(Cover Image derived from Consensual Hallucinations by crypto artist Serwah Attafuah

A digital certificate for intellectual property is sweeping the music world. Known as a Non-Fungible Token, or an NFT, these cryptographically verified digital collectibles allow artists to store unchangeable versions of their music/art on the blockchain. This article explores the hype, the flaws, and the innovation of this new technology and what it means for you as a producer, artist, or musician. 

What is Blockchain technology? 

At this point, we have all heard about Bitcoin. But what many don’t know is that it is the technology behind Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies that holds the power and potential to revolutionize all aspects of our digital exchanges.  

If we assume that the WWW has revolutionized information and the Web 2 revolutionizes interactions, then Web3 has the potential to revolutionize agreements and value exchange. It changes the data structures in the backend of the Internet, introducing a universal state layer, supported by incentivizing network actors with a token.Shermin Voshmgir (Author of Token Economy)

You can think of Blockchain Technology as the “Web 3.0”. As opposed to our current internet where virality, piracy, and duplicability reign, Blockchain technology is an open-source distributed ledger operated by a global network of decentralized computers, each of which has reached a consensus on mathematical transaction verification. In other words, information and transactions on the blockchain can’t be changed once they are created. 

(Taken from the Book “Token Economy” by Shermin Voshmgir.)

These cryptographically secure, decentralized ledgers make it possible for digital assets to take on almost physical qualities, making them incredibly difficult to hack/counterfeit while expanding the advantages of self-executing contracts (Smart Contracts) contained in the code.  




So what is a Non-Fungible Token (NFT)? 

(CryptoPunks by Larva Labs, considered the first-ever NFT on the Ethereum blockchain)

Enter the world of Fine Art and collectibles, blockchain goes to work to solve the biggest problem in digital art, its inherent fungibility. By creating a digital certificate for intellectual property, Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) cryptographically verify the artist and origin of a piece of art or music and store a tracking ID on the blockchain. In contrast to cryptocurrencies, each NFT can be separated from the others, meaning that no two tokens are alike.

Where Bitcoin is “digital gold,” NFTs propose to further fill in the gap of wealth-building assets in digital form by creating one-of-a-kind editions of art and/or audio directly from creators, mimicking the value and uniqueness that makes physical fine art or collectibles so valuable. 

Despite the hype, questions still linger whether the longevity of these tokens is as secure as they purport to be. At the moment, most NFT file sizes are too large to be stored directly on the Ethereum blockchain and require storing their metadata on servers off any actual blockchain. This means for the majority of NFT platforms, the art itself is not on the blockchain, but rather an identification number that can then be used to retrieve your metadata from the off-chain network (the most popular being the InterPlanetary File System or IPFS.)

While many consider IPFS as a sort of “permanent internet,” IPFS functions as a sort of distributed BitTorrent, so unless users are downloading your contents across different nodes, your backups might only exist at the source of your node.  IPFS nodes treat stored data like a cache, meaning there is no guarantee the data will continue to be stored unless the content (retrieved through a Content ID) is pinned to a node.  Companies such as PINATA have filled this need of hosting data (at a tiered service cost) while platforms choose to pin directly on their own servers. If a node where your data is pinned shuts down or is lost (your platform goes belly up or you forget to pay your monthly Pinata bill) access to your metadata on the IPFS could also be lost. Collectors can avoid this by hosting data on their own personal node, let’s say a home computer. But likewise, if your private node is damaged or shuts down you will lose access to your IPFS content.

The responsibility for the maintenance of off-chain NFT data is yet to be defined and will likely determine the true longevity of most NFTs.


(Source: The broken promises of NFT Art up to date as of November 2020)


A small number of innovators such as LarvaLab’s Autoglyphs have broken this pattern of off-chain metadata storage by making the code of the token the art itself. Other generative visual and audio projects such as Eulerbeats use mathematical algorithms to create music and visuals that aimed to create “on-chain” art.  Since storing images and audio directly on a blockchain uses a significant amount of energy (the Ethereum blockchain alone has the equivalent energy usage as the country of Ecuador) solutions for this will have to address energy usage for expanding chain content across the board.



(Source: The broken promises of NFT Art November 2020)



How could NFTs / Blockchain change your music game? 

(‘Death of the Old’ by Grimes x Mac, NFT sold in February for $388k, see the original sale on Nifty Gateway here)

Beyond the flaws of off-chain NFT metadata, the medium still presents quite a few innovations for artists to take advantage of.

1. Registered Digital Ownership, Creating a “Collectible” – In a world where online streams barely cover the cost of most artist’s mastering fees, adding a digitally collectible version of your music (known as an audio NFT) to your income stream could make a world of difference for artist financial sustainability.  Artists such as 3LAU, Deadmau5, and Grimes have succeeded spectacularly at this.  Like other collectibles, the value of your NFT track, stems, demo, album, or other tokenizable merchandise will depend on your own homegrown notoriety.  Given the hype of the market (think the Dot.com boom of the early 2000s) and the low cost to create a minted token, it might be the investment to possibly recoup some of 2020’s devastating effects on the music industry. 


2. Royalty Payments – This has to be the most exciting aspect benefit artists can have from making an NFT’s. Through the use of Smart Contracts, NFTs can be programmed to have built-in royalty payments for every subsequent sale of your NFT, making sure that whenever someone is making money off of your art you are included. This can vary depending on the number of sales your piece has e.g. 10% commission for the first sale, 20% commission for every sale thereon. These contracts are literally written in the code of the token. Beware, not all platforms for NFTs contain these royalties so make sure to do your research when choosing where to mint.

Additionally, the is currently no universal standard to account for royalty payments from secondary markets (though the “Ethereum Improvement Proposal” or EIP-2981 is currently at work to solve this). This means if your NFT is sold outside the marketplace through which you created the smart contract you may not receive the royalties you are entitled to. We will have to wait and see how this universal standard might be implemented to further support artists. 


3. Decentralized Independent Distribution and DAO’s – At the moment, NFT’s are taking PROs, publishers, and labels by surprise.  According to Billboard, as of March 11, 2021, labels and publishers have little to no rules in place regarding the ownership and distribution of profits from NFTs.  Artists can use platforms to distribute and track their NFTs without labels or other middlemen. At the moment, this means profits are going straight to artists. Who knows how long this might last though as labels and publishers are sure to be gearing up to take a piece of the action.


(Source: Deadmau5 teams up with Audius October 2020, read full article here.)

Another option on the horizon for the music industry is the creation of DOA streaming platforms for crypto- music (so not necessarily using tradeable NFTs but still utilizing blockchain innovations). DOAs, or Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, are organizations built on the Ethereum blockchain that hold the potential to run autonomously using self-executed code (smart contracts). The framework of each DAOs is different but you can liken them to a sort of digital co-op where rules are voted on by participants and then executed automatically through collectively maintained smart contracts. This would allow the DAO to be cut out middleman expenses, passing benefits directly onto artists. Audio.co is one such platform gaining notoriety with artists such as 3LAU, Deadmaus, Mr.Carmack, and Rezz. While there is a ton of potential for these new forms of decentralized platforms, in practice DAO’s have not perfected their distribution of power and at the moment are still subject to power grabs.


What still needs to be said…   

Climate Change is real even in a digital world. Blockchains, of which there are hundreds, use an insane amount of energy to vet their blocks. Bitcoin alone is estimated to use the energy equivalent of the country of Argentina and Ethereum that of Ecuador.

According to Nature, “…Bitcoin usage, should it follow the rate of adoption of other broadly adopted technologies, could alone produce enough CO2 emissions to push warming above 2 °C within less than three decades.”

This is a terrifying prospect. As the popularity of this medium grows, the digital age will need to account for real-world threats created by its adoption. 


While NFTs and blockchain could revolutionize current systems, many challenges still lie ahead. From collectibility and longevity to artist royalties and distributed streaming platforms, NFT’s and blockchain will continue to shape the music world and beyond. 

Only time will tell whether this technology will live up to its namesake. Will you be making your next single as an NFT? Comment Below. 

If you’d like to learn more about music production with Ableton Live with access to online live study groups, find out which of our programs is right for you.




1 responses on "Non-Fungible Tokens - Hype, Flaws, and Innovation"

    Leave a Message

    © 2020 Beat Lab Academy

    About The Lab
    Signup for Free Workshops and Ableton Goodies
    Enter name and email below and we'll get you lit
    Foundation of Music Theory
    • Rhythm Theory
    • Using Semitones and Intervals
    • Diatonic composition
    • Harmonizing and building chords
    • Styling
    Learn the language of music to help you make the music you want to make, To communicate with other musicians and reveal the magic behind your favorie songs.
    Progremming Beats
    • How Drum Racks work
    • Choosing the right samples
    • How to use Syncopation
    • Layering Techniques
    • Drum Processing methods
    Sequence drums in any style using Ableton Live's Drum Racks. Learn tricks and techniques to take your beats to the next level.
    Ableton Live 101
    • Why Ableton Live?
    • Session vs. Arrangement
    • Recording & Editing Audio
    • Live's Warp Engine
    • Using & customizing MIDI controllers
    Experience the leading software today for modern music production.
    Demystify the world of Ableton Live to make any style of music.
    Thank you! We'll contact you shortly with more info and discounts.
    • History of Sampling
    • Hardware Samplers
    • Simpler vs. Sampler
    • Sampling your own instruments
    • Slicing Samples
    Explore the endless world of sampling.
    Add organic texture or make it into an instrument
    Everything is possible with sampling
    Using MIDI Controllers
    • Which Controller Should I Get?
    • Setting Up
    • Expression Controls
    • Advance MIDI Utilities
    • Playing Live Beats
    Choose the right MIDI controller for your production/live needs.
    Use MIDI remote scritps to enahce your workflow
    Learn tricks and tips to customize your controller
    Recording & Warping
    • Choosing the right mic
    • Setting up recording session
    • Working with other musicians
    • Time Stretching
    • Live's editing tools
    Learn how to setup and record mics and instruments in Ableton Live.
    Master the warp engine for syncronizing audio and sound design
    Class Jams
    • Play in a band with your computer
    • Try out different instruments and MIDI controllers
    • Improvise on any given scale
    • Develop your ear for melodies, harmonies & Basslines
    Play live with your classmates in the first modern ClassJam environment.
    Develop collaboration skills, performance focus and improvisation techniques.
    Structure & Styling
    • Active Listening
    • Pre-Determined Arrangement Techniques
    • BPM Ranges
    • Song Segments and how to use them
    • Finishing a full song
    Get your own sound from analyzing and deconstrucing modern song structures.
    Learn different musical genres to help you achive your own unique sound.
    Please provide your name and email
      We hate spam as much as you. You will only get valuble content delievered.
    Get Notified About Future Events
    Music Theory 202
    • Parallel Harmony
    • Relative Scales
    • Pentatonic & Blues Scales
    • Jazz in Modern Music
    • Voicing Techniques
    • Borrowed Chords
    Progress your composition skills by learning advanced music theory methods.
    You will get a deeper understanding of how to produce strong harmonies, melodies and arrangements.
    Ableton Live 202
    • The Launchbox
    • Modulation Vs. Automation
    • Session View Production Techniques
    • Advance Audio & MIDI Editing
    • Clip Envelopes
    Learn advance Ableton techniques to take your production to the next level.
    Everything is possible with Ableton Live let your imagination be your guide.
    • Analyzing Electronic vs. Acoustic music
    • Odd Time Signatures
    • Arrangment Styling
    • Sound Selection
    • Deconstructing Methods.
    Learn the key characteristic of all popular music styles.
    You have a specific style in mind you want to produce? We'll show you all the secrets.
    • Analog vs. Digital
    • Synth Signal Path
    • Oscillators, Filters, Envelopes and LFOs
    • Advance Modulators
    • Reverse Engineering
    Take the sounds in your head and create them in the computer using synthesizers.
    Demystify the vast world of virtual synths.
    Sound Design
    • Advanced Time Stretching
    • Psychoacoustics
    • Fractal Soundscapes
    • Experiments in Sound
    • Field Recordings
    • The Art of Layering
    Develop creative thinking by using multiple techniques to create unique and complex sounds.
    Become a sonic master.
    • Ableton Link
    • Class Production Sessions
    • Project Managment
    • Real vs. Virtual instruments
    • Live Performance Routines
    • Rewiring
    Collaborate with class mates with in-class synchronization.
    Develope the skills needed to productevlly work with other musicians.
    • Choosing The Right Song to Remix
    • Flipping a Sample
    • Remixer Tools
    • Stems and Multi-Tracks
    • Preparing your Original Production for Remixing
    Learn the art of remixing from top remixers in the industry.
    Take your favorite songs and filp them with your own style.
    Live Performance
    • DJing in Ableton Live
    • Preparing your Songs for Live Performance
    • Playing with a Band
    • Live Looping
    • DIY Controllers
    Use the computer as a live musical performance tool.
    DJ or play your own orgianls in any way you can imagine.
    Max for Live
    • Max for Live Essentials
    • Modifying Exciting Devices
    • Creating your own Devices
    • Ableton as a Modular Environment
    • Live's API
    • VJing using Jitter
    Explore the infinite potenital of Cycling 74's and Ableton's Max for Live.
    Control Live in ways that weren't possible before.
    Anything is possible with Max for Live
    • Win the Loudness Wars
    • Mastering Song vs. Album
    • Prepering Your Music for Distribution
    • Understanding the importance of Dynamic Range
    Master your songs to sound as good as possible on as many playback systems as possible.
    Learn the secrets on how to make your songs loud and punchy.
    Finger Drumming
    • Choosing the Right Controller
    • Sound Design for Live Performance
    • Building Custom Racks
    • Using DIY Controllers
    • Planning your Controller's Configuration
    Humanize your production or impress your audience on stage.
    Build your own sound packs and develope your live performace skill with finger drumming.
    Live Looping
    • Hardware Looping
    • Using Live's Looper
    • Live Looping in the Session View
    • Automatic Loop Recording using MIDI Scripts
    • Setup and Routing
    Master the art of live looping with virtual instruments, conventional instruments and mics.
    Come up with quick musical ideas, build your songs live on stage.
    Online Presence
    • Social Media
    • How to Reach Out to Labels
    • Booking Shows
    • Getting Signed
    • Getting more Followers
    • Making a Music Video
    Develop your artist brand and get your music heard by the right people.
    Book shows, tours and festivals.
    Find the right label and make music your career.
    Entertainment Law
    • Clearing Samples
    • Commercial vs. Indie Distribution
    • Getting your music on TV and Film
    • Working with a Manager
    • Copyright your Music
    • Performance Rights
    Understand the legallty behind the music industry.
    Get the most out of your shows and releases. Maximize income streams.
    Distribute your music the right way.
    Production Sessions
    • Class Jams
    • Live Routines Assignments
    • Additive Composition
    • Produce other Classmates
    • Online Collaboration Methods
    • Musical Chairs
    Collaborate in class.
    Get private mentorship sessions from Beat Lab's instructors
    Learn how to add part of yourself creatively to an exciting song.
    • Understanding How Sound Work
    • Gain Staging
    • Controlling the Stereo Field
    • Using Compressor & EQs
    • Using Time Based Effects
    • Bussing and Pre-Mastering
    Master the art of sound mixing.
    Make your music sound more clear, punchy and loud.
    Learn the techniques and tools to help you take your music to the next level.
    Mondays-Wednesdays: 4/25/16
    Tuesdays-Thursdays: 4/26/16
    Now Offering Day Classes
    Our certification program is now available during the day. 6 months of intensive, comprehensive music production classes. Fill your email below and we'll send you ALL the details. Dates, scheduling, pricing & payment plans available.
    We would never spam or give your email to anyone
    Free Class Visits Available
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    We got the exclusives
    We would never spam or give your email to anyone
    Free Class Visits Available
    Free Class Visits Available
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Sing up for the 6 months certification program and get Serum - Wavetable Synthesis class for free.
    We would never spam or give your email to anyone
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    CONTEST - Accusonus x Beat Lab Giveaway
    Win Free Plugins!
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    Interested in a free class? Enter your number below to join
    Application for 2020 Winter Semester are now open.
    Fill Your Email Below or more details
    We would never spam or give your email to anyone
    Free Class Visits Available
    Free Class Visits Available
    Your Free Download
    we hate spam
    To book a FREE class visit to any of our other courses please click the image below.
    This promotion has ended. Visit the Modules page to purchase access to our Masterclasses.