By Emma Phillips
Musicians around the world have vocalized their disdain for streaming services, stating that platforms like Spotify cater to the labels and the consumers, but not the artists themselves. As things currently stand, for example, after taking their share, Spotify sends the remainder of the profits from streaming directly to the labels, and it is up to the discretion of the label executives to determine how much its artists receive as compensation. Major labels tend to be less generous than indie labels- they traditionally give their artists 15%-20% of the profits from streaming services, while indie labels have been known to go as far as making it a 50/50 split -but either way, these streaming services serve as just another party that takes funds from the musicians themselves.
As a result, artists have attempted to develop creative ways of generating revenue. In 2014, Michigan-based band named Vulfpeck released an album titled “Sleepify,” which was quite literally just a few minutes of silence. They uploaded it to Spotify in hopes of generating more revenue- by encouraging listeners to stream the album on repeat while they were sleeping (since it had no noise, and therefore would not interrupt one’s sleep schedule), they generated over $20,000 in streaming revenue without even actively recording music. Spotify later pulled the album without citing a reason as to why- it was not in violation of the terms and conditions Vulfpeck agreed to when they uploaded their music to the service -but no album of a similar nature has been uploaded to the platform since.
Since then, bands have been searching for ways to circumvent streaming platforms like Spotify, and as of 2021, there are new possibilities arriving for them to do so. Linking the purchase of music with cryptocurrency has long been alluring to musicians, since it operates on a blockchain (a form of digital ledger that eliminates the possibility of copying the cryptocurrency and using the copy to purchase something else, which, to frame it more accessibly, is a comparable process to copying a dollar bill and then attempting to spend that copy). Because of this, instead of being able to freely copy and distribute digital files, those purchasing music by way of cryptocurrency would be held accountable to their transaction since they would not be able to distribute the files freely.
The Nashville-based band Kings of Leon is one of the first bands to take concrete steps to make this system of distributing music a reality. On March 3, 2021, the band announced that their newest album would be released as a non-fungible token (hereafter referred to as an NFT). An NFT is simply another type of cryptocurrency, once again housed on the blockchain. The difference between monetary cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and NFTs, however, is that NFTs house assets like art and music instead of money. As a result, consumers of Kings of Leon’s new album would exchange their money for an NFT that houses the music on the album itself. Although the album will also be released on streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple music, Kings of Leon will be attempting to incentivize purchase of the NFT edition of the album by including unique perks within it, such as concert tickets and digital art. Their hope with this album is to introduce their audience to the idea of integrating cryptocurrency into the process of music consumption. If they’re successful, and if other bands follow their lead, the way the world consumes music could be completely transformed, and artists could see a dramatic increase in the revenue they generate for their hard work.
 David Byrne, David Byrne: “The Internet Will Such All Creative Content Out of the World”, The Guardian, (Oct. 11, 2013, 10:53 AM), https://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/oct/11/david-byrne-internet-content-world
 Hugh McIntire, How a Band Made $20,000 on Spotify from 5 Minutes of Silence, Forbes, (Jul. 28, 2014, 9:00 AM) https://www.forbes.com/sites/hughmcintyre/2014/07/28/how-a-band-made-20000-on-spotify-from-5-minutes-of-silence/?sh=454b0cb418ed
 Samantha Hissong, A Field Guide to Music’s Potential Crypto Boom, Rolling Stone, (Feb. 4 2021, 12:36 PM), https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/features/music-crypto-blockchain-nfts-guide-1116327/
 Samantha Hissong, Kings of Leon Will Be the First Band to Release an Album as an NFT, Rolling Stone, (Mar. 3, 2021, 8:00 AM), https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/kings-of-leon-when-you-see-yourself-album-nft-crypto-1135192/
Image Source: “Bitcoin, bitcoin coin, physical bitcoin, bitcoin photo” by antanacoins is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.