Before Covid-19 & NFTs there was sex, drugs & rock ‘n roll.

The dream was always living that life forever

Many years ago, before a blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs…and ultimately a time before the Covid-19 pandemic. In a time of bands, dodgy basements, live shows, sex, drugs, and wondering, “How are we going to get home?” because you and your friends found your way to the show but thought it was so “Rock ‘N Roll” if we spent money on merchandise, booze and cigarettes… and because whatever the end result, we must ensure we had a good time.

We looked forward to the newest album releases, wicked merch, and great live shows or parties. I looked forward to meeting bands, hanging out with them, and listening to music from sunrise to sunrise.

Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Most bands or musicians are in a constant state of creativity, they are always planning the next album, the next show, or just fiddling around with sounds trying to find that next song. Their creative process is never linear, they are sleeping in studios and ensuring that they dedicate everything to being successful doing what they love.

There was or is always a challenge trying to do great shows and making money. Give the fans what they want but still make a living, none of this as it turns out, none of this comes at a low price, but people love music and everyone in their own way, whether you’re the band or the patron, made sacrifices to have a great experience. But a great experience is not always about the stage, it’s added activities at an event, especially merchandise and signings.

I was always in art and design, I was born in it. No matter what I was doing, I always told people I am a designer professionally and practicing fine artist — at the time — I loved being around creatively driven spirits but I also realized that not every creative soul was business savvy, myself included and I wanted to have that knowledge. This is why bands had management and record companies, marketing does the brand building and the record company funds the band as an investment for large returns. This created a high-pressure loop to put music out and stay funded. This is now a job, a band is now a brand and a brand is only as valuable as the thing it represents.

I remember aiding in petitions to keep free online radio a thing, and fighting against record companies in my attempt to show my patriotism to bands, and overall music. I will always buy music directly from a band than a record company, but that’s not the point, record companies were not the problem, bands were not the problem and free music was not the problem.

Like most things in the world of brand, it was about good business management, product development, and value. What the music industry needed was a new model and a value-based approach to marketing and selling. The music is the product of the musicians, the bands, and they need to focus on creating, not a business. But there was no trust between record companies and musicians, musicians felt they had no choices or say in what happens. They were experiencing why clients go to advertising agencies, agencies have the ability and relationships to build awareness through media buys, and so did the record companies.

Record company fees were high, musicians made significantly less, even in royalties. I can’t speak to the present, but musicians dream of eventually funding themselves, collecting all the profits, and doing what they will with their music. As time passed and I emerged from the world of living like a hippie…and into a world of suits and ties and administration, I realized that most creative business models had no business model, or not good ones, appropriate ones.

What music needed was a way to keep creating great music but a way to sustain itself. Musicians love creating music and if they could do it without the pressure of business management, then it would flourish in a different way, perhaps a more valuable way.

I was sitting in a cafe with a thumb drive/flash drive in my hand, speaking to a friend a few years ago, about what I can’t remember, but I do remember looking at this thumb drive intently, and I said, “Why can’t I get music on this drive instead of the entire album, or perhaps without paying for it?” to which my friend naturally replied “What?” — I tend to have conversations with myself and then blurt things out — I followed with, I love music, I will pay whatever I need to pay for music. But what if I paid for merch, and other tangible products and I received this thumb drive with a hit track or a specific amount of songs based on what I bought and I got album artwork for free to print on my own, and I could still buy the entire album as per usual if I felt so inclined?”

I shared this idea with different people who liked it but had no solution or answer relevant to the problem I was trying to solve. What had hit me back then was that the world was moving into a space of value and experiences, people want stuff but the perception of what they were paying for was a mystery, they would grab anything from a band as a keepsake but rarely wanted to pay for music, the most valuable part, in my opinion. This is where record companies felt the pinch and ultimately musicians felt it too.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Illegal downloads were on the rise, and technology was helping, there were torent websites that had uploads available of almost everything, entire albums. People made copies of songs and shared them with friends, CDS started changing, attempts were made to prevent duplication, but that did absolutely nothing. Not for people who can’t afford to buy albums, or did not want to because a CD was “overpriced” but would always save whatever they can to go to a live show.

Back then it was not unusual to make copies of albums, this goes back to days of vinyl and cassettes. People also sneaked into live concerts regularly, part of the perks of knowing a band was to get backstage for free, get music and just be part of their world.

I started thinking, there needed to be a way to give music for free and sell merch as collectible items. Not that there was no merch happening, but the music was suffering financially.

In the world of music, merch and experiences are kings, everything else is secondary

A few years passed and to my surprise, record companies like Road Runner Records had albums up for download, you could buy the entire album online with album artwork, or buy the printed and complete album as you would normally. Then some time would pass and Nine Inch Nails put an album out called the Download Album, an entire album for free download, shortly another band Mudvayne did the same. Other bands started jumping on board, offering free listening and optional complete album for sale, it was not only mainstream or well-known bands and musicians, others started jumping on board.

It was really cemented when I saw the mainstream bands jumping on, the band Korn also released an entire live performance show virtually due to the pandemic, and their entire 2022 album release is now available for listening on YoutTube with music videos for every song, an artistic approach that I love, it’s also available on Spotify, and of course, the album for sale. Music fans collect music, free listening often leads to buying the actual album, but while I am not sure if Korn’s album will be up indefinitely, bands like Korn are brands, they make money on a lot more outside of their music, and after years of efforts to achieve their success, they can now afford to release music for free because merch is king.

Korn ∞ Requiem (Full Album Stream)

People love keepsakes, and they love merch, the more collectible the better

In our new age of NFTs and digital experiences, there must be a value proposition at all times. I suspect that we will see more innovative marketing models emerging, especially in the world of music and entertainment. We may be entering an age where value and trust will be more important than the currency itself because the currency is a variable, value can be attached to anything worth trading and in music, the question to answer will be, what can be traded for access?

“A Gulfport, Fla., home is hitting the market. Buyers can purchase the home with Ether, receiving a property deed via an NFT — one of the first such instances to hit the US real estate market. Braden Perry, a former CFTC enforcement attorney, said real estate has a “huge upside potential” when it comes to #nfts and smart contracts, but the US regulatory environment “lags innovation” to support it.” — Leila Pinto on LinkedIn.

Leila is a fine artist painter and she has been embracing the digital space, specifically the blockchain and NFTS, she already has a gallery showing and social gatherings in the metaverse — LeilaPinto.NFT

This will most likely be the model for most things at some point, as I have seen several examples of traditional businesses and products have entered the blockchain, or more specifically, NFTs.



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Phillip J. Clayton

Phillip J. Clayton


Brand Design & Development | Brand & Marketing Judge: | Writer | Art & Design | Advertising | Creative Director