RAC, born André Allen Anjos, was creating digital art well before it was cool. In May 2020, before music’s 2021 blockchain mania, the artist and producer released 100 cassette tapes that were only redeemable through the purchase of his personal crypto token. A $20 tape sold for as much as $13,000 — likely making it the most expensive cassette in history. Anjos’ first audiovisual NFT in October, a 30-second art loop, sold for $26,000. He used the smart contracts within NFTs to set a 10 percent royalty, ensuring that he’d be compensated every time they were resold.
How did he learn to seize control of his business so expertly? Anjos, born in Coimbra, Portugal, as the son of missionaries, has always felt an urge to go against the grain. He didn’t have TV growing up and couldn’t afford to buy imported albums, so he played around in local music groups and recorded radio broadcasts to make his own mixtapes. “I didn’t have access to a lot of things that a lot of people take for granted,” he says, referring to his upbringing as “culturally shielded.”
He was taking piano lessons before he was seven, and discovered the guitar at the start of his teenage years. He started playing in “all kinds of bands,” including metal bands and church bands, but didn’t really pay attention to the world outside Portugal — until 2001, when he stumbled upon Napster. “Suddenly, I had access to literally everything,” he recalls. “I discovered the Beatles on Napster, which is kind of crazy.” (Now, he’s well-versed in the music industry’s complicated qualms with the platform regarding monetization, but back then, he was just overcome by wonder.)
When Anjos was 15, his mom brought home a life-changing box of cereal: At the bottom of the bag of sugary puffs, where one might normally find some sort of action figure or toy, Anjos uncovered a CD housing a demo of recording software — essentially a primitive, basic version of Garageband for PCs. It opened up his creative world.
Thanks to Napster and the cereal box, Anjos “went down the rabbit hole” of internet technology and eventually found himself drawn to crypto. After moving to America for college, Anjos launched a company called Remix Artist Collective (RAC) and assembled a team to remix other artists’ music for hire. A cold call led him to the Shins’ manager, who agreed to send him stems, albeit somewhat skeptically. His version of the band’s “Sleeping Lessons” took off. The business was a success, but no matter how much he pitched his team members to clients, everyone wanted “the guy who did the Shins song.”
“Anything on the infrastructure side of the music industry could essentially be replaced by code. Hell yeah, that’s about as anti-establishment as it gets”
Anjos turned RAC into an artist project, and signed to a major label — but he felt that the middleman ruined his debut album, and adopted a much more DIY spirit from then on. “There are clear advantages to being on certain labels, but anything on the infrastructure side of the music industry could essentially be replaced by code,” he says. “Hell yeah, that’s about as anti-establishment as it gets.”
He watched tech developments closely. “Napster had a single point of failure,” he says. “If you wanted to shut down Napster, you just had to shut down that server. BitTorrent came around and it was almost the opposite, being fully decentralized across the world. You’d literally have to shut down the Internet to stop it.” Anjos actually started dabbling in the crypto space in 2017, before NFTs existed as they do today. He partnered with Ujo Music, which was the only real player around at the time, according to Anjos. With lots of help from co-founder and CEO Jesse Grushack, who advised Anjos heavily on the technical side, they launched the first album on the Ethereum network through a smart contract. “If you deposited X amount of Ether into the contract, you would get a zip file sent to you automatically,” Anjos says. “That was the simple idea.” Funnily enough, everyone who participated got a collectible token.
Anjos believes that crypto tech’s possibilities are endless, and points to a six-seconds-long drum loop called “the amen break” to exemplify. It came from the 1969 B-side “Amen, Brother” by soul group the Winstons and evolved into one of the most popular sample recordings in history, but the Winstons never made royalties from such usage. Anjos argues that blockchain technology could stop scenarios like that from happening in the future.
“This drum loop has spawned entire genres of music,” he says. “Jungle, drum and bass, even dubstep, to some extent, could be tied back to this single drum break. It’s become so widely used that it’s sort of unenforceable as a copyright. You just can’t sue everybody. But if that was an NFT from the beginning, hypothetically, I think it would be a highly valuable cultural artifact. That’s sort of how I’m thinking about this stuff. It applies to so many different things, but it’s the right framework for where we’re going.”
He’s now on a mission to show all artists the beauty of decentralized technology. Anjos launched a creative agency, simply named “6,” in March, to help other artists navigate the complex world of crypto-based business and storytelling. “I like the idea of creating a level playing field where no single party can control everything,” he says. “There will always be some power players, of course, but at least on a systemic level, it’s fair game.”
Over the last four years, Anjos has formed an ever-growing group of friends made up of crypto artists and intrigued musicians. “We’re always talking about different ideas and helping each other,” he says. “Some people in music management would go, ‘Hey, my artist has a drop on Nifty. What’s the auction format?’” By February of 2021, his phone seemed to be buzzing nonstop. He realized they were already doing a version of agency work and decided to make the process official.
“3lau, on a Saturday, sold $12 million of NFTs,” he recalls. “That Sunday, we had a big chat and everybody was like, ‘Guys, I think we need to launch tomorrow.’ I think we set up the Squarespace website probably like 15 minutes before I tweeted it out with no design, no nothing. We were just like, ‘Let’s go.’ Because, in my mind, every single intern at every label and management company was going to have to do a presentation at eight in the morning for their CEO about what the hell NFTs are.”
By the end of March, Anjos says the company email’s inbox was filled with “600 leads from everybody you can imagine.”
“If we just let the labels come in and do their thing, it’s going to turn to garbage. While they’re playing catchup, we’re trying to build something that’s long-term and sustainable”
Anjos sees NFTs as a gateway to a larger ecosystem, and says 6 is looking at Web 3.0 in general. “We’re hiring as fast as we can,” he says, adding that “this could change everything, not just music.” “It’s hard to not be hyperbolic, because, if you really follow the logic, governments could be run on this stuff. How far is it going to go? I don’t know, but it seems like it could be pretty important.”
He continues: “We have some of the best people that have been doing this for the longest and feel pretty confident in our ability to help people. I’m concerned that if we just let the labels that come in and do their thing, it’s going to turn to garbage. While they’re playing catchup, we’re trying to build something that’s long-term and sustainable.”