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Music Marketplace Nina Wants to Be a Bandcamp for Web 3.0

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For years, crypto believers have been attempting to put music “on the blockchain.” And whereas start-ups and traders say there’s potential, many artists – a minimum of to date – stay unconvinced. Some companies have taken a shot, however most are geared towards artists already immersed in blockchain tech. What about musicians who’re postpone by crypto, who simply need to receives a commission for their work?

Enter Nina, a new digital market for music within the vein of Bandcamp and Discogs. Spearheaded by Mike Pollard, previously of Arbor Records, it launched yesterday on Solana – an energy-efficient different to the Ethereum blockchain.

When a musician uploads their album to Nina, they’re making it accessible to stream for free, like they’d on Soundcloud or YouTube. But they’re additionally issuing a restricted set of tokens, which aren’t platform-specific. Buying an album’s token doesn’t get you a digital copy of the music, but it surely would possibly entitle you to particular perks down the road.

“You can think of the tokens as being a kind of modular loyalty program, potentially,” stated Pollard. “If an artist wants to say, ‘Ticket sales go on 30 minutes before to people who have this token,’ [they could], or you could do a token-gated discord. There’s a kind of value that we’re not necessarily going to prescribe.”

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It’s up to the artists to create that worth, and to select whether or not to provide particular perks to collectors. Nina plans to provide music from Ryley Walker, Homeshake, Aaron Dilloway, C. Spencer Yeh, Georgia, Cloud Nothings, Bergsonist, Horse Lords, Jeff Witscher and extra.

A quirk is that Nina solely permits for purchases in USDC (US Dollar Coin) – a well-liked “stablecoin” that’s pegged to the worth of the U.S. greenback. It’s nonetheless crypto, but it surely’s a lot much less unstable than Ethereum or SOL, the native token of the Solana blockchain.

It’s an method meant to sort out one of many basic issues with crypto, and the nascent cultural sphere referred to as “Web 3.0″: accessibility. For many artists, crypto (and especially the culture around NFTs) remains a punchline. And navigating unfamiliar crypto exchanges, unhosted wallets, and token swaps can feel daunting.

Pollard, who comes from the music world, is acutely aware of all this. He’s spent time in tech, as a developer for a Silicon Valley startup (and as a freelancer for the company that became Mediachain Labs, the startup co-founded by buzzy crypto investors Jesse Walden and Denis Nazarov), but with Nina, he’s attempting to reach a broader audience. “I think that to get people who don’t care about crypto in, you have to really baby step, that kind of stuff,” he defined. “Right now, education around blockchain stuff [involves] too many words that people don’t know. And you have to feel like you’re making some kind of ideological shift. But I think that the benefits of blockchain can be delivered without having to fully drink the Kool-Aid.”

“$5 USDC” is someway friendlier than “.00023ETH.” And you received’t discover the initialism “NFT” anyplace on Nina’s web site, both. “Musicians make music, they don’t make NFTs,” stated Pollard.

The selection of Solana over Ethereum clears up another potential points, specifically the cost-prohibitive payment system (minting a “free” NFT can nonetheless value round $200 in charges, relying on the time of day) and the proof-of-work consensus mechanism, which incurs a significant environmental cost.

In the way in which that the web market Discogs handles gross sales of used bodily CDs, LPs, and cassettes, Nina operates a secondary market for its tokens. If you purchase a token for an album or tune, and sooner or later you’re via with it, you possibly can simply promote it to another person. The musician will get a minimize of every of these gross sales, too.

John Elliott, who data as Imaginary Softwoods (he used to be within the band Emeralds), is among the many first artists to add music solely to Nina. His new observe, “The Hi-Lonesome Conifers (edit),” was made accessible yesterday in an version of 25 tokens. Within a few hours, it had offered out.

“I really like the idea that I can actually get so much residual sales from the used market, if people actually purchase the thing and like it,” he stated.

Where Bandcamp collects a payment on every buy, Nina costs a single payment up entrance, to add a tune, after which principally backs off. When you purchase an artist’s token, they’re getting your whole cash, minus a nominal transaction payment; Nina then takes a payment on secondary gross sales, which comes from customers’ pockets fairly than musicians’.

Nina continues to be clearly in its infancy, and there stay kinks to be labored out. Because these tokens have inherent monetary properties, there’s at all times the possibility that speculators might are available in and drive up costs – like ticket scalping, however for tokens on the blockchain. This already occurs on Discogs, the place collectors of uncommon data flip albums like shares, shopping for low and promoting excessive. Another challenge is that there’s at present not a lot you possibly can truly do together with your token after you’ve bought it, past reselling it.

For now, although, the platform is a bid to get musicians to attempt one thing new. Streaming has been great for the music business and less great for most musicians. It’s powerful to become profitable on Soundcloud. And Bandcamp, whereas nice at funnelling cash to artists, solely drops the charges on special occasions. Pollard is betting that Nina can ascribe worth to digital music in a completely new approach.

“There’s groundswells happening, of artists that aren’t afraid of the word ‘Web 3.0,’” he stated. “I think some people see that this is going to be a really exciting way for them to get out of the platform dependencies that suck a lot of fun out of music.”