The music industry is changing. Musicians and record labels have started experimenting with NFTs to help them engage with their fanbase in ways they never could before, hoping to capture the positive possibilities of blockchain technology, separating signal from noise.
And for a year and a half, Atlantic Records has been doing just that. Since joining rapper Rico Nasty to release a 1-on-1 animated NFT in honor of the artist’s music video for “OHFR” in March 2021, the legendary record label is slowly and steadily working with the artists on its roster to educate them on the possibilities that Web3 has to offer. The slow-burn strategy could end up paying significant dividends for the label while empowering its artists and organically onboarding millions of fans to Web3 in the process.
Atlantic Records Web3 Strategy
Non-web3-native businesses are often wary of blockchain-based technology, but like brands like Nike, Gucciand Lamborghini have proven, entering the world of crypto and NFTs can work out pretty well for legacy brands. In addition to developing strategies that appeal to Web3 natives, companies need to ensure that they don’t alienate or scare away their customer base by playing too fast and too loosely with technology that is still poorly understood and widely criticized.
The Atlantic team understood this well. That’s why they’ve largely focused on creating Web3 engagements for artists on their roster involving free mints — NFTs that cost fans nothing. In August, for example, the company helped freelance artist Arden Jones send a free NFT to fans who pre-recorded his monthly Age Tape project. Earlier that summer, they also introduced Jones to the Dented Feels NFT Collection and the community, all of which have helped increase its presence in the Web3 space while familiarizing its fan base with the same. But Atlantic knows it can’t throw its artists into the deep end with NFTs – that desire has to come from them.
“We don’t convince artists to enter the space. It must be their interest,” explained Jordan Chalmers, Senior Director of Custom Activations and Emerging Technologies at Atlantic Records, while speaking to nft now. “It must be their passion. They must be curious [about the technology]. And then it’s our job to educate and empower them and put them in a position to enter space as a human being – not as this big celebrity trying to monetize their intellectual property. We show them the playground and let them take the first steps.
Some artists are more enthusiastic than others. For example, singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Sueco became the first Warner Music Group artist to feature in The sandbox earlier this year. Part of the success of this partnership came from the artist’s pre-existing enthusiasm for the Web3 space. That excitement, Chalmers explained, trickled down to his fan base.
Singer-songwriter Foauzia is another example of someone who was already an NFT enthusiast when Atlantic started helping them organically grow their Web3 presence. Already owner of an NFT Beauties Boss, Faouzia and the Atlantic team began thinking of ways for the pop star to get more involved in the community without having to drop. They eventually licensed the artist’s song “Puppet” to be used in Boss Beauty trailer for their Supper BB collection. Since then, the artist has become an active member of the community, joining the project’s Twitter spaces and engaging in its female-led mentorship program.
Navigating the bear market
The Atlantic team has found that the deepening crypto winter has had a positive impact on the frequency and type of conversations they have with their artists. The last six to nine months have “supercharged” the kind of questions the team has about the crypto climate, what’s causing its fluctuations, and how it might impact their ambitions in the space. These are crucial learning opportunities that, regardless of the broader economic context in which they take place, serve to further familiarize them with Web3.
IRL POAP activations
One of the most natural Web3 fits for musicians is the POAP Protocol, which allows users to create digital badges or collectibles through the use of blockchain technology. POAP engagements aimed at fans attending a concert, for example, can greatly encourage Web3 fan interactions while organically educating them about token activities and benefits. The Atlantic team has repeatedly experienced with POAPS, like when they did an activation for fans who showed up at singer and producer Oliver Tree’s pop-up event celebrating the launch of his album cowboy tears earlier this year. Similarly, the label helped plan the appearance of a massive QR code on stage during rapper Kevin Gates’ Red Rocks April performance, allowing fans to hit an NFT by simply pulling out their phones.
“We’re thinking of ways to retarget those fans and provide them with some value,” Joseph Khoury, vice president of A&R and marketing at Atlantic Records, said in an interview with nft now. “[We want to] give them the opportunity to really understand and experience first-hand how token-gating works and how cool the opportunity is to be one of 75 people to claim [something like] a physical or digital laptop. We are always thinking of interesting ways to inspire as many people as possible to create their first digital collectible. And we’ve seen an increasing number of people doing this, which is really exciting for us as we try to develop our strategy.
Atlantic Records Web3 Projects
Atlantic is currently in talks with some well-known entities in the NFT and digital securities space alongside “some major gaming platforms” for potential partnerships that will coincide with the label’s upcoming 75th anniversary next year. . Khoury and Chalmers also focus on slowly building the company’s Web3 foundation and showing the music community how NFTs can work to their advantage if they so choose. Khoury and Chalmers also praised Warner Music Group’s business development team for striking Web3 partnerships that allow them to engage with artists on their roster in creative ways. When asked what advice the two would give to non-web3 native musicians who are wary of the volatility of the space, the duo responded by emphasizing optimism and education.
“I would focus on the good,” Khoury stressed. “Focus on the great work that a lot of really amazing creators are doing in space. It’s very easy to get sucked into the headlines and negativity. It’s easy. But really watch and find out the amazing stories happening to both visual artists and musicians navigating and using these tools to their advantage.
Likewise, Chalmers stressed that musicians looking to enter the Web3 space should do so in a way that feels natural to them.
“First of all, it’s not good for everyone,” Chalmers pointed out. “But if you are curious as a musician, go see [an NFT] collection and choose the one that speaks to you. It’s no different than why we wear the shirts we wear and why we buy from the stores we buy from – it’s because it resonates. My advice to them would be to keep it authentic. Don’t just do it to do it. There must be a reason.
Such attitudes are refreshing, especially in the context of NFT releases from major entertainment entities which often feel shallow cash grabs. And given the music industry’s unfortunate history of mistreating and profiting from the artists who make it work, Web3 is about to bring an injection of fairness and dynamism to the sector that so badly needs it. If they stay the course, Atlantic Records could very well end up leading this charge.