Web 3.0: The Era of the Unstarved Artist?

If you’re like me, a music lover, sometimes listening to a song isn’t enough; you want to live and breathe in the song until it is a part of your being. Well, with Web 3.0 you can come pretty close. How? Before I answer that let’s first do a quick recap of the history of the internet and how we engage with it.

A quick history of the Internet

Formerly known as the ARPANET, the Internet is a result of the globally interconnected network of networks. Since 1995, we have seen waves of development that enabled the distribution of information as well as digital products over the world wide web. We started with Web 1.0 which simply meant that we were retrieving and reading information. Then just as Darwin’s theory states, we evolved to the point where most of us are now reading, writing, and creating in Web 2.0. This is the space that is dominated by companies that provide services in exchange for your personal data, essentially making you the product. With Web 2.0 we currently use intermediaries (centralised institutions) to engage with content and facilitate transactions thereby giving them control of our data. Web 3.0 on the other hand is reading, writing, and most importantly owning. While this emerging space has a ways to go, it differentiates itself from Web 2.0 by giving its users the space to transition from being the product to owning it in a peer-to-peer distributed network buoyed on blockchain technology. Now that we are through with the history lesson, what does this have to do with music?

Music on the Internet

While technology has enabled a multitude of businesses to thrive, it hasn’t always been the case for music. A study done by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) stated that 95% of all music downloads worldwide in 2010 were downloaded illegally. This not only stunted the digital growth of the music space, but it also fell by 13% between 2008 and 2010. John Kennedy during his tenure as chairperson and CEO of IFPI said “digital piracy remains a huge barrier to market growth.” In as much as technology has enabled artists to distribute their music, the likes of Tubidy, ToxicWap, and MP3Juice (to name a few) had their digital sales in a chokehold. However, music streaming platforms changed the way we consumed music whilst creating revenue for the artist.. or so we thought. Streaming platforms use a freemium model with revenue coming from ads and subscriptions. Artists are paid per play, with Spotify paying between $0.003 and $0.005, while Apple pays $0.01 and Tidal paying the most at $0.013 per play. This means that a billion streams on Spotify for example would mean a $7 million paycheck for major labels with only a fraction of that going to the artist. This makes things even harder for South African artists who only have access to a fraction of the global market unless their songs get on super popular playlists which is difficult. Therefore, how can technology empower artists? By giving them the means to own their art and the channels of distribution.

Music and NFTs

Artists are turning to Web 3.0 and making use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to monetise their work by selling directly to their fans. NFTs are more than just screenshots you have to pay for, they are cryptographic records of ownership for a unique item that is encoded into a blockchain. Nifty Gateway is an NFT marketplace that helped Canadian artist Grimes make $5.8 million by selling a suite of 10 digital artworks, while DJ/producer Steve Aoki made over $4 million for his Dream Catcher NFT collection. But what about our African continent, with a particular focus on South Africa? What does this mean for our artists?

On the 7th of July 2022, Anatii, an acclaimed South African producer and rapper ended his four-year hiatus by dropping his new single Punisher in the form of an NFT. The hitmaker collaborated with Fair.xyz to launch his NFT on their code-free platform by minting his single. This is after he removed all his work from streaming platforms. So why would someone, despite his commercial success in the industry choose to do this? Web 3.0 offers ownership and freedom, enabling the artist to build an engaged audience and curate a listening experience that is not bounded by the restrictions imposed by streaming platforms. Remember when I said sometimes listening to music isn’t enough? Well, now you can own a piece of music from your favourite artist.

About the author

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Retlareng Precious Hlalele

Retlareng Precious Hlalele

Tech enthusiast with a dynamic and conscientious mind of opportune. Read more from Retlareng Precious Hlalele...