What is an NFT’s Place in Classical Music?

NFT or non-fungible tokens are digital collectibles bought and sold using cryptocurrency. They are all the rage right now generating upwards of $25 billion in overall sales in 2021, but we don’t often hear about their place in music – especially classical music. In an artistic medium so rooted in analog tradition, how, if at all, can NFT be useful?

Popularity of NFTs

So what makes NFT’s so popular? The main factors here are rarity and scarcity. Just like owning baseball cards or Pokemon cards, NFTs are unique investments that hold value because they are unique. While some NFTs do provide the owner real life benefits such as exclusive content, that is not the main draw of owning one or why prices are skyrocketing so high. 

NFTs in the Music Industry

First let’s take a look at the music world in general. The early adopters of NFT in music were EDM artists. 3LAU in particular minted NFT collectible versions of his album Ultraviolet which was the first album to become a token. Another early adopter was Snoop Dog who recently announced that his label Death Row Records would become an NFT label.

back into the hands of the musicians directly. With huge streaming corporations such as Spotify and Apple Music taking away from individual artists’ sales, there is a lot at stake for artists to make it big on those platforms and develop a loyal fanbase that will make purchases past their use of streaming. There is also a lot of money taken out by middle men like record companies. By capitalizing on the current rends and minting and selling their own NFTs, musicians can make a huge profit directly and rely on their fanbase rather than the biased algorithms of streaming services.

What does a music NFT Look like?

There are a couple different forms an NFT can take in the music industry. There are audio NFTs of albums and songs and even individual instrument parts. But there are also NFT concert tickets, collectibles, and access to extras like special online content.

One question I had when starting my research into musical and audio NFTs is who own’s the rights? I quickly learned that purchasing a minted audio file usually does not provide any rights to things such as royalties of the music even if you are the only one with that particular pie e of music. Additionally, just because every NFT is unique does not mean that multiple of the same content can not be made. For example if an NFT is a concert ticket, that does not mean you are the only person able to purchase one and go to the concert. 

There are two great examples of how NFTs have been used in the classical music industry. One of these was a joint project between the Dallas Symphony and the musicians of The Met Opera Orchestra. 

During pandemic shut downs of The Met, The Dallas Symphony invited the musicians of the Met Opera Orchestra to perform Mahler’s Symphony No.1 with them as they were able to resume concerts much earlier. The Dallas Symphony raised money to pay all of the Met musicians by creating an exclusive NFT commemorating the historic, collaborative concert. 

Benefits that came with the purchase of a token included:

  • Video of the full concert of Mahler Symphony No. 1
  • Five exclusive videos of rehearsal
  • Four exclusive videos with musicians
  • Three exclusive behind-the-scenes videos
  • VIP Experience at the DSO and Musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Reunion Concert in early 2022 in New York, including roundtrip airfare to another US city, two nights of hotel, dinner with the artist and two tickets to the concert.
  • A subscription to the DSO’s digital concerts for the 2021/22 Concert Season

As this was a charity auction there was high-price bidding for a piece of the action. VIP bidding started at a mere $50,000 with lower level exclusives going for $100 and $1,000 starting prices. Alex Salnikov, Head of Product & Co-founder of Rarible – the platform which hosted the Dallas Symphony NFTs said of the auction: “Like so many, the musicians of the Met Opera Orchestra were affected by the shut-down. This NFT is a true testament to the value NFTs can generate for artists and creators by creating new streams of revenue.”

Another successful use of NFTs in classical music is a project called MozartBeats. MozartBeats is an audio NFT project produced in Vienna, Austria. Overall there were twelve distinct types produced. Each was a variation on the violin, viola, and cello part of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (“a little night music”) and ranges from traditional variations to experimental tones and tibres. There are 625 different possible combinations to make from these. It’s current list price is $188,626.

The way this project works is that each buyer can purchase different variations of the parts to put together, creating their own variation on the original work. In the end each NFT owner has a piece of music that is all their own which they can then turn around and mint as an original variation. This project turns professional, classical music into something that an audience can be fully participatory in creating and feel ownership over even if they are not the ones playing the music directly. This opens doors into new ways to provide audience engagement in classical music and provide a more tactile experience for concert lovers.  

NFTs have a unique place in classical music if organizations and musicians continue to pave the way creating unique projects like we have seen in the previous examples. In order to draw a classical music crowd to purchasing these NFTs, we have to create content that appeals to this unique type of music lover. 


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