On November 17, 2021 Indian hip-hop producer, Sez on the Beat sold his Moonhead NFTs in a record 48 hours after launch. Listed on WazirX NFT Marketplace, the producer’s collection comprised a set of 17 provably unique digital avatars. Additional heft came in the form of juicy collectors backstage access and artist meet-greets at the upcoming ‘Chaand Paar’ India live tour – scheduled for April this year – that each NFT collector would walk away with.
“With each of these releases, the strategy is to stay true to and acknowledge the day-one fans and take them along the journey with us by way of introducing the sounds of the future,” says Roochay Shukla, Senior Marketing Manager at Outdustry, the artist services and rights management company that represents Sez on the Beat and the community-based hip-hop collective and record label THE MVMNT, that the producer co-founded with music executive Faizan Khan. The latter also serves as A&R for Outdustry.
In the same vein, Khan reiterates the objective was to create value for the Indian hip hop community. After all, Sez on the Beat has been a part of the country’s larger hip-hop scene that looked out for each other. “That’s the essence we tried to capture,” says Khan. “We even made sure that all our roster artists and the illustrator get a split off the revenue from our NFTs so that everyone wins together.”
According to a recent report by market research firm Chainalysis, India ranks second on the Global Crypto Adoption Index, and 59% of that activity is taking place on decentralised finance (DeFi) platforms. The incorporation of blockchain technology seems to be a top priority for most companies. As it proves a new revenue stream, artistes are more than eager to jump on the bandwagon too. But the release of an NFT is as much mirroring your audience’s interest as it is the desire to create something unique. “An artist might create something which is super unique and interesting in their own minds, but if the audience doesn’t connect with it, you’ve lost the opportunity right there,” says Khan. “NFTs should be seen as a long-term exchange of value between the artist and their community.”
Outdustry says Web3 is THE new emerging market where artists who can attract and allocate capital and convert this into attention will accrue market power. Indian and international VC funds – Sequoia, Antler, Coinbase Ventures to name a few are betting big on Indian Web3 startups, which according to the artist services and rights management company is an important indicator of a long-term narrative.
Aniket Rajgarhia, Senior Rights Manager at Outdustry, is particularly engaged with new economic models that are focussed on community and shared governance. “An effective NFT strategy should be about storytelling and community building,” he says, adding that many of the platforms seem to be following an aggregation model of capturing as many users as possible, buyers or sellers. “This means that the quality of NFTs on the platform is a mixed bag. We need good platforms where we have well-curated offerings from creators and a solid editorial team that helps them tell their stories at scale,” he says.
The Senior Rights Manager forecasts a rise in the use of tokens – social, utility or governance – for various projects like DAOs. “Music usage will be increasingly atomised in gaming, TV, film, fashion, education and the metaverse. Creators will need to stay on top of their metadata and usage information to make sure they effectively capture the value generated from the use of their IP”, says Rajgarhia.
While the proliferation of NFTs has taken off, audiences though, remain largely uninitiated on the intricacies. “We noticed that a lot of fans had questions like ‘why can’t we just take a screenshot’,” shares Khan. “Sharing information with our larger audience is something which will need to continue as we drop more NFTs in the future, and hopefully with time people will understand the space in a deeper way.”
Building an ecosystem
In the three years since their India operations – they just celebrated an anniversary – Outdustry has brought to India, global giants such as Dua Lipa, Major Lazer, Lauv, Diplo, Jungle, and Tik Tok superstar vaultboy. In addition to their support to the music community, Outdustry India is heavily invested in promoting local talent to a global arena and in turn, developing a long-term exchange of ideas across borders.
Take for instance Amaal Mallik’s collaboration with Dua Lipa on ‘Levitating remix’; or ‘Jadi Buti’ made by Nucleya and Major Lazer feat. Rashmeet Kaur. “We’re going to see [cross country collaborations] more and more in the coming years where genres and languages will start blending into each other,” says Shukla adding that one of the key learnings from Outdustry’s time in the country is the importance of content localisation to appeal to a max possible audience base. “Indian fans stay loyal to their artists and this relationship goes a long way!” he says.
As the creator economy reaches untenable heights, the Indian music industry can only capitalise on these new avenues. Outdustry plans to be at the forefront of this exercise. The coming few months will see them intensify their efforts across A&R collabs, genre bending music creation, remixes, short form content, and more.
But of note is the yet-to-be-announced NFT character series ‘Seedhe Maut x Sez on the Beat’. Before that, watch out for more NFTs dropping around the release of ‘Chaand Paar’. As Rajgarhia aptly puts it, “It’s an extremely exciting time!”
Listen to ‘Chaand Paar’ here