Founders Fund and Paradigm are leading an investment in a platform that’s aiming to wed music rights with NFTs, allowing users to buy shares of songs through the company’s marketplace, earning royalties as the music they’ve invested in gains popularity.
Royal aims to democratize access to music ownership by letting users not only invest in but also own rights to their favorite songs and albums through limited edition, autographed digital assets recorded on a to-be-decided blockchain. This will allow fans to earn royalties alongside artists as their music increases in popularity.
The venture, called Royal, is led by Justin Blau, an EDM artist who performs under the name 3LAU, and JD Ross, a co-founder of home-buying startup Opendoor. Blau has been one of the more active and visible figures in the NFT community, launching a number of upstart efforts aimed at exploring how musicians can monetize their work through crypto markets. Blau says that as COVID cut off his ability to tour, he dug into NFTs full-time, aiming to find a way to flip the power dynamics on “platforms that were extracting all the value from creators.
“Back in March, weeks before many would first hear about NFTs following the $69 million Beeple sale at Christies, Blau set his own record, selling a batch of custom songs and custom artwork for a collective $11.7 million worth of cryptocurrency.
As NFT startups chase more complex ownership splits that aim to help creators share their success with fans, there’s plenty of speculation taking off around how regulators will eventually treat them. While the ICO boom of 2017 led to plenty of founders receiving SEC letters alleging securities fraud, entrepreneurs in this wave seem to be working a little harder to avoid that outcome. Blau says that the startup’s team is working closely with legal counsel to ensure the startup is staying fully compliant.
The company’s bigger challenge may be ensuring that democratizing access to buying up music rights actually benefits the fans of those artists or creates new fans for them, given the wide landscape of crypto speculators looking to diversify. That said, Blau notes there’s plenty of room for improvement among the current ownership spread of music royalties, largely spread among labels, private equity groups and hedge funds.
“A true fan might want to own something way earlier than a speculator would even get wind of it,” Blau says. “Democratizing access to asset classes is a huge part of crypto’s future.”