In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic flipped the music industry on its head. With musicians cut off from their primary sources of income, live shows halted and merchandise sales dropped off. For most, the money just stopped coming in. As the months dragged on and things didn’t get better, it became difficult to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But then NFTs happened, and suddenly artists were getting paid their dues via the blockchain. Then, in 2021, something clicked, and the music industry embraced non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Throughout the past few years, well-established and up-and-coming musicians adopted and adapted to a new form of musical art known as NFTs. Through influential collaborations, high-profile releases, and even multimillion-dollar sales, one thing became certain: Music NFTs would continue to revolutionize the way musicians and fans create and build community.
FURTHER READING: The Music NFT Bible: A Guide to the Future of Sound
So in keeping true to our goal to empower the creators of culture, throughout the past year we’ve continued to track how the music NFT space has developed and how artists have benefited as a result. In celebration of the many Web3 artists and creators that have continued to make waves throughout the market, here are the biggest NFT moments of 2022.
Royal and Nas’ first-ever NFTs sell out in minutes
In January, the music NFT was off to a start with hip-hop legend Nas being immortalized on the blockchain. In a dual-part drop, Nas teamed up with 3LAU to release his first-ever NFT collection on the superstar DJ’s platform, Royal. The collection — which was the first live sale of NFTs on Royal.io — consisted of 1,870 NFTs across two separate drops, both of which sold out in record time, and generated more than $560,000 in total revenue.
Coachella’s NFT collection offers lifetime festival passes
As one of the largest and most popular festivals in the world, Coachella unveiled an array of digital collectibles in a move to embrace NFTs. Their NFT offering that took place in February made significant waves. Why? That month Coachella released plans for a multi-part NFT drop in partnership with (now controversial) crypto-exchange giant FTX.
Featuring a total of 11,010 NFTs across three collections, Coachella Collectibles offered fans the opportunity to purchase lifetime festival passes, unlock unique on-site experiences, physical items, and more. And while things may have gone awry when FTX collapsed, the venture remains a major moment for the music NFT space, and NFT ticketing.
Dillon Francis signs residency deal for Bored Ape NFT
Throughout 2022, popular producer/DJ Dillon Francis, whose long list of accolades includes a 2018 Latin American Music Award and Latin Grammy nominations, continued to make a splash in the music NFT space. But in March, he added a historic deal to his list of accomplishments by agreeing to an exclusive residency with Big Night in exchange for an NFT from the Bored Ape Yacht Club collection.
Specifically, Francis received BAYC #378. Notably, the deal also includes a record collaboration with the Web3 electronic duo ESCAPΞPLAN, which consists of two Bored Apes from the BAYC collection, ETHan (#4321) and zeETH (#309).
Snoop Dogg releases first Death Row NFT mixtape
Less than a month after Snoop Dogg acquired ownership of the legendary Death Row Records — the label that saw his rise to fame — he released a set of songs as an NFT mixtape on OpenSea, called Dogg on it: Death Row Mixtape Vol. 1. Launched on the Polygon blockchain, it features beats, acapella, and full songs created by Snoop in collaboration with artists from around the world.
A new contender in the growing music NFT market at the time, “Dogg on it” NFTs offered full rights to their owners, making the collection an enticing drop for the hip-hop fandom within the NFT ecosystem. In April, Snoop would also release called Death Row Mixtape Vol. 2, featuring an even more extensive roster of Web3 artists and musicians.
NFTs take over the Grammys
In April, around the same time as Snoop’s drop, NFTs kicked down the door at the music industry’s most prestigious awards show: the Grammys. Partnering with Tezos-based NFT platform OneOf, the Grammys revealed an official NFT collection as part of a three-year plan to integrate NFTs into the overall Grammy experience. The inaugural collection was headlined by critically-acclaimed fine artist ThankYouX, 3D animator and Adult Swim contributor Andre Oshea, and Emmy-winner Emonee LaRussa.
Coachella x ODESZA NFT breaks Solana 1/1 sales record
On April 18, an exclusive NFT featuring a 360-degree immersive experience of the Antarctic Dome at Coachella sold for $145,000, breaking the Solana blockchain’s single NFT (non-PFP) sales record. The NFT, which features work from nine renowned digital artists and a musical score by ODESZA, clocks in at just under six minutes but offers a near-perfect visual experience of the one-of-a-kind projection dome experience of Coachella’s REGEN.
Pussy Riot and Salem Ilese Drop ‘Crypto Boy’ in support of reproductive rights
In the spring of 2022, American singer and songwriter Salem Ilese once again became a viral sensation after her song “Crypto Boy” gained traction on social media. In keeping with the spirit of the track, Ilese opted to collaborate with Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova on an NFT release with a philanthropic mission.
As opposition to women’s reproductive rights was growing rapidly in the U.S., Ilese and Tolokonnikova tapped viral TikTokers Sad Alex, 30, and July for a music NFT collection based on “Crypto Boy.” 100 percent of the proceeds from the collection’s primary sales went directly to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Crypto Boy is a historic moment in web3 music as one of the first songs in crypto to go viral and showcases the power of coming together for an important cause.
All of the proceeds from this drop will be donated to The Center for Reproductive Rights.https://t.co/Egp6Yk7m15
— sound.xyz (🎧,🎧) (@soundxyz_) May 24, 2022
The project launched on Sound.xyz and was widely promoted by the platform. On Twitter, Sound.xyz stated that the drop was “a historic moment in Web3 music as one of the first songs in crypto to go viral and showcases the power of coming together for an important cause.” Ultimately, the project, which was aptly named “Crypto Boy,” acted as yet another testament to the power of NFTs to be used for philanthropy.
SongCamp launches Camp Chaos NFT collection
In March, SongCamp — the collective Web3 laboratory experimenting at the edges of music and blockchain technology — set forth on one of the most sizeable ventures the music NFT space has ever seen. Set to create 45 songs to be released as an NFT collection totaling over 20,000 unique tokens, Chaos was incepted as a 77-person “headless band.”
As SongCamp’s third-ever project and its most adventurous endeavor to date, Chaos was comprised of musicians, visual artists, engineers, and more. With Chaos, finally launched in May, the SongCamp community put forth new and unique methods for splitting revenue and created an innovative and first-of-its-kind use case for Web3 music collaborations.
Pharrell Williams joins Doodles as Chief Brand Officer
During 2022’s NFT.NYC in June, Doodles made a variety of announcements, with one of the most notable being that music industry legend Pharrell Williams would be joining the beloved PFP project’s team as Chief Brand Officer. This news came a mere one-and-a-half months after former President of Billboard Julian Holguin was brought on as Doodles CEO.
Although it remains to be seen exactly what the long-term plan is for Pharrell x Doodles, it was also announced around the same time that Doodles would be breaking into the music industry via Doodles Records — with a Volume 1 compilation to be released, including original music with executive production from Pharrell.
LimeWire returns from the dead as a music NFT platform
Similar to other discontinued brands and services, legacy peer-to-peer file-sharing client LimeWire saw an opportunity to reinvigorate itself as an NFT and Web3-focused brand. After closing a $10.4 million private token sale in April, LimeWire launched its marketplace in July, including featured collections with Travis Barker, Soulja Boy, Dillon Francis, A$AP TyY, and more.
Bored Ape-masked DJ takes over the main stage at Tomorrowland
Ape Rave Club, a DJ, and production project that is said to be backed by “some of the most exciting producers and creatives in dance music and NFTs,” took center stage at the 2022 iteration of the renowned Belgian electronic dance music festival Tomorrowland. A single DJ, who wore BAYC merch and a full wraparound Bored Ape-styled helmet, made Ape Rave Club’s live debut, playing an hour-long set that included the track “Dance Alone” to a crowd of thousands.
Cooper Turley launches a Web3 record label
Cooper Turley, an NFT collector, investor, and advisor known for his influence in the DeFi and DAO sectors, has, against all odds, remained at the forefront of the NFT music space for as long as anyone can claim. With a hand in projects such as the exclusive, token-gated community Friends With Benefits, decentralized music-streaming platform Audius, and more, in September Turley furthered his mission as a champion of the NFT space by launching his very own non-traditional record label/investment fund.
While hailed as a Web3 record label, upon the launch of his Coop Records, Turley was sure to take the distinction between his new blockchain-based entity and endeavors of the legacy music industry. Dictating that it is to be more of a venture fund/incubator focused on Web3 artist development, he said that $10 million would be deployed to seed stage music companies, artist-specific seed rounds, and, of course, music NFTs.
Warner Music Group partners with OpenSea
Although global music and entertainment company Warner Music Group (WMG) had been slowly making its presence known in the metaverse all throughout 2022, in October, the brand effectively solidified its position in Web3 by announcing a collaboration with OpenSea. The partnership between WMG and the world’s leading NFT marketplace would provide a platform for select artists to build and extend their fan communities into Web3.
Sound crosses $5 million in secondary sales volume
Sound.xyz, a platform that combines streaming with minting, made a splash in November when its marketplace secondary sales crossed the threshold of $5 million. While the major proponents of music NFTs had long been attempting to communicate the value of tokenized music to their cohorts, this feat from Sound added yet another palpable figure to the conversation, further increasing the viability and profitability of Web3 music.
Anderson .Paak performs at The Gateway
At nft now x Mana Common’s The Gateway during Art Basel, the NFT space converged in Miami for a celebration of culture and a glimpse into the future of decentralized creativity. While attendees enjoyed free entry to experience the wealth of art activations and influential panels hosted throughout the bustling five-day Web3 metropolis, the festival ultimately culminated with a surprise performance from DJ Pee .Wee, the alter ego DJ moniker of Anderson .Paak. The crowd attending the top-tier performance filled an entire street in Downtown Miami, showcasing the vibrance of the Web3 community.
Over the past decade — and even longer in some spheres — the legacy music industry has been prone to harsh criticism. And for good reason, considering the lopsided nature of music biz revenue that leans, seemingly irrevocably, away from artists. Yet, this is an industry that has always been dependent on creators and technology to thrive, and through Web3, artists are finding that by cutting out the middle man, they themselves can harvest the fruits of their labor.
While NFTs continue to create ripples throughout tech, finance, and the various creative sectors, the music industry alone seems to be presenting the most illuminating litmus test for how blockchain technology could facilitate co-creation and co-ownership of intellectual property. In Web3’s near future, no longer will artists lose out in an industry that was made for them. This is why we can uninhibitedly celebrate the biggest music NFT moments of 2022 and beyond.