How the Rise of NFTs is Creeping its Way into the Musical Industry
Cryptocurrency: you either love it, hate it or still don’t understand it no matter how many people rave to you about it to you. Believe it or not, this mysterious faux-money is steadily creeping its way onto legitimate markets, with producers across the globe seeking to make their debut onto the ever-growing stage of value that is this robust monetary system.
So what does cryptocurrency have to do with the neo-rock band Kings of Leon? Just last week on March 5, they released their newest album in 5 years, “When you see Yourself.” Not only has this long-awaited album given fans, an antique yet unique, cool new music to listen to, but it has also dipped the band’s toes into unmapped waters: the release of the musical commodity as an NFT, or non-fungible token, which is a form of cryptocurrency.
Historically, people have always traded things of appraised value for other things of equally appraised value, but in a well-functioning business environment, value must be able to be standardized into a universal form of payment. Instead of converting between bags of berries and parcels of land, people of yore eventually opted for attributing all commodities to a specific number of coins or bills, or forms of currency. This way, people could exchange representations of their goods instead of goods themselves, streamlining the process of exchange as we know it today.
In the modern era, however, there is so much business happening constantly across the globe that it’s hard to keep track of the transfer of all the varieties of physical dollars and yen and euro involved. Visionaries have opted to revamp this antiquated system into what is called cryptocurrency — like physical money but represented in bits of information that can be transferred near instantaneously among global accounts.
Cryptocurrency is “mined” as one would mine gold to make shillings, except computer motherboards take the place of pickaxes. Cryptocurrency is successfully “mined” when it is completely generated through a very strict algorithm that gives each coin a specific ID that is completely unique, traceable and non-reproducible. Since the crypto miners are compensated for their crypto-coin generation with physical money, the coins are also representative of said value.
This finally brings us to NFTs and the groundbreaking nature of the new Kings of Leon album. Non-fungible tokens are like the inverse of cryptocurrency, in the way that instead of representing standardized divisions of value, they represent pieces of property — property which can be defined as anything from a bag of berries, or a parcel of land, to, you guessed it, a portion of a studio recording of your favorite band’s new album. Essentially, the NFT becomes a unique, yet limited collectible to the buyer alone that can be traded to another at the owner’s discretion, at whatever price they name.
NFTs can also be grouped to create larger, complex and more unique NFTs, such as the album tokens being offered by Kings of Leon, where one token valued at $50 includes an exclusive dynamic album cover artwork, a digital download of the album and a limited-edition vinyl record. Distribution of these codes began on the March 5 and ended on March 19, when they were effectively discontinued. Separately, the band also minted 18 unique “golden ticket” NFTs, which unlock for the user more art and four front-row seat tickets to any Kings of Leon concert during each tour for life. Also included are VIP access to concierge services at shows, exclusive lounges, hangouts with the band and all the merch available before the show. This seems like an egregious proof of concept on the band’s part more than anything, showering the lucky bidding winner of these NFTs in lavish gifts to illustrate the great potential value of this non-physical property.
Now with all of this said, what’s left to say about the music itself? In all honesty, the music isn’t half bad, but it is greatly overshadowed by the grand weight that its novelty as an NFT suggests. The album’s opening song really sets the tone for the entire album, opening with a slightly mellower version of the Kings of Leon’s typical style of catchy guitar backing, supported heavily by atmospheric synths and polyrhythms, and a killer baseline that is sure to worm its way into the back of your mind. Listening to the album felt like floating into a sea of good feelings, as the melodies developed at individual parts throughout the songs harmonized toward the ends into well-blended cacophonies of bittersweet rock revival.
With this established, I’d have to say no one song on the album really stands out from the rest. They all have the same sound, same mood and same progression. It seems like the album is a collection of cookie-cutter templates, all frosted in a unique way, only to result in the same taste. Not that there’s anything wrong with the songs themselves — each one offers a rich listening experience in its own right, giving the collection a sort of “Lofi Beats To Chill Out To” vibe.
In conclusion, remember Kings of Leon? The band that released “Sex on Fire” and “Use Somebody” back in 2008, and you heard those songs on the radio all the time, but you could never really place their name out of context? They’re still making music, and they’re still pretty good listening material. They have accepted a sort of complacency with their style, not quite able to musically reinvent themselves enough to show development after their five-year hiatus on an already sporadic music release cycle. They have absolutely reinvented their business practice though, perhaps pioneering the entertainment industry into a new era of media sharing through NFT’s, which is as bold a move as any, making them deserving of an encore.