BY: JOEY REAMS
Tennessee rock band Kings of Leon has returned with their eighth studio album, When You See Yourself, released on March 5, 2021, via RCA Records. While their sound hasn’t changed much, this album might be an indicator as to how music will be handled in the future.
That’s because this is the first time ever a major rock album has been released as an NFT, or Non-Fungible Token. In other words, the album is being sold through a version of cryptocurrency that allows fans access to special perks for a limited time. While it sounds foreign at first, this concept is easy to understand but brings a handful of uncertainties for the future of music distribution.
Understanding the Basics
Before you begin to spin out of your chair at the thought of cryptocurrency becoming the currency for new rock music, it’s not as complicated as you might think. The first thing to understand is what a ‘Fungible Token’ is. That is a form of cryptocurrency that can be exchanged for other currencies or spent on goods or services. Money and gold can both be thought of as fungible tokens, as are most cryptocurrencies. Fungible tokens can also be broken down and still retain the same overall value.
A Non-Fungible Token, on the other hand, is supposed to be special. They are blockchain assets that cannot be exchanged equally, for goods or services, and you can’t break them down for an equal value. This makes them much more valuable.
So how are Kings of Leon going to sell records using NFTs? The short answer: in a limited time through the power of the internet.
Starting March 5, 2021, fans will have 2 weeks to purchase their new album for $50 through a ticketing and music NFT platform called YellowHeart. After the two-week period, no more NFTs will be made. So what do you get for $50 that is only available for such a short window?
The $50 will first get you a digital token, which can download the record. It also can give the holder access to limited edition vinyl and exclusive moving artwork. Again, these NFTs are only available for two weeks and will stop being produced on March 19.
On top of that, early-bird fans were given a chance to win one of 18 ‘golden tickets’ through an auction. These tickets can unlock never-before-seen art and concert tickets. This makes it the first time a music ticket has ever been sold as an NFT. The token owner also receives the following:
- Four front-row seats to any Kings of Leon concert during each tour for life
- VIP experience to the shows with personal driver and concierge
- Personal hang out with the band before the show
- Four bags filled with every item from the merch booth
Prices range from $95 to $2,500. Unfortunately, YellowHeart will mint however many are sold before Sunday at 8 p.m. E.T., which is also when the “golden ticket” NFT auction will end.
What This Means for Artists and Fans
Some of you probably think this is the next best thing for the music industry, considering how mundane concert and new music experiences have become through the digital age. The other half of you are still figuring out if you get the token in the mail. Whether or not you understand it at this point, understand this is an exciting change for dedicated music fans. YellowHeart CEO, Josh Katz, who spoke with Rolling Stone earlier this week, explains exactly how this will help the industry, for both artists and fans.
“Over the last 20 years — two lost decades — we’ve seen the devaluation of music,” said Katz. “Music has become great at selling everything except music. There’s been a race to the bottom where, for as little money as possible, you have access to all of it. Previously, it cost $20 to go get one song.”
Katz believes streaming’s subscription-based model irretrievably hurts artists. NFTs will make modern fans want to own music again, according to Katz.
“It’s early stages, but in the future, I think this will be how people release their tracks: When they sell a 100,000 at a dollar each, then they just made $100,000,” said Katz.
In other words, NFTs will put most, if not all, of the money from sales into the band’s pockets directly. This distribution style will bypass streaming services and traditional download markets, each of which limits the amount of money an artist can make due to policy. As many artists have struggled through this pandemic, it might not be the worst thing to get bands the money that they deserve, without having to deal with fees.
For fans, this revitalizes the collecting industry. Think back to what album releases and concert sales have been like in the 21st century. When was the last time you actually went to a music store to buy a new record? Or when was the last time you got your hands on a concert ticket you didn’t think was possible?
Kings of Leon is bringing back uniqueness and rarity by doing this. Not only does the two-week window create a sense of urgency, but the artwork and other perks make this something worth bragging about.
The Future of Music Distribution
All of this has created a new style of distribution for albums, artwork, and concert tickets. For those of you who wish to not accept the future for when it changes, there’s still hope. First of all, Kings of Leon has still released this album on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon, so you can still find it there.
We will likely see more artists do this in the future, and it could become the only way to do business as a musician, but for now, it’s still a new concept. Only a band as big as Kings of Leon has the power to accomplish something like this right now.
While this is a huge step in the right direction for artists, it’s still going to take some time for the rest of the music industry to hop on this trend. One could argue that this is going to be inevitable and a way to revitalize the music industry. It’s going to take some time to see if that’s true or not. Until then, Kings of Leon have simply proved there is more than one way to sell and distribute music in today’s day and age.