I’ll be honest with you: I barely know what an NFT is. Until now, crypto and NFTs and all that have felt like a weird far off planet that never threatened to burst into my bubble. That was until the BRITs made NFTs, and The Kooks jumped on board, and Serenade got going, bringing NFTs to the music world like merch for a modern world.
With a website full of benefits for artists and fans alike, Serenade seems to make a convincing case for why the average music fan should care. Armed with approx 20 minutes of research Googling things like ‘What the hell is an NFT?’, I sat down with Max Shand for a crash course…
Gigwise: First up, I’ll give you the floor to intro Serenade – When did it get started and what’s the mission?
Max Shand: Serenade’s mission is to support artists by creating new revenue streams from delivering wonderful experiences to fans. We do this by helping artists produce accessible, affordable and environmentally-sustainable music NFTs for collection and display by their fans. We support artists in doing all this in a way that does ask them to know the first thing about the technology that underpins NFTs but just asks them to produce cool, creative content—that can be art, music, experiences, anything that their fans will like. It’s really an opportunity to create an artist-friendly, modern adaptation of a fan club and we do this with artists of all genres and career stages around the world.
We launched at the start of the pandemic when I was writing a piece about how musicians were being affected by the early days of Covid and I was having conversations with artists that were telling me that if they didn’t play a live show that month, they wouldn’t be able to make rent. It completely blew my mind the disparity between the financial standing of an artist and how their fans perceive them; its so shocking and it pushed me to want to be part of a solution. Then when I stumbled across NFTs as a way to help artists be paid for their creations in perpetuity…it’s such an artist-friendly model in a way that’s never existed and we do it all with a love of music and artists and an understanding of what fans want.
GW: But how is that different from merch? Or fans going out and buying a record or T-shirt?
MS: NFTs are nothing new; it’s just a new way of doing it. They are merchandise, they’re collectibles, it’s just a new way for artists to present their brand in a way that can be displayed and owned by fans. But where they’re really different is that they’re incredible artist-friendly in that an artist can sell something to a fan and for the rest of time that thing and fan can be generating income for the artist. Another wonderful benefit is that unlike any other merch, when an artist sells an NFT to a fan, they learn the identity of the fan and can continue to nurture the relationship. Instead of always relying on third parties to manage those connections, they can take ownership of that which is so empowering.
And then the creative limits are so much wider with an NFT. Unlike a box set that has so many requirements or a record where you’re limited by format and waitlists, NFTs are far more liberating.
GW: Compared to other NFTs out there, yours actually are genuinely affordable. But what’s the benefit of the average person deciding to own one?
MS: Its the exact same impulse that would lead you to buy a record; it’s because you want to support that artist or show that the artist is important to you or aligned to your taste. You’re just doing that in the online world which is increasingly where we spend more time. Sure you might be buying a record to listen to it, but chances are you’ll listen a couple of times and then just leave it on display on your shelf. You get them because you want to talk about the artist in relation to your own tastes and that’s exactly what NFTs do. They allow you to create your own collection that’s representative of who you are and do it in a new format as digital collectibles.
GW: One of Serenade’s big things is that your NFTs are more environmentally friendly. I guess I still just don’t really understand how an NFT can be bad???
MS: The reason why some NFTs out there are really bad for the environment is that in minting an NFT on the Ethereum blockchain you’re using a lot of energy and computer power to authenticate that it’s real and official. We operate on a—and this is where it gets technical so apologies—we use a layer two blockchain called Polygon which has a different way of minting which is far more efficient and leads to us having a far better NFT outcome from an environmental perspective but also from a cost perspective.
GW: I know other NFTs grow in value, but will collectibles like the BRITs 2022 NFTs ever gain value, or is it mostly for a fan experience?
MS: They will definitely gain value. We had NFTs sold for the BRITs for £10 which then went for £2000 in secondary market value. But then some will just be held as a wonderful memento to an artist or an event. We’re not a platform that’s being used to make investments, we’re a platform that’s being used to display passion and build communities but there will be an opportunity to make a profit simply because you’re getting something that’s scarce and therefore attractive to people who care about that subject matter.
GW: From your professional experience, what advice would you give someone like me who really knows very little about NFTs but is considering making their first purchase? What should first-timers be thinking about or considering?
MS: I’d say we’re the platform for a first-time buyer, you don’t have to arrive with any knowledge of how to use the tech so when you sign up to Serenade we made a digital wallet on your behalf which is a pre-requisite for the space, and when you go to purchase the product you can do it with your credit or debit card rather than having to crypto. Also, you’re buying something at a low cost that is associated with a trusted brand so there’s a lot of talk in the market about scams and these scary things known as NFTs but when you’re buying just a nice piece of artwork or some music from a band you really care about, you can avoid all the scary stuff and just end up with a great collectible.
GW: When you think about 30 years in the future or whatever, how do you see NFTs affecting the music space?
MS: I think NFTs have established a fair and honest way for artists to get compensated for their work, for artists to set their own prices and be more empowered to be creative in whatever form that they like. In the next 20-30 years as we become increasingly digitalised, I see a world in which we value our digital assets as our digital presence is so important to who we are. In the same way that you care about what you wear or what you drive, NFTs can function as both those status pieces as well as functional pieces.
I think we’re at day one of a long journey of experimentation with this technology but what excites me is how empowering it is for artists’ creative independence, financial independence and how exciting it is for fans to put collections together of things that are transferable and always with you.
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