Rock and roll has always been about embracing the counterculture and going against the grain. The term is most widely associated with music, but that’s only the beginning. The rock and roll mindset can and does extend into every sphere and exists in every dimension — including, as of recently, non-physical ones like the metaverse.
As cryptocurrencies and the projects they power — from metaverses to NFT art galleries to fashion shows — have gained traction over the past several years, flocks of self-identified outsiders have gathered around and in them. Those outsiders are now making the rules we all live by. But even if what was once considered rock and roll is by its nature doomed to become the establishment, that doesn’t mean the rebellious, revolutionary spirit doesn’t persist.
Here are three ways the rock and roll energy of the music industry is transforming the Web3 era.
1. Breaking Down Barriers for Music Makers and Fans
Perhaps most obviously, the metaverse is a new space in which musicians and the communities that spring up around them can congregate and interact. Metaverses like Decentraland and The Sandbox are developing the sophistication to serve as concert arenas, and major artists ranging from BTS to Ariana Grande to Lil Nas X have test-driven virtual performances. Furthermore, the merch universe is finding a whole new iteration in Web3, with NFTs and other collectibles adding a whole new level of personalization for fans who cherish a feeling of closeness to their heroes.
The metaverse as a whole also promises a more democratic future for music production, where fans will have as much of a say in what goes into a song, a record or an album sleeve as its creator does. Given that artists like Snoop Dogg helped turn NFTs from a niche interest into a mainstream craze, it’s no surprise that music is central (or de-central) to the essence of Web3. But if the trend keeps up, the way we regard and consume music could increasingly be decided by the many as opposed to the few.
2. Translating Performances to the Metaverse
Current metaverses have gotten a fair amount of flak for not being the most aesthetically appealing or realistic. Twitter teardowns notwithstanding, we are getting more and more authentic representations of life in the Web3 sphere, and the momentum shows no signs of letting up.
Some metaverse companies are shooting to craft a one-to-one representation of self in this alternate dimension. But we’re also seeing digital assets like NFTs applied to live concerts. Events and ticketing are slated to evolve with the medium. For instance, Coachella auctioned off lifetime passes as NFTs for concertgoers to receive a VIP experience at the festival.
Major artists have begun conducting metaverse performances. Take, for instance, Snoop Dogg and Eminem’s performance at the VMAs where the pair delved into a metaverse-inspired show. Or consider Travis Scott’s lucrative performance on Fortnite, which raked in roughly $20 million.
That’s the world imagined — and increasingly realized — by the metaverse.
3. Championing Artists Through Digital Assets
Prioritizing rock and roll itself is pretty rock and roll. Established artists are turning more and more to digital assets to engage with fanbases.
Mariah Carey, for instance, launched an NFT release aimed at providing the owner of the NFT with full access to her induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Beatles are another group whose songs have translated to NFT-based memorabilia selling for top dollar. Or consider David Bowie’s estate working with different artists on an NFT project based on “artifacts” from the late artist’s archives. Snoop Dogg made his latest album, Bacc on Death Row, available on the blockchain.
As another generation of artists rises, they’re likely going to rely more and more heavily on virtual means of connection, distribution and visibility. Likewise, NFT projects could help established and up-and-coming visual artists — including budding album cover and concert poster designers — to capitalize on the long-held tradition of fan art celebrating beloved musicians. Who knows, the metaverse could become the preferred platform for a wide array of fine artists.
The Metaverse Is Transferring More Power to More People
More accurately, the people building the metaverse favor an environment in which more people have more power. Between the rising popularity of DAOs, which leaves the decision-making about what does and doesn’t belong in a metaverse up to the entire community, and the proliferation of functions that empower users to express their individuality and collect one-of-a-kind minted objects or fan merchandise, the medium is taking decisive steps toward collectivism.
If the point, as John Lennon put it, is “Power to the people,” then I believe we’re well on our way.