Nuthin’ But an “NFT” Thang
Back in February, Snoop raised eyebrows when he bought Death Row Records only days before his Superbowl performance with Dr. Dre. It was only a short time after that when he dropped the news in a Clubhouse room about how Death Row Records will be an NFT label. But earlier this week, the ramifications started to take effect as The Chronic, Doggystyle, and Dogg Food, three iconic Death Row Records albums from the ‘90s, disappeared off Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Reps from Snoop or any of the aforementioned streaming services have all been silent, but there’s plenty here we can figure out on our own.
Snoop is no stranger to the NFT scene. He has been a public collector and influencer for a long time under his alias Cozomo de’ Medici and has a large project in coordination with Sandbox, where he hosts his metaverse shenanigans. That’s why it’s not really much of a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention that he pulled the music from the streaming services. Music streaming services are based in Web2, and Snoop is all about that Web3.
Power to the Artists
Record labels are notoriously not kind to artists. Whatever money you make when you get signed, you usually don’t make any more unless the record label can make back what it paid you first. After that, artists are expected to make 10% to 15% off the suggested album retail, whatever that may be. They have no say in what that suggested album retail is. When it comes to music streaming services, it’s not that much better, especially depending on the service. Amazon Music pays $10.96 for every 1,000 streams, Apple Music pays $6.77 for every 1,000 streams, and Spotify pays artists $2.29 for every 1,000 streams.
When an artist creates an NFT of their work, they control everything. They control how much music they want to put in there. They control what price they want to set it to, what marketplace they want to sell it on, and even the royalties off of resales. All of this sounds obvious for anyone who’s an entrepreneur trying to sell a product, but for some reason, for an artist trying to sell a song, this is a radical idea. One of the coolest aspects is the technology built around it that enables the artist to interact with their fans on a more personal level.
Snoop released Death Row Mix: Vol. 1 on Sound.xyz, which is a platform for artists to share their work in Web3. It’s a 27.5-minute-long steady mix of chillin’ beats and fiery vocals from some of Hip Hop and R&B’s best. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. It’s totally free to listen to. It costs 0.1 ETH to own, and there were only 1,000 available, so it’s obviously sold out, but one of the coolest parts about is Comment Wall. By owning the NFT, you can make a comment in the NFT that’s viewable by all. If you sell your NFT, the new owner can replace your comment. He also added a Golden Egg Reward where a lucky owner will get a personalized shoutout and a case of wine 😊 .
Not a Good Look?
The Comment Wall and the Golden Egg Reward are unique to Sound.xyz, not Snoop, but the shoutout and the case of wine is all him. Pussy Riot, NOTD, and many other artists can see the value in owning their work in an NFT, but not everyone is super thrilled about it. Many people are pissed off they can’t listen to Gin and Juice anymore with their $9.99 a month subscription and are blaming NFTs as a whole. NFTs already have a mixed reputation, and being the reason for removing beloved music from popular services isn’t going to help with public relations in any way. The good(?) news is that most artists don’t own their own music, and record labels like things just the way they are, so this should most likely just be a hiccup for fans.
New, unsigned artists, however, have a lot to think about. The traditional means of listening to music have changed dramatically over the last thirty years, with cassettes to CDs, to MP3s, to streaming, but the paradigm of the artist-to-label relationship has stayed mostly the same. Artists have very little agency in their work once they sign, and NFTs are an avenue for them to own their music in a way they couldn’t before. It’s unclear whether this is the beginning of something big for artists or just Death Row’s counterculture, middle finger to the man brand staying true to its name, but if it is the turning point for artist ownership, it is clear that not every fan is on board.