If someone had asked me what NFT stood for last year, I’d probably list off thousands of answers before correctly naming them “non-fungible tokens.” NFTs have become the new buzzword in recent months, and with reports of some artists making millions off them, it seems like everyone is trying to break into the cryptocurrency art market.
NFTs were originally designed as a way to allow artists profit off of their shareable digital content. Once an NFT is purchased, artists can continue to make a percentage from any further sale. If you’re looking for a in-depth description on what exactly an NFT is, revisit Uproxx’s explainer here, but Jack Harlow actually gave a fairly succinct definition of NFTs in a recent SNL sketch. In a rap with Pete Davidson, Harlow detailed how NFTs are unique, built on blockchain technology, and can be sold once they’re “minted.”
Since March, NFTs have been all over the news, with everyone from sports teams to toilet paper brands joining the craze. But the music industry in particular has been seeing an explosion of NFTs, and major artists like Grimes and Steve Aoki have made a head-turning sum of money off of them. All this begs the question: How did NFTs go from an obscure acronym to one of the biggest trends in the music industry in just the matter of a few months? Let’s take a look.
February 28, 2021 — Grimes
Grimes has always been a pioneer in music and culture, which is why it makes sense that she was one of the first big-name musicians to sell artwork as an NFT. The singer had teamed up with her brother, Mac Boucher, to release her first collection of digital artwork as NFTs. Titled WarNymph Collection Vol 1, Grimes’ art sold out in just one day and ended up raking in $6 million.
March 3, 2021 — Disclosure
UK electronic duo Disclosure were also early to the NFT party. After seeing the success fellow EDM artist 3Lau had with NFTs, Disclosure decided to produce a brand-new song live on Twitch and mint it as an NFT. Ever since, the duo have continued to sell various NFTs, including a token for the original “Disclosure face” seen in their press photos and album art.
March 4, 2021 — Tory Lanez
Get yours here at 2 PM EST: https://t.co/SJrImYyXUD
Are you ready? pic.twitter.com/ZfInMJmjbS
— Bondly (@BondlyFinance) March 4, 2021
Despite the public scrutiny Tory Lanez has faced in the past year after allegedly shooting Megan Thee Stallion her in the foot, the rapper has continued to debut new music. Days ahead of the release of his recent album Playboy, Lanez paired two of the LP’s songs with digital art and minted them as NFTs. He also gave fans access to an unreleased song off his upcoming ’80’s-themed album, which has yet to be announced.
March 5, 2021 — Kings Of Leon
— Kings Of Leon (@KingsOfLeon) March 7, 2021
Kings Of Leon had a similar approach to Lanez when it comes to NFTs. The veteran group minted their entire LP When You See Yourself, which they referred to as NFT Yourself, as an NFT and sold it alongside a collection of other art. Those who purchased the NFT were able to snag a digital download of the album, as well as limited edition physical vinyl.
March 9, 2021 — Steve Aoki
Today's the day 😍😍 u can get my Dream Catcher collection at 11am PST / 2pm est on @niftygateway! Amazing visuals by @antonitudisco. Top buyers will also receive an @infiniteobjects video print of the art too!! Woo!!! Get urs before they're all gone!! 🙏https://t.co/8Jm23duSwt pic.twitter.com/GjbmcJs37z
— Steve Aoki (@steveaoki) March 7, 2021
Steve Aoki‘s addition to the NFT industry was a 11-piece collection of vibrant digital artwork titled Dream Catcher, and he was extremely successful. A part of the collection ended up being purchased by T-Mobil CEO John Legere, who bought just one piece for a whopping $888,888.88. In total, Aoki was able to earn $4.25 million in the 24 hours that the auction took place.
March 12, 2021 — MF Doom
MF Doom was one of the early adopters of NFTs. In fact, he tragically passed last October just one day after his first NFT auction of augmented reality masks closed. With the help of his wife Jasmine and his estate, more of MF Doom’s augmented reality were once again sold as NFTs in March in partnership with the crypto marketplace Illust Space.
In a statement about the second auction, a representative from Illust Space said: “Due to blockchain’s immutable and decentralized ledger technology, all of MF DOOM’s AR NFT collection will be available for future generations of fans and collectors, creating a new model for royalties and posthumous creative control legacies.”
March 15, 2021 — Elon Musk
I’m selling this song about NFTs as an NFT pic.twitter.com/B4EZLlesPx
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 15, 2021
A few weeks after Grimes made a sizeable sum from selling her artwork as an NFT, Elon Musk decided to follow suit. When he’s not working on the future of space travel or tweeting out esoteric memes, the billionaire makes EDM music in his spare time. As the self-professed “technoking of Tesla,” Musk decided to make a song about NFTs, and sell it as an NFT.
March 17, 2021 — Halsey
“People Disappear Here” An Original NFT Collection available March 17th on @niftygateway. A portion of sales will be donated to @MFPLA, as well as @carbon_180, a NGO dedicated to the mission of creating a world that removes more carbon that it emits. pic.twitter.com/0lPlNc7513
— h (@halsey) March 13, 2021
While Halsey is known for her music, she’s also an incredibly talented interdisciplinary artist. That’s why she was relatively early to the NFT game. The singer auctioned off a handful of hand-painted characters she created in the collection People Disappear Here. “The characters are all inspired by figures that occurred in a series of sleep paralysis nightmares I had at home during the quarantine,” Halsey said in a statement. “After seven years of bed surfing hotel rooms around the world, adjusting to my own pitch black cave in California had a little bit of a learning curve. From toddler TV programming evil dentists, a child born with massive claws who scratched her way out of the womb, to a woman who stood at the foot of my bed and demanded I watch her masturbate. They were memorable to say the least.”
March 22, 2021 — Rico Nasty
It’s been nearly half a year since Rico Nasty released her anticipated debut studio album Nightmare Vacation, and she decided to commemorate the release with an NFT. The rapper teamed up with her “OHFR?” video creator Don Allen III to sell artwork from the video as an NFT. The highest bidder not only claims ownership of the NFT, but they also received the physical hammer Rico Nasty used the video, signed by the rapper herself. One of the reasons why she decided to join the NFT fad is that it “needs more women entering the space.”
March 23, 2021 — Diplo
When Diplo decided to break into the NFT industry, he did it a little differently. His series of NFT art, titled Cloud10, was made in collaboration with the artistic duo of Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III and features several cutesy animated characters. But rather than opening up the artwork to a bidding war, Diplo and his collaborators decided to offer their first NFT for only $1 in order for “for young collectors to grow their own wealth through the ownership of art.”
March 26, 2021 — Gorillaz
When Gorillaz announced they would be hopping onto the NFT game, it didn’t go quite as smoothly. While other musicians were welcomed into the world of NFTs, Gorillaz werechastised by their fanbase. The band announced that they would be celebrating the 20th anniversary of their debut album by teaming up with the toy company Superplastic for a series of toys, collectibles, and, of course, NFTs. Fans weren’t to happy with the news though, and were quick to point out the devastating environmental impact that the sale of a single NFT has. A petition was even created to get the Gorillaz to stop producing NFTs, and it already has over 3,000 signatures.
April 3, 2021 — The Weeknd
Excited to announce that my first NFT drop is taking place on Saturday at 2:00 pm EST on @niftygateway. The collection will feature new music and limited edition art. I developed the artwork with Strange Loop Studios pic.twitter.com/627BO4JekK
— The Weeknd (@theweeknd) March 31, 2021
After The Weeknd was snubbed for a Grammy nomination in all categories this year despite the success of the album After Hours, the singer has begun to call for greater transparency in the music industry. He’s since decided to boycott the Grammys all together and made his displeasure about various aspects of the music industry abundantly clear. Seeing all the potential that NFTs have to offer, The Weeknd decided to hold a cryptocurrency auction where he would sell exclusive artwork, including an unreleased song, as an NFT.
About his decision to join the NFT market, The Weeknd laid out his vision for the future of the music industry: “Blockchain is democratizing an industry that has historically been kept shut by the gatekeepers. I’ve always been looking for ways to innovate for fans and shift this archaic music biz and seeing NFT’s allowing creators to be seen and heard more than ever before on their terms is profoundly exciting.”
April 8, 2021 — M.I.A.
— M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) April 8, 2021
M.I.A. is no stranger to taking her music to unconventional platforms. Last year, the musician launched a subscription-based Patreon page as a platform to share her new projects. Taking things one step further M.I.A announced a 24-hour NFT auction where she will be selling some of her original art for the first time in 25 years. “It’s only now that the appropriate gallery for my work finally exists,” she said in a statement.
April 15, 2021 — Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl
Mick Jagger and Dave Grohl teamed up for the surprise collaboration “Eazy Sleazy” in April, which was meant to bring “some much-needed optimism” about coming out of COVID-19 lockdown. But a few days following the track’s release, Jagger announced that Berlin-based 3D artist Extraweg had turned the track into a digital animation, which he sold as an NFT during a 24-hour auction. All proceeds from the sale were divided up and donated between music-related charities.
Some of the artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.