The DJ-producer offered an NFT album for $11.7 million and disrupted the music trade.
Whereas finding out economics at Washington College in St. Louis, Justin Blau (aka 3LAU) confronted a fateful resolution between taking a finance job at BlackRock or dropping out to pursue his burgeoning DJ profession. Because it seems, his option to go all-in on music would pay surprising dividends.
“I met the Winklevoss twins in Mexico on spring break in 2014, who principally helped me to find Bitcoin,” Blau remembers. “I used to be simply fascinated with this concept of distributed ledger, banking past banks, permissionless worth switch—all of the ideas behind ledger expertise that I assumed would add plenty of worth to the world.”
Over the following few years, Blau rose by means of the ranks of the highest digital dance music DJs, enjoying at marquee festivals like Lollapalooza, Electrical Zoo and EDC Las Vegas. Regardless of a bear marketplace for cryptocurrency, he remained fascinated by blockchain expertise’s potential to empower artists.
“All of us get enthusiastic about these applied sciences as a result of we view them as wonderful options to a much less environment friendly world that we reside in,” Blau says. “However when these assumptions are challenged by the market, you undoubtedly begin to doubt your individual beliefs. I’m fortunate I’ve held on for thus lengthy.”
When the cryptocurrency markets rebounded in 2017, Blau noticed a possibility to place a few of his concepts in motion. He launched Our Music Pageant, the primary blockchain-powered music competition, in San Francisco the next yr with a lineup headlined by Zedd. Whereas the undertaking was forward of its time, the expertise proved formative in giving Blau a glimpse into the way forward for digital possession.
“I had a 3LAU loyalty badge collectible that you can get to your competition app pockets in the event you discovered me and scanned the QR code I had on my telephone,” Blau says. “I solely had 50 of them they usually had been gone in 60 seconds after I was out and about. We’d introduced it on Twitter and other people had been simply so enthusiastic about proudly owning this unique digital asset. In order that was sort of my lightbulb second, the place I had this sense that the entire world was going to worth digital collectibles in an excessive approach.”
Whereas sidelined from touring final yr as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, Blau started to delve deeper into the NFT (nonfungible tokens) house and realized that the expertise carried game-changing potential for impartial musicians to immediately monetize releases. Constructed largely on the Ethereum blockchain, NFTs allow possession of distinctive digital property in a approach that wasn’t beforehand attainable.
Blau teamed up with widespread visible artist and previous collaborator Slimesunday (actual identify: Mike Parisella) for a collection of music NFTs beneath the collaborative moniker SSX3LAU, releasing their first drops on platforms like Blockparty and SuperRare.
“It’s a really collaborative course of and we’re each closely concerned within the consequence,” explains Parisella. “Our final undertaking was essentially the most time we spent on any SSX3LAU undertaking. It took roughly three months to finish the music video.”
In January, Blau tokenized the primary full-length tune on main platform Nifty Gateway and offered $175,000 value of tokens—a payday that might have required billions of streams in a standard label deal.
The next month, he introduced the historic public sale of his first tokenized full-length album, Ultraviolet, by means of his personal website in partnership with Origin Protocol. Comprised of 33 distinctive NFTs tiered and paired with rewards and bodily vinyl data, the public sale was gamified to increase the countdown clock by three minutes for any bids positioned within the closing three minutes. When the mud had settled from a heated bidding warfare, Blau had offered an unprecedented $11.7 million in whole, capped by a record-setting $3.6 million high prize.
“I undoubtedly didn’t anticipate it in any respect,” he admits. “We didn’t use a standard NFT platform, so we principally needed to depend on my viewers of present collectors and followers to take part, and I used to be simply completely amazed by how far the group got here out for me.”
The music trade remains to be scrambling to catch up. Regardless of larger names like The Weeknd and Snoop Dogg coming into the market, Blau’s public sale nonetheless holds the alltime gross sales file for music NFTs. Revered as an early adopter by the group, Blau’s shut relationships with high NFT collectors like WhaleShark, 888 and Seedphrase have contributed to his success.
“It began with plenty of cryptonative collectors. Individuals who had been capable of generate plenty of wealth throughout the crypto house who need to maintain it in that ecosystem and help the humanities,” Blau says. “However I’m additionally fortunate to have [former T-Mobile CEO] John Legere as a collector of mine. He owns many actually stunning items from the legacy artwork world and is so supportive of this concept of technological artwork. I feel it’s solely pure that [traditional] collectors will begin to exhibit that conduct.”
As mainstream consideration fuels elevated adoption, Blau believes that extra artists, collectors and followers will heat to the idea of digital provenance by means of NFTs.
“You should buy the ‘Mona Lisa’ for $53 on Amazon. It’s the identical measurement, and it seems to be precisely the identical as the unique. Do you need to personal that? Most individuals would in all probability say no,” Blau explains. “That’s what makes digital artwork particular. Anybody can view it, or rip it, or put it on a display screen, however there is just one proprietor of this particular piece. There’s a sense that you simply get from having that official possession, the identical approach you don’t need to purchase a faux pair of Yeezys. You need to personal the true ones.”
Trying forward, Blau plans to create a basis to help artists and academic efforts to carry wider public consciousness to the NFT house. He additionally has a brand new undertaking that can enable followers to spend money on artists and share of their successes as their careers progress.
“The place I see it going subsequent is definitely getting fan possession in music and letting them take part within the outdoors success of a tune,” he explains. “It has to adjust to sure safety rules and present authorized frameworks.”
For the second, Blau already seems to have secured his legacy as a trailblazer whose perception within the energy of music NFTs will change the trade calculus for years to come back.
“3LAU shall be remembered as a pioneer and group chief,” says Parisella. “He was speaking about this expertise again in 2018 and most thought he was loopy. In 2021, he flipped your entire music trade on its head.”
Pictures by: Prime to Backside: PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ, PHOTO COURTESY OF 3LAU