‘The misperception is that NFTs are like a get wealthy fast scheme. That’s probably not the way it works.’
Anthony Martini predicts a fundamental shift in music rights.
As CEO of the US license marketplace Royalty Exchange, Martini and Online platform that in 2020 counted 27,000 registered investors and recorded 1,000 completed catalog transactions on its marketplace.
Now the company has entered the world of NFTs. In June, Royalty Exchange started supposedly the first ever Music Publishing NFT, which enables investors to purchase music catalogs and songs as NFTs as part of its new program.
NFTs, also known as Non-Fungible Tokens, are comparable to a unique digital asset that is bought with the cryptocurrency Ethereum. You made headlines this year thanks Multi-million dollar sales of collectible memes and $ 3 million tweets.
However, they are relatively new territory for the music industry and clearly have the potential to become a very lucrative one. ONfter 3LAU made $ 11.6 million in NFT sales in February, and Kings of Leon grossed over $ 2 million on their album When you see yourself March, all off Eminem to Lewis Capaldi and Doja Cat climbed a piece of the NFT pie.
But is this current onslaught of dizzying digital works sustainable in the long term? Royalty Exchange says its USP is that NFTs sold through its marketplace generate income for the buyer, rather than just being collectibles to store on a hard drive.
The platform’s first publishing catalog NFT auction took place on June 8th with a participation in the 2x platinum song save money, by rapper Lil Dicky. The auction eventually ended at 9,209 ETH, which is $ 23,209.
Then, in July, Royalty Exchange auctioned a 1.5% stake in A Tribe Called Quests’ recording fees first five studio albums as an NFT.
The NFT was eventually sold to someone by the username ‘Stephen F’ for a successful bid of 40,191 ETH, which is $ 84,765, but tAli Shaheed Muhammad of the band said on Facebook that the band did not know about the auction and did not know that there was such a share in their albums.
If the band had known about it, he said, they would have bought it themselves. He explained that the stock comes from a deal that ATCQ signed early in its career.
So what went wrong? And, given that the music-related NFT market is still in the budding phase, can we expect further situations like this in the future?
Here Martini talks to MBW about his predictions for the NFT marketplace and how the deal with Tribe Called Quest came about …
What are your short and long term projections for buying and selling digital assets in the music industry? And how big can the market get?
The sky is the limit, really. With the initial boom of NFTs, they are viewed by everyone as digital collectibles in an artistic sense. That’s great too, but people don’t understand that it’s really just based on blockchain technology.
This has really practical uses for the music industry. There is traditionally a lack of transparency in the music business.
Everything is so fragmented, but blockchain solves many of these inherent problems.
With Royalty Exchange we apply NFTs to music. It is not a collectible based on speculative value, it is really just a digital representation of an asset that already has an underlying value.
When we sell an A Tribe Called Quest NFT we don’t expect millions of dollars to sell as it is not based on that type of value. It is based on [for example], the last 12 months of any part of the publication you are purchasing. We say, “It’s worth that much and you should pay for it”.
It’s based much more on reality and fact, and it’s an income generating unit. When you buy one of our NFTs, you actually get paid by keeping it simple.
So we’re doing it a little differently than what people would normally think of an NFT. We’re only applying blockchain technology to something we’ve already done, which is catalog sales.
You mentioned transparency. How is it transparent?
It’s transparent because everything on the blockchain is in a public ledger.
You can see when it was created, who was the original owner, who was the seller, who bought it, and who currently owns it.
Every transaction that takes place forever throughout its life cycle is recorded on a digital ledger that anyone can look up.
That way, it’s the ultimate in authentication and transparency.
You also mentioned A Tribe Called Quest. Can you tell us a little more about A Tribe Called Quest’s NFT situation? How did the opportunity come about and where did it go wrong?
If you are not into this field and know all the nuances, selling music licenses and publishing is a confusing area for people.
A lot of people don’t know that there are multiple people who own a piece of this song if there is a song. It doesn’t have to be the primary artist getting a deal, it could be someone else who owns a small piece of it.
Our platform is built to enable non-superstars to use their intellectual property and make money from it.
In the case of the A Tribe Called Quest NFT at the time, a former manager or someone involved on their team was given a chunk of their royalties as part of a settlement when they stopped working with him.
Then he died, leaving those royalties to someone who sold them to someone else.
In the end, we came in from a third party. We didn’t make a direct deal with A Tribe Called Quest. It was someone who got part of their royalties through a few follow-up sales.
What surprised the group was that all the headlines looked like, “Oh, Royalty Exchange made a deal with A Tribe Called Quest for their catalog,” when it really wasn’t. That was really the only part that surprised her.
“I think we’ll do a few more things [A Tribe Called Quest] in the future on a larger level. “
I reached out to the group when I heard them say, “What the hell?” I had a great conversation with [A Tribe Called Quest’s] But.
He understood that it was based on an old contract and someone else who had the rights, and they agreed to it. It actually turned into a really positive interaction that I think we’ll be doing more with them on a bigger level in the future.
But it was really just the reaction in the press that surprised her. What people don’t really understand – even the outlets that have reported on it – [is] that someone could sell royalties on a song that doesn’t [owned by] the artist.
It was just a misunderstanding, but that speaks to the nature of publishing rights and their complex structure.
Since NFTs are so new and, in a way, experimental to a lot of people, does this add an additional layer of complexity when it comes to music rights?
In a way, it makes it less complex from our point of view.
Usually when people make catalog offers, they think it’s all or nothing. Either they have to sell their entire catalog and every song they’ve ever made, or nothing at all. With NFTs, people can do it than tap one song at a time and try it out.
“It was interesting to see how the perception of a catalog sale changes when you just do it as an NFT.”
It was interesting to see how the perception of a catalog sale changes when you just do it as an NFT. It opens up a whole new market. There are a number of crypto investors who may not have looked into music licensing in the past, but now they have opened it up to them.
We sold a Little Dicky NFT and Alexis Ohanian, the co-founder of Reddit, bought it. He’s more into the crypto space, but because we suddenly sold it as an NFT, we opened the markets up to people like him.
There was a high profile argument between Roc NAtion and Damon Dash and an NFT for a Jay Z album. Can we expect more high profile disagreements over NFT rights sales in the future?
Yes I think so.
Damon Dash’s, as I’ve read, actually had the rights to sell it. He owns a piece of the back catalog of this album so he can sell it.
Jay Z has a lot of power and clout so he can sue it and root it out, and he was preparing to start their own anyway, so the problem really arose.
But as far as I know, Damon Dash had the right to sell an NFT of his stake in it. If he wants to sell it to Royalty Exchange, we could do that.
So you would do it if Damon Dash came to you?
Yes why not? We have a whole diligence process where we review all the assets that come to us. Nothing goes on our website unless it’s a legitimate asset that can be sold.
“If Damon Dash wanted to relaunch the Reasonable Doubt NFT as a catalog sale, we’ll sell it when it’s legitimate.”
If Damon Dash wanted to re-launch the Reasonable Doubt NFT as a catalog sale, we’ll sell it if it’s legitimate. There is no reason not to.
Jay Z is hugely successful, but it shouldn’t prevent other people who have been involved and have the right to make some money from it too.
Given the broader business and stories of Tribe Called Quest and Jay Z, do you think these stories could have an impact on the music-related NFT sales market?
It normalizes it a lot more, which makes it a lot more accepted and familiar.
Right now we are in the early stages where there is a lot of confusion and misinformation and people are just finding out. I expect there will be bumps in the road, but in the long run it will be better for the industry as a whole.
The misconception is that NFTs are like a get-rich-quick scheme. It doesn’t work that way, and that’s part of what we created with our token. It’s a way of adding real value to the NFT, and it’s not speculation. There is real value and we will tell you what it is.
People will bid a little higher than normal catalog offers just because it’s an NFT, but the ranges are pretty limited.
What did you and Royalty Exchange learn from your experience of releasing A Tribe Called Quest?
Be very clear in the press releases.
We just do what we do. We have no control over how it is reported, however [we should be] clear what exactly is being sold.
That was really the only problem with A Tribe Called Quest, but otherwise everything was great. We’ll keep it going.
Finally, what developments would you like to see in the NFT market?
NFTs allow artists to largely crowdsource publications. It enables all kinds of applications for live ticketing and there are all kinds of applications for rights management.
“Once people start to really understand the capabilities of NFTs, we’ll see more creative ways people use them and it’ll become a normal part of the business.”
There will be all kinds of innovations and ways people will start using them as they gain more traction and mainstream acceptance.
Once people really understand the capabilities of NFTs, we’ll see more creative ways people use them, and it’ll become a normal part of the business.Music business worldwide