Baba Sehgal’s inspired hip-hop indeed brought about a cultural awakening for scores of rap-starved Indian kids in the 90s. But it’s thanks to the unwavering community of hip-hop artistes and fans that have kept the movement going and even managed to bring the usually neglected genre to the commercial limelight. Now one of the greatest rappers of all time, Nas himself sees huge potential in Indian hip-hop with Mass Appeal India backed by Universal Music Group. Artistes like Badshah, Sidhu Moose Walla, Naezy, Divine and others have successfully dominated music charts.
Hip-hop in web3
“One of the first rap songs used in Bollywood was ‘tune abhi dekha nahi’ from the 1980 film ‘Do Aur Do Paanch’ sung by Kishore Kumar,” remembers West Bengal-based Subhrojit Dey who’s helming the operations of a new hip-hop record label that’s been developed on blockchain to democratise its ownership as well as the creation of art and its monetisation.
Fools With Dreams (FWD) is a platform that onboards and educates artists about how to communicate using web3 tools and the implementation of NFTs and smart contracts to music. Simultaneously, they are also educating and interacting with their fans and promoting the idea of owning the music of their favourite artists and how they can later profit from these digitally signed limited collectible assets.
FWD claims to be the first of its kind in the Indian music community with independent artists completely owning a music label together. “We are building tools to connect artists and fans all around the world,” says Dey adding that FWD came up with the first ever Cypher NFT track ‘RHB Vol 1’ which was collected by DUALITY for 10BNB (approx. $3,750). The track features West Bengal’s Bardhaman-based crew Rapaholic Bengal comprising EmCee Negative, Kavjee, Raw Skybow, Murti G, Baba Googly, Zynga, Skan and Ricky on the Beat. “It was for the first time eight rappers came and performed together on a single track. The full production of this music video was funded by NFT sales to Taj (our collector from Thailand) who bought the poster of this track for 2 BNB (approx. $750).”
Self-touted as India’s first web3 record label by the rising stars of the Indian hip-hop community, Dey admits that it is very early for music in the Web3 spaces. He says that India especially has a very small fraction of collectors who are willing to invest in music NFTs, since most hold the concept of a visual medium with utilities in high regard. Less than 2% of the population in the world are exploring web3 and a smaller portion of that population spends on NFTs. However, the response from the international community is good but is yet to reach the level of visual arts or projects. “We have sold more than 20 tracks mostly to international collectors and they have been pushing us so far to help build this platform for artists,” says Dey.
When it comes to FWD making money, a certain percentage is generated from sales of their NFTs and a fraction of royalty collected goes back to the FWD vault. Revenue generated from the sales are accounted against that artists investment towards FWD and they get stakes in the record label in exchange.
“At FWD, artists can sell music NFTs of their songs to their fans/ collectors, which helps their growth while keeping all copyrights and license to themselves. The funds raised will be used for production, music videos and marketing. All artists get ownership and voting rights in FWD. As our vault grows, the artists will be able to fund their upcoming projects from this vault. For the first time, artists and fans are partners in the ownership of music. When artists win, everyone wins,” says Dey.
For now, the team has been travelling throughout India conducting sessions with artists, educating them about the possibilities that web3 can bring to musicians. They are connecting musicians with international visual artists and curating collaborations. Looking ahead, Dey says that he hopes musicians will be able to share a portion of streaming royalty rights with their fans and collectors, allowing them to be co-owners of the song or album. “We have plans to launch 20-30 artists by the end of this year. We believe in the concept of ‘under-promise and over-deliver.’ Our vision is of 100% commitment to the artists and its NFT holders and we will continue to build the synergy between the artists and the NFT community,” he signs off.
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