NFTs and Afrobeats: Can it Work?

2021 has been a crazy time in the world of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Interest in Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies neared its all-time high as institutional investors like Tesla and MicroStrategy started to get involved. There has been a lot of hype in the crypto space this year and one of the key things that are creating a lot of excitement is the emergence of NFTs.

Almost every other week there seems to be a story about NFTs selling for millions of dollars, the weekly transaction volume for NFTs is in the millions. It’s crazy for an industry that is only a few years old, but what exactly are these NFTs and why is there such a buzz about them?

What are NFTs?

NFTs simply stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, but that’s just the surface of it. To dive a bit deeper, NFTs are digital assets that are created with blockchain technology in such a way that makes the assets unique or like a one of one, that’s where the non-fungible comes from.

If I own a particular NFT, no one else in the world can have that same NFT unless I transfer it to another person but that way I wouldn’t have it anymore, so two people cannot simultaneously have the same NFT. Here’s another way to look at it, if I have 1 Bitcoin I can trade it for another Bitcoin because there are so many, however, trading an NFT is different because NFTs are essentially rare items like a trading card or a collectible.

How are NFT’s used in the Music Industry?

NFT’s use blockchain technology that use enforced scarcity to make digital goods collectible and valuable. NFT’s are still in their early stages of adoption and it will be interesting to see how NFT’s develop as more mass adoption occurs. NFT’s can potentially have a similar impact that social media had on the relationship between artists and fans in the sense that NFT’s can help bring fans and artists closer.

The way the music industry operates, there are layers of agents, lawyers, studio executives and more who all get a cut from what an artist earns. If you look at streaming, a major source of revenue for artists, the systems at Apple and Spotify are set up in a way that only the biggest artists get the most money from a pool of funds gathered by all streams. It’s a system that has been criticized by many artists who think they aren’t getting the real value for their work.

NFT’s provide a solution for artists to get money directly from fans for the work that they create. For instance, let’s look at Grammy award-winning producer and artist, André Anjos or RAC as he is popularly called. He released a collection of NFT’s for his latest album, YOU, and earned around $708,000. RAC earned more from NFT’s than from his combined album sales over the last 10 years. The NFT industry is booming with acts like The Weeknd and Kings of Leon all dabbling in NFTs and earning millions.

NFT’s and Afrobeats?

Afrobeats and African music in general tend to mirror trends and actions from the American Industry, in a way you could say that we look up to the American music industry. As new innovations like NFT’s get more popular in the States, then Afrobeats starts to listen and explore how they can get involved. One of the ways to use NFT’s in Afrobeats could be by an exclusive album release. A one of one, so technically whoever owns the NFT has the rights to owner of the album. Another way for African artists to utilize NFT’s could be by releasing exclusive content like behind the scenes videos or digital artworks as NFT’s. Additionally, artists could release NFT’s that are backed by real world items such as merchandise.

NFT’s are still in their early phases of adoption, so when mass adoption finally hits we will see many more uses for them. So far, the only Afrobeats artist that has publicly stated he is working on NFT’s is M.I Abaga. He exclusively revealed to Tech Cabal that his next album, ‘Yxng Dxnzl: A Study on Love’ would be released as an NFT. He is working with Binance, the worlds largest cryptocurrency platform, to develop this project. “This is important to me because I believe technology and innovation will improve life. It’s an incredible opportunity to innovate and chart a course forward for creatives all over and I’m honorred to be a part of it.” said M.I.

NFT’s definitely have the potential to change how the industry works, and it is a way for artists to be rewarded directly for their work. For Afrobeats artists, this could be a revelation. A new way to make money but right now I have some concerns for how well it could go for Afrobeats. The first concern is that most people don’t have a clue what NFT’s are and many struggle to understand the concept. As human beings we tend to be scared of what we don’t understand and our natural response may be to stay away or condemn it. Also, even if people understand NFT’s then artists will need to ponder if there is an actual market for it. So demand, essentially, is very important.

Most fans of Afrobeats live in Africa, where there have been some challenges. In Nigeria, for example, the home of Afrobeats, the government has banned banks from transacting cryptocurrencies which makes it more difficult to purchase NFT’s if you don’t already hold crypto. Also, its traditionally difficult to get Africans to part with their money. However, one thing to consider is that the biggest Afrobeats artists make most of their money outside the continent.

Can NFT’s work with Afrobeats? In my opinion, yes, but we are in early days so there is a lot to figure out first, but this technology can and will change things in the music industry as a whole.

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