✖️ Chains & rails: How Songcamp builds community-first music infrastructure
And: Labels' addiction to virality; The TikTok grave; Looty reclaims African art through digital NFT heists; Digital real estate; The internet & people as content machines
Check out my latest piece for Water & Music, in collaboration with Cherie Hu, titled Chains & rails: How Songcamp builds community-first music infrastructure. Excerpted intro:
What if we treat the financial rails around music with the same level of creativity as the music itself?
This operating mindset is one of the standout elements of the music/Web3 ecosystem compared to other areas of music/tech — namely, engaging with distribution and monetization models as creative canvases in their own right that artists can imbue with their own agency and values, rather than as external forces to which artists must relinquish control and authority.
One example of a community that has embraced this mindset publicly is the Web3-native music collective Songcamp. Founded by musician Matthew Chaim out of frustration with the low public output of traditional songwriting camps, Songcamp focuses on grouping artists across genres together to create, release, and monetize songs as NFTs. The collective celebrated its first birthday in March 2022 and has run three camps so far — each involving not only a larger group of contributors, but also increasingly ambitious, Web3-native rails to support their work financially.
The Genesis camp involved 13 contributors and raised the equivalent of US$34,000 from selling three NFTs. The second camp, Elektra, took the concept further into a world-building exercise featuring a cohort of 42 musicians, visual artists, developers, and strategists shaping a “choose-your-own-adventure Web3 game with music at its core.” When it concluded, the camp “exited to community” by distributing the ownership of Elektra to its participants through a token drop and the creation of a DAO. (We featured Elektra in our Season 1.5 research on music DAOs.)
Their third camp, dubbed Chaos, officially launched to the public on June 3, 2022, and involved nearly 45 musicians collaborating on 45 songs over the course of eight weeks, plus a surrounding team of over 30 other contributors (visual artists, engineers, radio producers, economists, etc.) preparing and packaging the songs for distribution as NFTs. Apart from sparking creative collaboration at scale across genres, Chaos also took the “gamification” and smart-contract development aspects of a Web3-native music release to a whole other level. They assigned different rarity levels to each song and sold them to collectors as randomized packs of four songs each (5,000 packs total), and collaborated with the splits protocol 0xSplits to develop custom, equitable revenue-share mechanics around the Chaos NFTs for all participants.
In the following sections, we’ll dive into the creative, technical, and financial aspects of Chaos, rounded out by interviews with two of Songcamp’s leaders, Matthew Chaim and Mark Redito. Along the way, we’ll make the argument that Songcamp can now be understood not just as a songwriting camp that produces music, but also as an experimental lab building new Web3-native blueprints and infrastructure for the music industry at large.
The article goes behind the paywall next week.
🪦 Record Labels Dig Their Own Grave. And the Shovel is Called TikTok. (Ted Goia)
“The one last piece of leverage labels possessed was their marketing and publicity clout. But now labels want musicians to go viral on their own? Well, at this point the obvious question is: What does the label offer in return?”
I don’t completely subscribe to this take, since it reduces the role of labels to an extreme, but seeing the type of things many musicians have to deal with and simultaneously seeing artistic collectives like Songcamp create completely new infrastructure as they experiment (and get artists paid), it feels like we’ve entered a new phase for labels to define themselves and the services they offer.
🤳 The record label addiction to virality is about the attention recession, too (Tatiana Cirisano)
“What artists need are more ways to directly engage with their listeners, differentiate between levels of fandom (and monetise each level accordingly), and focus on building fanbases, not just audiences. Mass, monolithic, monogamous fan bases are becoming a thing of the past, so going small may be a better strategy than trying to go viral.”
🤖 How the Internet Turned Us Into Content Machines (Kyle Chayka)
“We know that what we post and consume on social media feels increasingly empty, and yet we are powerless to stop it. Perhaps if we had better language for the problem, it would be easier to solve.”
🎭 'Looty' project launches digital art heists to reclaim African artifacts (Angela Ukomadu and Estelle Shirbon)
“Looty's first NFTs are based on an image of one of the Benin Bronzes that were looted by British troops in 1897 from what is now Nigeria and are held in the British Museum in London.”
🏝 Metaverse Land: What Makes Digital Real Estate Valuable (Scott Duke Kominers)
“There’s a sense in which proximity to metaverse events and amenities might sometimes be more valuable than in the physical world: the audience for a virtual concert, for example, is global, which can in principle bring a lot of attention to whatever’s in the digital-building next door.”
A while back we mentioned we’d be donating the month’s Patreon proceeds to Ukraine. That has now been done. Added for transparency.
MUSIC x is supported by an awesome community of Patreon members. New patrons in italic. Thank you.
Tim Degraye, Andraž, Alexander Drewniak, Andres Lauer, Andrew Apanov, Bo Plantinga, Brodie Conley, C.Y., Carlo Kiksen, Cherie Hu, Chuck Fishman, Daniel Cutler, Deenah Bassiouny, Dick Huey, Eli Goldstein, Frank Kimenai, Gareth Deakin, Greg LoPiccolo, Hunter Giles, James Keene, Jason Fahlstrom, Kalam Ali, Keagon Voyce, KHT, Lucas Wilson, Lukas Hermeling, Marc Geiger, Martin Nedvěd, Martyn, Matthias Röder, Nicolás Madoery, Paula Moore, Pete Cohen, Pietro Fuccio, Oskar Ekman, RDU 98.5FM, Rian, Ro Halfhide, Simon Wheeler, Sinh Blum, Takayuki Suzuki, Theo Ploeg, Tim Shaw, Tristra Yeager, Virgo Sillamaa, Will Cove.
Innovation thrives when information flows freely. MUSIC x will always be a free newsletter. If you can afford it, consider joining us on Patreon if the pricing makes sense compared to what you get out of this. You can also do us a favour by sharing the newsletter on your favourite Discord, Slack, Facebook, or LinkedIn community.
I have been listening a lot to the headless artist called Chaos, since the Songcamp cohort dropped their music NFTs on Friday. Unfortunately the OpenSea link won’t embed, so here’s the amazing artwork and you can find the links below it.