Web 3.0 for the music industry
To explore what Web 3.0 has to offer for artists and record labels, we first need to understand what this term exactly means. To fully understand Web 3.0, it is useful to also learn more about its ‘predecessors’ called Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. So before discovering the full potential of Web 3.0 for the music industry, let’s first dive into the past for a little bit.
To discover the term 1.0 we need to go back to 1994, when the internet was (commercially) introduced. The very first version of the internet was ‘read-only’ content. Internet users could not interact with the content.
The first version of the internet had – at least in the beginning – not much to offer for the music industry. This changed at the end of the ‘90-ties with sites like Napster.
In the early ‘00-s the shift towards Web 2.0 started. Web technology developed at a fast rate and the internet became more interactive. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube emerged, sparking interaction on the internet.
Another development that led to Web 2.0 was the introduction of cookies. Cookies stored preferences of the use of the internet, which were sold to large companies like Google who could then offer ads based on previously visited pages.
Right around this time people got aware of privacy issues on the internet. For example, file-sharing services enabled people to share copyrighted content such as music, in the form of illegal downloads.
Web 2.0 opened up possibilities but also brought a lot of challenges. Web 3.0 aims to fix these challenges.
Using blockchain technology and artificial intelligence, the new version of the web aims to process human intelligence and incorporate it into the internet. To break this down, Web 3.0 has 4 key features:
Blockchain technology is used to store data in different locations at the same time, making the data decentralized. This is a completely different way to store data than how current tech giants like Meta store data (centralized). This causes a digital powershift; data which is stored decentralized offers more power to the data owners.
Trust and permission
Customers and sellers can interact immediately without the permission of a governmental body or a trusted agency. Keeping the rights to your production (without for example uploading it to Facebook) means you have full control; you don’t need permission to use your own data the way you seem fit.
Machine learning and A.I.
Web 3.0 continues to ‘learn’ using A.I. and machine learning. In a way, the internet becomes smarter; to a high extent can it predict human behaviour and understand semantics.
For example ‘The Internet of Things’; day-to-day machines connected to the internet.
In Web 2.0 the internet was made for smartphones and computers, Web 3.0 connects us to a wide range of devices.
These four prerequisites are needed for Web 3.0, and large tech companies like Apple and Google are making applications to make that shift. For example Siri, a Web 3.0 application of Apple.
Web 3.0 in the music industry
As always with new technical developments, the music industry is an early adopter. The prerequisites for good use of Web 3.0 are not that difficult to find in the current music industry, in fact, years ago several music companies already started using Blockchain technology. To date, there are record companies and distributors that pay royalties in cryptocurrency, which also uses Blockchain technology.
NFTs are also a good example of Web 3.0 products. An NFT is a Non Fungible Token, a piece of digital content of which you as a fan can purchase the digital source code as proof of ownership. Digital artwork and tracks are the most common forms of NFTs in the music industry.
Example: MODA DAO
Two of the biggest names in the dance music industry have funded a company called MODA DAO.
DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organisation and that is exactly what MODA is about for musicians. MODA connects creators and fans without the ‘middleman’ like Spotify or Apple. On MODA, artists can sell music and NFTs directly to customers. MODA even has its own cryptocurrency which can be bought through the digital currency exchange SushiSwap.
RCRDSHP makes certified NFTs and collectables for the music industry. Sold in so-called ‘packs’ (like mystery boxes containing digital content) in what they call ‘drops’. A drop is a limited time-event in which you can buy the packs from RCRDSHP.
Buyers can trade the content with other fans, and the value of NFTs and other digital goods can rise (and of course also fall).
Web 3.0 for fans
The so-called metaverse is the next level of user experience for fans. A 3D version of the internet in which fans can consume and experience musical content 24/7 (without even leaving home).
Fans get access to NFTs (f.e. tracks, artwork, collectables) and are able to share these with other like-minded people. It can be compared with combining social media, music, merchandise, artists and fans, all in one place.
VR vs live shows
Another great addition for fans is VR headsets. Using such a device, and benefiting from the connectivity of Web 3.0, fans can experience shows in a whole new way. Shows that in the past used to be too expensive or not within the geographical reach of fans can now be brought to the metaverse.
Entry barriers for fans
Although the metaverse and Web 3.0 offer limitless opportunities for fans, there is a downside to this new development. The entry barriers (to fully enjoy the new technology) are considerable.
Not only do fans need to have a solid and fast internet connection, but getting access to NFTs and other Web 3.0 products requires the use of cryptocurrency. In short: it’s not for free. Especially in 3rd world countries or less developed parts of the world, the prerequisite of having cryptocurrency is a bit of a challenge.
On top of that, the communications app Discord plays a role too. This app enables fans to communicate, play games and share spaces online. But if fans want to purchase a newly launched NFT, most of the time there is sort of a ranking. New products are not always accessible to everyone, for example, sometimes you need to have a certain amount of tokens or be on a list to get access.
This automatically means that fans need to be active on Discord communities, have cryptocurrency and of course time and resources to stay tech-savvy on the matter.
Web 3.0 for artists
Big perks of entering the metaverse as an artist include transparency and full control over your content. Artists can cut out the so-called middleman, for example, Spotify or even record labels. Using OpenSea, minted products can be offered (and bought and exchanged by fans) generating a direct source of income. It’s decentralization, marketing music in a new metaverse.
Looking at the rate at which Web 3.0 is developing, large record labels are already creating marketing plans entirely focused on the metaverse. Warner has teamed up with Sandbox to create the first music-themed virtual world called WMG Land. There has even been a fully digital artist, one who didn’t even exist in real life.
As a record label, Warner acknowledges this step forward and enters now, in an early stage.
What artists should be aware of…
The upsides to these new technologies are great, but one must not overlook the possible threats. As happy as some artists may be when they cut out the middleman, those middlemen are also the people who promote, account and market music.
Not having a record label, distributor or even a publisher is also very tricky as Web 3.0 products still are in their early stages.
And Web 3.0 might be a big thing in developed countries, but large parts of the world aren’t just there yet.
To sum up
Web 3.0 offers many promising opportunities for musicians and fans, including accessibility to music 24/7 in a spectacular new way. Metaverse, NFTs, cryptos and blockchains are all powerful new entities to be reckoned with by the music industry. However, making the switch to these new technologies brings challenges to the music industry.
Web 3.0 can be incorporated into the music industry but the change it will cause is so huge that the current ways of marketing music need as least as much attention.