 2021, at 8:00 pm GMT+1 (3:00 pm EST).