In NFTs, I found a new way to monetise my music
Into the Cryptoverse is a weekly Breach series that documents the stories of everyday people as they navigate the cryptoverse.
Could you paint a picture of what you were up to before participating in crypto?
I was making music. It all started because I was exposed to music at a young age — my dad had a large catalogue and my cousin also used to make music. By the time I got to high school, I was already discovering new music on my own. The natural progression was giving it a try, and that’s what I did.
What did that look like?
At first, it wasn’t professional. In 2013, I found Fruity Loops, a music production software, and learned how to make beats by experimenting with it. I realised how much I enjoyed it so I started sharing the beats I made to Soundcloud and gathering an audience. After that, I started collaborating with artists. Somewhere along the way, I tried singing on my beats, which didn’t sound bad. I made the full switch from being just a producer to a music artist in 2016.
I dropped my project and doubled down on connecting with more people who were doing similar things. All of this worked so well because I was still in university. When I graduated in 2018, I realised that I needed to make a few changes.
Tell me more.
I took a break from music and put my computer science degree to work. This was an interesting decision because, before my graduation, the plan was to get out and chase music properly. But I got out and realised that the grind would take more than I expected.
I didn’t have the structure to make it work. At best, I could manage to put out my music on Soundcloud and other platforms, follow up with appearances and shoot small promotional videos. These things cost money, but I couldn’t exactly figure out how to make my money back. Although distribution and promotion weren’t much of an issue, monetisation was.
Ah, I see. Was it more about finding a sustainable means of income?
It was. I was making music for the love of it but I also wanted to remain an independent artist, which required funding. At university, I made little money from making beats. But it was nothing to fall back on when I got out. With a 9–5, I could expect a salary at the end of each month.
Anyway, I pivoted into tech and took a break from making music altogether. It didn’t last forever though.
A year later — in late 2019 — I made a small comeback and started putting out stuff again, but it wasn’t as serious as before.
Walk me through the process that led to your return to making music.
To be honest, I just missed making music. So it was like, “let me put out stuff again.” I released a song, and it didn’t do bad. Interestingly, the follow-up to that single — a song I called ‘It’s okay to cry’ — did incredibly well. It made me believe that there was still something there, and I went for it. The deciding factor was that I came to terms that my music, my 9–5 and other things I was interested in could co-exist.
I realised that I could chase multiple passions at the same time.
That sounds great. When did crypto come into all of this?
In the early months of 2021. For obvious reasons, I have a lot of artist friends and NFTs must have popped up during one of our conversations, although I’m not sure when. I was fascinated by the whole concept and its use cases for independent creators like me — I could add value and get paid for my work. In addition, I’d be involved in the entire end-to-end process of making this happen. The prospects were exciting.
In the beginning, I was passively taking in information about crypto and NFTs because I was feeding off my friends. From there, I progressed into researching by myself, looking at NFT platforms and marketplaces. I was also looking at people who had minted and sold their projects, observing and taking notes about how they did it. It was all very fascinating.
What were your thoughts about NFTs at the time?
I thought it was something new and fresh. It was also very confusing, but that wasn’t out of place. It was a relatively new technology, after all.
Subsequently, all I thought about was how I could get in the space as well and experiment with music I already had. I figured the best way to go was to try it out instead of fixating on how little I knew about it. I also wanted to see if anyone would actually buy whatever I put up.
Fair enough. What were your next steps?
In December of 2021, I decided to take the big step and mint ‘Oomph’, an Afrobeat song I made in 2017 or thereabout. Before doing that, I joined a couple of Twitter spaces hosted by creators who were participating in the NFT space — I wanted to know what their experiences were and also wanted to connect with them. After this was done, I was ready to mint the song.
What did that look like?
The first step was deciding what NFT marketplace I wanted to mint on, and I settled on Foundation after getting an invite to the platform from a friend. I opened an account and connected my Metamask wallet to enable Ethereum transactions. Then I uploaded the track to the blockchain. That was it.
Sounds straightforward. What was the cost of doing this?
Gas fees were low when I minted so I paid about 0.02 eth ($88). There’s an additional fee for listing the NFT you upload to the Foundation marketplace, but I don’t remember how much that cost. At the end of it all, my NFT was live. It was now on the blockchain for 0.45 eth ($1991).
Read more about gas fees here.
And the wait for a buyer began?
Oh, it was actually a quick sale. It sold in about 24 hours.
That was reassuring. I was still promoting it in the communities I was in, and then I got an email that someone had bought it.
Now that I think about it, I believed deep down that someone was going to pay for it because it was something new in the space. Not a lot of people had minted music NFTs in the Nigerian crypto communities at the time. That was an advantage. I guess the work I put in, from finding out the processes involved and joining communities, helped as well.
By the way, the buyer also reached out to tell me why he bought it.
He liked the presentation. I mean, it was more or less the first Afrobeat NFT.
I like how casual you’re about this.
Haha. The process confirmed a theory I had about how storytelling helps to sell NFTs. I figured out that it was about how well I could tell the story of whatever I was putting up on the blockchain. In the context of this NFT, the story was how it’s the first Afrobeat NFT and how whoever bought it would have invested in my career. This is because as I grow as an artist, everything I have done increases in value. That was the messaging behind this NFT. I guess it worked.
It would seem so. How do you think about the relationship between NFTs and your art?
It’s another revenue channel for artists, and the best part is that artists have more ownership of their music here. Also, I don’t have to be tied to a music label contract before making money off my art.
Although the adoption is still early, there’s something there. I’m now looking at more ways I can experiment with NFTs — more platforms to join, especially music-based NFT platforms. Ultimately, the plan is to get people to pay me directly for my music, and NFTs are a good start.
Incredible. When you think about NFTs ten years from now, what do you see?
That’s tough to answer. Nevertheless, I’m optimistic that the rate of adoption will pick up. NFTs are tied to crypto and people are transacting with cryptocurrencies more than ever. This ought to spill over to the NFT sides of things too.
That reminds me, I got an NFT residency with Voice. They commissioned me to do a sound design project which I’ll be submitting soon. I’ve been in the programme for about two months now.
I believe NFTs will be a very stable stream of income for independent creators within the next decade, even though a lot of things in the blockchain world are down at the moment.
I guess it’s a good thing that you got in early then?
Oh, I agree. I have no doubt about that.