What’s NFT and how it is evolving music and digital art in general?

NFT or non-fungible token is a new way to sell and deliver arts in the digital era but, how it works and is it really the revolution everyone is talking about?

NFT Ethereum blockchain
NFT Ethereum blockchain via https://ethereum.org/en/

You may have heard about NFT arts in the last months or so and you surely have heard about cryptocurrencies or blockchain but, what these two things are and what they’ve in common? Let’s find out.

The beginning: digital art

With the advent of the digital age, almost every form of art has been digitalized. The fact that now almost everything can be traduced in zeros and ones and can be accessed wherever you are whenever you want has meant that art reaches billions of people expanding worldwide.

With the improvement of technologies, digital artists are now able to recreate virtual environments and incredible visual effects impossible to reproduce in the real world. Images, videos, and music have been fully digitalized delivering stunning virtual experiences; an example has been Tomorrowland NYE edition where Tomorrowland’s team has recreated virtually the whole festival letting fans party from the comfort of their house.

This worldwide access to art, tho, has made lose that exclusivity, for example, when you bought a unique painting. This is where NFT comes in, but how?

NFT (non-fungible token) what it is and how it has been applied to digital art?

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a special type of cryptographic token which represents something unique. This is in contrast to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, and many networks or utility tokens that are fungible in nature. This is what Wikipedia says but, in easy words what does it mean?

Basically, an NFT is a unique digital certificate of ownership. It is usually linked to a digital object and the token, if you own it, certified that you are the one and only owner of that digital object. This is possible thanks to blockchain and its ability to provide proof of authenticity and ownership of the digital object which, in our case is digital art.

How NFT works?

As explained above NFT needs a network to work. Most of the NFT uses Ethereum blockchain to work. Even if Ethereum is a cryptocurrency the network that uses, the blockchain, also supports NFTs, storing extra information. This information that can be stored works differently from an ETH coin and can be used to “create” and “manage” NFTs. The Ethereum network is one of the blockchains on which the NFT can work.

Blockchain technology flow. Source: PwC Digital Services
Blockchain technology flow. Source: PwC Digital Services

Now the question is: why and how we can apply these concepts to the actual art?

The answer is as simple as effective: every NFT is unique and linked to a digital object. This means you have actual proof you’re the one and only owner of that object. You may state that an image, a video, and basically, every digital object can be copied and stored billions of times. Yes, but the NFT can’t. Owning the token makes you the unique owner of that digital object. To put this in perspective, everyone can buy a print of any famous painter or a sculpture of famous artists but, only one person in the world will have the original one: in the digital world, that person is the owner of the NFT linked to that digital object.

NFT in the music industry

NFT was firstly implemented with visual digital art; videos and images created in a digital way were the first to be sold as NFT but, as soon as every digital object can be associated with an NFT, artists, and producers in the music industry started to implement this new system as well. To name a few, Space Yacht was one of the first in the dance music industry to get into NFT.

3LAU launched a special campaign for his Ultraviolet album where only 33 non-fungible tokens were created. Each of them gave the opportunity, besides being recognized as one of the few unique owners of the album, a special edition physical vinyl, unreleased music, and unique experiences. Because the drop was in the form of an auction, the top bidder will be able to collaborate with 3LAU and give creative input on producing a brand new 3LAU single. The 2nd through 6th bidders will be able to choose two dance songs to be incorporated in a custom 3LAU mix.

The money impact in the NFT

There’s no doubt that part of the “NFT hype” is also to be attributed to the quantity of money involved and, there’s nothing wrong with it. Because of the uniqueness of the token and the high demand when it comes to famous (but even not-so-famous) artists’ products, the sale takes place through an auction. 3LAU with the exclusive launch of his NFT album reached the incredible feeling price of 11.6 million dollars and it’s not uncommon to see prices with 4 zeroes.

We have to keep in mind that, the abovementioned examples are the highest bids that happened in the last weeks; you can still win an auction for a couple of hundreds of dollars.

Is all that glitter gold?

Even if NFT seems a revolution for the digital creative world, it has its big problems and controversies. First of all, there’s an environmental impact. The creation, the transaction, the network, and the actual bids need electricity to work.

Because NFT is mainly based on the Ethereum blockchain, it shares the same issue when it comes to power efficiency.

The Ethereum blockchain currently uses Proof-of-work (PoW), which allows the Ethereum network nodes to agree on the state of information recorded on the blockchain. As the name suggests and to make it easy to understand, the network stores data in blocks that are connected like a chain. The blocks basically contain the transactions on the network and are processed resolving complicated algorithms on decentralized nodes. Because the successful creation of a block is paid in Ethereum coin, nodes race and fight to solve a new block. The problem is that although potentially millions of miners may compete to solve a block, there is only one winner. The computation and energy consumption used by the rest of the miners who did not solve the block is essentially wasted.

Surely, NFTs are a small percentage of what happens on the Ethereum blockchain currently but the discussions about if it’s worth it or not is still in place. If you want to know more about the environmental impact of NFT and Ethereum blockchain in general, you can find a very well-written article on loop-news.com.

NFTs works and ethic

The ethic behind selling works via NFT is a topic that appeared recently, especially when it comes to the music industry. If with visual products it was the norm to sell 1-o-1, for example, a painting, with music the matter is more complex. We have been used to buy music from our favorite artists and, most of the time streaming the songs, even for free, and the fact to have certain music products unique creates a new situation in the industry.

An interesting conversation happens some days ago between Lane 8 and RUFUS DU SOL about the matter with Lane 8 stating that “excluding the normal fans who built me up in the first place” won’t be the right move just because you can sell your art for way more money. RUFUS DU SOL answered that “the two worlds aren’t mutually exclusive” adding that “It’s the token, not the art that is owned by the buyer.

Conclusion about NFT

Surely this new way to sell and deliver artistic products is exciting and interesting. We are still at the beginning of what could be a revolution in the art and creative field and everything is still possible. Like every new thing, there are PROS and CONS that can be improved so we just need to wait and see what’s next.