As much as I wish the word NFT would remain out of my vocabulary forever, a deluge of artists have had other plans. NFTs have taken the music world by storm over the past few weeks — right alongside the fine-art collecting world, fashion world, and every other for-profit industry you’d expect —with everyone from the usual suspects like Grimes to washed-up rockers like Kings of Leon selling art and music as non-fungible tokens. Because of them, I’ve had to learn that the word fungible means interchangeable (and has nothing to do with mushrooms), so a non-fungible token is basically an exclusive item. Except that when Kings of Leon released their new album When You See Yourself as an NFT on March 5, I could also stream it right on Spotify, which seemed pretty fungible to me. So I had to do even more research on NFTs (read two more explainer articles) and then learned that an NFT is just an original digital file of something, and the only way you know it’s an original has something to do with the blockchain — a thing I also refuse to learn about.
Some music-industry people and tech bros think these tokens are going to “democratize the market” and “revolutionize content” and give them a chance to use more meaningless buzzwords. I think everyone’s just trying to make a quick buck selling fancy GIFs. But I’m not above making fun of them for it, so here’s a list of some of the biggest music NFT projects so far, ranked by how much I actually care.
15. Kings of Leon, When You See Yourself
Does it get more shameless than hyping your new record as music’s first NFT album because you know people won’t pay attention to it otherwise? I’ll also now forever blame Kings of Leon as the band that forced me to learn about NFTs.
14. art by Aphex Twin
One of the only things I can understand about blockchain is that it uses massive amounts of energy and, like many of the things rich people enjoy, is furthering climate change. So it’s just silly to see Aphex Twin promise to “spend a portion of the money on planting trees and either donating to permaculture projects or setting them up ourselves” after selling an art piece as an NFT. Maybe if you donated the money without the environmental degradation part, it’d actually do some good.
13. Mike Shinoda, iann dior, and UPSAHL, “Happy Endings”
Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda minted his first of ten exclusive NFT clips of “Happy Endings,” his single with rapper iann dior and singer UPSAHL, on February 17, releasing the first song as an NFT in the process — and thinking he could trick us into paying thousands of dollars to listen to a song two days before it hit streaming on February 19.
12. Lil Pump NFT Collection
“My goal is to be the most ignorant, richest rapper,” Lil Pump once declared to this very website. His NFTs — including digital jewelry and Lil Pump trading cards — help both of those causes!
11. 3lau, Ultraviolet reissue
By reissuing his 2018 album as an NFT, 3lau successfully made the case to actually reopen EDM festivals post-pandemic — to give producers something to do other than silly tech-bro games.
10. Deadmau5 NFT collection
Like, remember Deadmau5? The man’s been releasing NFTs since December. And we thought we were bored.
9. Ositos by Ozuna
All of the NFTs in Ozuna’s first drop were new versions of his logo, including some made of digital Tic Tacs. Once I can get a real-life Ozuna logo made of Tic Tacs, then let’s talk.
8. Shawn Mendes Genies collection
Genies, the company that Shawn Mendes worked with for his NFT drop, makes extremely disconcerting digital avatars of celebrities. Luckily for all of us, Shawn Mendes did not subject his face to that process! Instead, he released a collection of digital “wearables,” like different jewelry pieces and a one-of-a-kind digital guitar. Boring, sure, but it could’ve been worse.
7. Grimes, “War Nymph Collection”
I have to pay attention when Grimes does something as remarkably on-brand as releasing NFTs of digital art, and donating proceeds to carbon removal. Talk about making climate change fun!
6. IAMSOUND x Zora NFT art exhibition featuring Toro y Moi, Yaeji, Mura Masa, and more
Only because I hope Yaeji’s digital fish found a good home.
5. Elon Musk’s song about NFTs
I could go my entire life without listening to a song made by Elon Musk, especially not a song about NFTs. But Musk rocketed up this list when he tweeted that he actually wouldn’t sell his song about NFTs as an NFT because it “doesn’t feel quite right selling this.” Now I simply have to know why he had a change of heart — although I pray it’s not because he’s saving the track for an album.
4. Ja Rule’s Fyre Festival painting
Of all the musicians to enter the NFT market, it’s Ja Rule who broke my brain the most. The rapper-grifter is part of the launch for NFT platform Flipkick, which will “sell physical and digital NFTs,” per a release. Sorry: physical NFTs? Aren’t those just art pieces?! Flipkick will “cryptographically authenticate physical works of art like sculptures and paintings,” the release goes on, which I think means the crypto-world just reinvented signed art pieces. Anyway, Ja Rule is launching the platform by auctioning a 2017 painting of the Fyre Festival logo by Tripp Derrick Barnes. “Ja Rule can sign it upon request,” the press release added. Physically or “cryptographically,” though??
3. Clarian, Whale Shark
When Kings of Leon promotes their new album as the first album released as an NFT? Ploy for relevance. When electronic producer Clarian beats them to it? I’ll allow it. (Even if Clarian does seem like a major NFT evangelist.)
2. Belave, does the bird fly over your head?
And when Grimes collaborator Devon Welsh doesn’t just release an album with his band Belave ahead of Kings of Leon (and Clarion, it appears), but specifically makes a statement saying, “We did it before Kings of Leon”? I regrettably have to commend it.
1. MF DOOM masks
Okay, you’ve got me — selling digital versions of MF DOOM’s iconic mask isn’t the worst idea. And it’s hard to knock the project when some of the proceeds go toward the late rapper’s estate and family.