The Metaverse is quickly becoming one of the biggest trends of 2022. Recent data found that the metaverse sector currently has a market capitalization of over $26 billion. While impressive, new capabilities are also being added to virtual worlds to create more immersive experiences.
For example, metaverse communities that cater to creatives are starting to unfold, allowing users to customize their own interactive experiences. Although this is still an emerging concept, the incorporation of music appears to be one of the defining characteristics of social metaverse environments.
Music as NFTs
For instance, music in the form of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) is starting to be used in a number of virtual ecosystems to offer social experiences for both artists and fans.
To put this in perspective, Fluf World — a metaverse community consisting primarily of 3D-avatar rabbits — relies heavily on music to create user experiences. Brooke Howard-Smith, co-founder of Fluf World, told Cointelegraph that its metaverse was launched in August 2021 as a platform for creators, artists and musicians to connect using NFTs. Howard-Smith explained that there is a “scenes and sounds” feature that enables community members to combine different soundtracks and backgrounds with their avatar NFTs:
“Users can add a background behind their avatar that serves as a different location, many of which we are building in our part of the Metaverse. A user’s 3D-animated rabbit can also move to different music soundtracks that a user chooses to incorporate.”
Although the concept may sound complex, Fluf World uses a variety of multimedia NFTs to allow users to customize their Metaverse experiences. “This week Fluf World is launching phase 1 of their ‘Burrows,’ a metaverse space within Fluf World where soon, avatars will be able to walk around and hear other Avatar’s music when their ‘proximity feature’ is turned on. You can also see a visual representation of their music called a Nimbus floating near their avatar when you approach them,” Howard-Smith explained.
At the same time, a number of benefits for artists and fans also emerge from this model. For example, “Gino The Ghost” — a grammy award-winning producer and multiplatform songwriter — told Cointelegraph that he is a metaverse music executive for Fluf World. Gino said that he was initially drawn to the project through its incorporation of music, explaining that audio NFTs offer musicians a new way to package music as a crypto asset. He added that sound clips living on a blockchain network solve a number of problems for musicians:
“The sobering reality is that music labels are making more money today than ever before through streaming platforms but producers and songwriters are making considerably less. For instance, 100 million streams only generate $7,000 dollars if you own about 30% of a label and most individuals earn much less. Royalties are also paid slowly and you need to audit publishers to see if income is accurate.”
With these challenges in mind, Gino said that music NFTs enable artists to generate instant income that is controlled directly by an artist without any intermediaries. In regard to fans, Gino said that those who own music NFTs are not only investing in their favorite artists but are also capable of using those soundtracks to create their own remixes. “Creatives can consume music and do different things with the soundtracks,” he said. In turn, users are also able to sell their unique music NFTs to generate revenue.
It’s also interesting to point out that music NFTs can come in the form of digital wearables. For example, wearable music NFTs were recently launched on The Dematerialised, an experimental marketplace for digital fashion. The collection known as “Defend the Metaverse” was created by Teflon Sega, a singer and producer who claims to have been born in the Metaverse. The different NFTs that are available come in the form of t-shirts, sunglasses and shoulder plates and feature a 15-second sound clip from Teflon Sega’s music video, “In The Middle.”
Sega told Cointelegraph that he believes that the relationship between music and fashion has always been very close. “The two intertwined creative cultures have often played off of each other in music videos, which is why it felt so natural to release the outfits and props from my own music videos into the world as wearable NFT's,” he remarked. Sega added that this year, he thinks people will be introduced to new features that allow for self-expression within metaverse environments. “Whether it be music, fashion, entertainment or storytelling, all forms will have no limitation aside from one's own creative boundaries.”
In addition to music NFTs, decentralized audio files are also being used to personalize metaverse environments. For example, Audius is a music streaming service built on the Solana blockchain that is partnering with different metaverse platforms.
Roneil Rumburg, CEO and co-founder of Audius, told Cointelegraph that anyone is able to pull content from the Audius platform due to its decentralized nature. “Fans and developers are running this ecosystem for the benefit of everyone. Therefore, anyone can build using our platform,” he said.
According to Rumburg, Audius music files were initially applied in gaming metaverses but recently, the platform has been integrated into the real estate NFT project “Ethereum Towers” and Solana-powered “Portals Metaverse” to provide streaming music. “Portals Metaverse allows users to play their own choice of music within their room inside the Metaverse through the Audius API. The community has even built an Audius lounge for concerts,” explained Rumburg.
Rumburg further noted that while Audius provides a catalog of decentralized audio files combined with metadata, some developers have built wrapped NFTs around Audius files. “We are just a decentralized repository of content with clearly defined rights so third-party developers can pull from the platform’s catalog without any issues.” As such, Rumburg explained that the main benefit of Audius in the context of the Metaverse is that developers can freely pull content without being sued by third parties.
Metaverse music: Here to stay or just a trend?
Although the concept is relatively new, industry experts believe that music for metaverse environments will continue to gain traction. Sebastien Borget, chief operations officer and co-founder of the Sandbox — a popular gaming metaverse ecosystem — told Cointelegraph that he believes music will be used more often. “It’s defining a new format of entertainment beyond music clips. It’s more social and immersive,” he said. Sticking to this trend, the Sandbox recently announced a partnership with Warner Music Group to create a musical theme park and concert venue within the platform.
Famous musicians are also becoming more involved with NFTs. American singer and songwriter John Legend recently announced his involvement in launching an NFT music platform that will allow artists to tokenize and sell their work. In addition, American rapper and songwriter Snoop Dog recently announced that he is a Fluf World holder by tweeting out his customized “Snoop Dogg Party Bear” NFT, which features music produced by Gino The Ghost.
While it’s clear that music is making an impact in virtual worlds, challenges remain that could hamper adoption. For instance, Rumburg mentioned that other platforms are attempting to do the same as Audius, but some are facing criticism for using APIs from platforms like Spotify from which to pull music. Most recently, the NFT platform called HitPiece was criticized by musicians for selling music NFTs without their permission. In addition, buying and selling NFTs are expensive due to high gas fees and minting costs which could impact the growth and diversity of communities that pride themselves on self-expression. Howard-Smith is aware of this challenge, noting that he doesn’t want a barrier of entry to exist within Fluf World:
“We have a plan that will ensure in the next two years anyone will be able to come into Fluf World and create. I think that the biggest challenge now is creating an even playing field as we continue to build new technologies and layer together information. Any artist can join the Fluf community for free with or without an avatar, and many are already making money creating music with Fluf existing owners. it’s essential that the industry creates ecosystems that are as inclusive as possible, enabling new artists and those with smaller fan bases as well as already successful musicians to join.”