Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Over the next ten years, people like you and I could get paid for our attention. We’ve seen it start already with play-to-earn video games, where a percentage of earnings goes back to the players; this is an example of a mainstream payment in a Web3 world. As the next iteration of the internet evolves, this idea of paying fans for their enjoyment could translate into all aspects of entertainment. Fans could get paid to listen to their favorite music and, in turn, have more money to pay artists for new music. This cycle could effectively cut out the middlemen of the music industry, putting more money back into the pockets of artists and fans.
In order to internalize how Web3 could change music, you need to understand the process of music consumption today. With the advent of the internet and streaming platforms, the industry has been trending in the right direction, allowing artists to cut out middlemen when delivering music to their fans. However, there are still publicists, managers, record labels, lawyers and streaming platforms that must get paid before new music reaches the fans.
Streaming services have so many costs to run their businesses — such as signing massive deals with record labels for rights to the music — that there often isn’t much left over for the artists. For example, Business Insider found that Spotify pays artists “as $.0033 per stream, with other sites reporting upwards of $.0054.” And currently, record labels are too big to change their business models and the system simply isn’t set up to reward artists.
The future of music could look much different: The only “middleman” standing between an artist and their fans could be the decentralized internet. When a fan presses play, the artist could get paid immediately. With more money going to the artists themselves, many could be more willing to share that profit with the people who are changing their lives: the fans. The artist-fan relationship could be propelled on the blockchain.
Of course, there are roadblocks in this process beginning with education, trust and the general unknowns within the industry. This concept of the middleman is what the modern-day music industry was built upon. By embracing Web3 technology and building out smart contracts, there is no longer a need for this middleman. Web3 provides entrepreneurs and business leaders with the opportunity to build trust and educate consumers of the industry.
Take NFTs as an example. An NFT is a key that verifies ownership of a unique digital item or package of items; artists are already starting to test the waters with them. An opportunity for artists is to release a collection of NFTs alongside an album drop, each one granting the holder special access to the artist, like fan clubs, free concert tickets or signed albums. When you purchase an NFT, you’re not just buying access, you’re investing in the artist themselves. On top of that, you could sell your NFT down the road, hopefully at a profit.
With any new technology, there are going to be people who try to take advantage of consumers who are uninformed within the space in order to profit. As leaders at the intersection of music and technology, it is our responsibility to educate our audiences on how to safely navigate this new and somewhat confusing space to newcomers.
Many people understand the value of ownership in a company, and as the decade continues, we’re going to see fans doing the same thing to support artists. How can we take 1,000 people who are willing to buy into NFTs, music and the Web3 community, convert them into evangelists who are willing to onboard 10 of their friends and then watch it multiply?
Artists can dive into the deep end and start experimenting. We’re already seeing services such as Mint Songs, Audius and Opus where artists can mint their songs. They need to try turning an idea into an NFT, take time to experience the community and digest the culture of Web3. Fans could very well start using the services that pay them for their time. I believe that when that starts to become mainstream, it’s going to be great for all music.