The move is part of a larger movement within the music industry to use non-fungible tokens as a new way to distribute art, experts say.
Kings of Leon is making history on Friday by releasing the new album "When You See Yourself" as a non-fungible token, becoming the first band to do so. Non-fungible tokens are a type of cryptocurrency that are able to carry items instead of currency.
The band explained to Rolling Stone that they would be releasing three different types of cryptocurrency tokens that would offer fans different perks, including one that gave buyers lifetime access to front row seats and another that included special audiovisual art.
Blockchain company YellowHeart built the package of tokens—called "NFT Yourself"—and the move is part of a larger movement within the music industry to use non-fungible tokens as a new way to distribute art.
"Seeing a band as mainstream as Kings of Leon release their upcoming album as an NFT should be a signal to the wider music industry as a whole. Seeing the uses of blockchain adapt to cater for far more accessible items is a key step in the overall normalization of both the industry as a whole and its usage by the general public, not to mention the value in terms such as 'blockchain' and 'NFT' becoming more ingrained in the day-to-day parlance of worlds such as the music industry," said Nick Jones, CEO of cryptocurrency wallet company Zumo.
"Personally speaking, it's exciting to see a band take such a dramatic step in the relationship they have with their fans, allowing them to cut out the middleman and build a direct relationship with their customers.
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For anyone worried about getting their hands on the album, no need to fret. It will still be available on Apple Music, Spotify and any other platforms you generally use for streaming. But the NFT version is being sold for $50 by YellowHeart and will come with the aforementioned perks.
The NFT album will be available starting at noon on Friday and will be sold widely for two weeks before it is shut down and no more are made, then turning the tokens into a tradable asset that could grow in value.
Kevin Hammond, technical Manager at IOHK, and other experts said the use of NFT for the album will make the songs, and the special add-ons akin to a once-in-a-lifetime painting that cannot be recreated. A bonus perk to the use of NFTs is that the band can track, and make money from, the asset every time it is sold or traded.
"Using blockchain-based NFTs allows users like Kings of Leon to record the provenance of an item, track how it has been used, add value to the item, and avoid the creation of fakes," Hammond said.
The band told Rolling Stone it would donate the proceeds of the $50 NFT and the ones with concert tickets attached to Live Nation's Crew Nation fund, which is helping to support touring crews that are currently out of work due to the pandemic.
Casey McGrath, creative director for Kings of Leon, said in a press release that the band sees NFT as a "new space" and "as the future."
"Having the power shift back to the creators is what we all dream about. Enhanced ways to communicate our stories is what we are always looking for. And taking the artists that have been working in the shadows to create our favorite visuals for decades and bringing them into the light is long overdue and one of the many reasons to root for NFTs," McGrath said.
Yacine Terai, founder of the digital art marketplace Minty.art, is a firm believer in the tokenization of everything and said NFT art is "just the tip of the iceberg."
"With strong growth for a number of months now, sales of millions of dollars are becoming the norm and we have recently seen a number of musicians entering the NFT Space. DeadMau5, for example, has released audiovisual collaborations featuring bright colours and unique electronica, Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park has released similar artwork featuring a combination of digital artwork and unique music, and most recently 3LAU has sold the world's first crypto albums generating over $11.5m in the process," Terai explained.
"As a result of this it's no surprise to me that other bands are following suit, the opportunity to offer fans a unique 1 of 1 NFT Album is something that I'm sure we will see lots more of moving forward. It's a chance for artists to control their sales, driving the music industry forward whilst also adding another layer of legitimacy to the crypto space."
Other experts, like Protokol CEO Lars Rensing, noted that the music industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and had to innovate in order to find new revenue sources in the absence of live gigs.
Rensing suggested NFTs could be useful for the sports industry as well, allowing teams and players to trade collectibles with the certainty that they are no replicates or forgeries.
"We've already seen this with the NBA's 'Top Shot' NFTs, which have earned $230 million so far. These industries are just the beginning; we've only seen the start of what NFTs can do. With a little more forethought and practical thinking, NFTs can become more than just novelty collectibles," Rensing said.
Others said it was heartening to see blockchain technology being used beyond just underpinning cryptocurrencies.
Bryson Bort, CEO of SCYTHE, noted that cryptocurrencies are fundamentally experiments in technology and sociology, explaining that Bitcoin, widely seen as the godfather of the movement, is still relatively limited in its ability to directly purchase goods with it versus its general fungibility for normal currency.
"Almost no large retailers accept it. Whereas the value of Bitcoin is based on general market perception of its currency value, the Kings of Leon NFT will be based on the unique quality of the album itself," Bort said.
"It's an innovative way to recreate the experience of the rare vinyl record in the digital age."
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