Discover more from MUSIC x
✘ Speculate or communicate - dreaming big on music NFTs
And: A new era of music fluidity; Glocalisation of music streaming; 120,000 new tracks released to DSPs every day; Supreme Court rules against Andy Warhol; Fortnite Creative & music
We’re in the age of media in multiplayer mode. More and more, people create together as user-generated content proliferates as well as improves in quality. As artists, the question about who you create for becomes increasingly important to cut the noise. Moreover, because the answer isn’t monolithic. Instead, the people you create for exist in multitudes - they are almost as modular as they are manifold. Catering to this diverse group of people provides a perfect use case for NFTs. Now, we are not only able to express a multitude of our identities online - from stan to fan - but we can create a trail of proof across our expressions. As an artist, you can now engage a range of different ‘fan’ desires around a single sonic experience.
How to design for this
It’s difficult to take into consideration all these various things that people want. Even more so, if you’re an independent artist already dabbling in TikTok, Instagram, a Telegram chat, etc., etc. It’s worthwhile looking at how big players are doing it, such as DC Comics. There’s a whole multiverse of IP as it’s often referred to. What that means, of course, is that there’s a lot of stories and characters that people across the world relate to. Not all of them, however, will want to actively interact, or will have a skillset that allows them to join a writer room or a cover art design team. If you look at the DC NFT Universe, there’s four broad sections.
First, there’s the collectibles. A large contingent of enthusiasts around Web3 believe that people will want to own digital objects. It’s not a strange notion, as a large part of Gen Z already believes that they can be more themselves at their keyboard than away from it. If your online self is you, then you’ll want the digital objects - think fashion, music, comics, etc. - to showcase your identity.
Second, there’s exclusive experiences. This isn’t something new. If you’re a fan of something you want to experience more than a casual consumer/reader/user. Cater to the superfan, even if it’s mostly a form of patronage, it’s important to offer the option.
Now, it gets interesting. There’s a subset of people who love stuff around DC and who would love to pitch in with ideas, designs, and more to build worlds and stories. Listening to Straith Schreder talk about how she helped design this experience, helps us to understand that this part is a success not because people get to provide input. Instead, it’s because they can take control on seemingly small, but noticeable elements: a cap or a door or whether it rains. Basically, it’s a call to think about your own art, your own music, as a world that has all these little building blocks that people that love your art can influence.
Fourth, the crypto element - speculation. There’s a large group of people who love this stuff. They love to gamble, they love to see their ‘investment’ go up, and they love to trade. Not everything that you create or that you put out has to have this element, but it’s definitely interesting to play with. The danger if it’s your only play, is that you become chained to your floor price.
Listen, don’t compete
One of the things that Straith comes back to across her thinking and writing is this idea that listening to your community helps. But simply listening isn’t enough, there needs to be a follow-up. What Web3 tools offer is that it allows shifting and updating existing media. This means that if you create something, try to do so in the knowledge that you could offer it to people to alter, edit, or mutate it. How people will want to do that is up to them and you can listen for that. What’s more, this can extend across communities. As adrienne maree brown put it:
“We would organize with the perspective that there is wisdom and experience and amazing story in the communities we love, and instead of starting up new ideas/organizations all the time, we would want to listen, support, collaborate, merge, and grow through fusion, not competition.” (p.10)
This is a call to action and a call to empathize. If you see someone doing something you feel you should be doing, just reach out. Listen to each other as you would listen to your own community, your own people that you gathered around you.
As you think about designing around your sonic experiences, take in what else is happening around you. Look at what other communities could resonate with yours. From a collaboration a new minimum viable community could pop up to explore a new idea or project.
Totems and artefacts
Most of the above is a call to dream big around the things that you want to create. At the same time, it’s a call to think small around the elements that make up that dream. Every part of the journey is a part of the story. And every part of the story can be a totem “through which a larger story can be told, or imagined or expressed. They are like artifacts from someplace else, telling stories about other worlds.” The quote is from Julian Bleecker’s Design Fiction, where he expands on how science fiction can help us understand and expand science fact. It’s helpful here to make us understand that the big picture is put together by lots of smaller parts and elements. Each of those has a purpose, or could be given a purpose. None of these need to be the music, they could be any number of other creative expressions.
I spoke with MacEagon Voyce at Decential about lots of Web3 things, Wild Awake, and what it means to write and think in music.
🌊 A new era of music fluidity is here (Tatiana Cirisano)
“In the new world, many artists market the creation process as a product of its own, and often invite fans to participate. The release of a song marks just the beginning of its life, after which it is iterated upon, again and again, by listeners. This opportunity is exploding as ever more consumers are empowered to take up music-making. So fluid is music consumption becoming, that we are even seeing the emergence of music that adapts in real time to the user and their environment (i.e., Endel, Reactional Music).”
✘ An inspiration for the above piece and a companion to Tristra’s recent piece here in MUSIC x on what happens when music is no longer static.
🗺️ ‘Glocalisation’ of Music Streaming within and across Europe (Will Page & Chris Dalla Riva)
“This all points to a growing marketplace where power has been devolved from global record labels and streaming platforms to their local offices and from old linear broadcast models to new models of streaming which empower consumers with choice. This challenges the borders that define markets: perhaps songs and artists are increasingly local, but genres are increasingly global. Put another way, global superstars no longer ‘own’ the genre that they represent – anyone anywhere can perform in said genre style, or in hybrids. Nor do broadcasters own what consumers get to hear. Increasingly, it seems, playlists are without borders and consumers are broadcasters. These forces of supply and demand are by no means the whole story, and there are plenty more rabbit holes yet to explore.”
✘ Solid research into how local is impacting global hit-making and vice versa. What’s striking is how slow-moving the music industry sometimes is when it comes to policy. As the authors point out in the conclusion, all of this is driven not by local governments intervening, but by other incentives and technology changes.
🎡 New Luminate report shows that 120,000 new tracks are released on streaming services each day (Creighton Branch)
“This statistic is a substantial increase from 2022, as the average of new audio ISRCs added per day was just 93.4 thousand. To put it into even more perspective, Luminate’s Q1 findings of 2023 (10.8 million so far) are nearly equal amount of all ISRCs created in 2018 (16.4 million). That’s a lot of new music. But that’s just the first quarter findings. Luminate also suggests that if the average number of tracks uploaded per day stays consistent, then we could potentially see 43 million new tracks posted to Spotify by the end of the year.”
✘ It just keeps growing, and it won’t stop anytime soon. I’m personally not sure we’ll see an end to this growth before we move to another dominant audio distribution method.
“If an original work and secondary use share the same or highly similar purposes, and the secondary use is commercial, the first fair use factor is likely to weigh against fair use, absent some other justification for copying … Copying might have been helpful to convey a new meaning or message. It often is. But that does not suffice under [fair use]. Nor does it distinguish [Warhol] from a long list of would-be fair users: a musician who finds it helpful to sample another artist’s song to make his own, a playwright who finds it helpful to adapt a novel, or a filmmaker who would prefer to create a sequel or spinoff, to name just a few.”
✘ It’s really interesting to dig into this article, especially to read the contrasting statements from the dissenting judges on this ruling. It showcases the fine line that artists continuously walk between inspiration and stealing.
🎲 What Fortnite Creative Mode’s payout model means for music (Mat Ombler)
“In other words, independent creators are competing directly with major companies and the very platform they’re building on for revenue. That said, Fortnite’s payout mechanics encourage the development of more persistent worlds, rather than one-off brand activations or fast cash grabs. This could create a window of opportunity for artists and brands to leverage Fortnite as both a marketing platform and long-term revenue generator outside of major album drops or festival seasons. As to who ultimately profits under this model, only time will tell.”
✘ If you’re into gaming and music, definitely subscriber to Mat’s newsletter, which goes out through Water & Music. There’s some other interesting observations here, such as how this model takes into account attracting and retaining players. It sounds a little bit like each world is its own little SaaS model.
I always love it when people think forward on what classical music can sound like, and what kind of experiences it can offer. One of my favourite ensembles in this sense is Manchester Collective. Their new album is out soon, and they’ve just launched a single recorded with the wonderful Lyra Pramuk. The track, Quanta, is an introspective work that feeds on the sensations of the night time and which sometimes feels disconcerting.