Photo by Matthias Groeneveld

Music NFT Standards overview



Intro into Music NFTs, current solutions for Music NFTs, New Music NFT Standard

Music NFT industry is becoming one of the most fast growing industries in web3. What most of us aren’t realizing is that the Ujo Music Team was bringing up the importance of tokenizing music as NFTs back in 2018. Highlighting the importance of digitizing and tokenizing digital copies of their music as improving direct relationship between musicians and their fans. Bringing independence to the artists as they don’t need to rely on major labels but artists can gain momentum by using blockchain and cutting big corporations off their business models. Blockchain gives us independence amongst many other advantages, in the music industry it means a way more.

The State of Music NFTs

Transparency as a tool to make payments more transparent and royalties efficient, to track data like consumption and usage of the content. Blockchain also gives musicians control over their own content without giving ownership to 3rd parties like record labels to own their content. One of many advantages is royalty payments which can be split amongst artists, producers, publishers. This could be easily applicable to music streaming, but is hard to track every play on different platforms. we do have problems with royalties in Web2 world, bringing this to Web3 just doubles it. Although we do have a royalty standard in Web3 — the ERC-2981, it is supporting only single split royalties. i.e. only one account address can receive royalties from sales. Mirror introduced Splits which is supposed to change the way we are looking at collaboration. Splits allows splitting royalties from donations between collaborators addresses from NFT sales. In the music NFT industry, the music and the cover itself is NFT. Good thing to mention, Mirror is publishing platform focused mainly on writers but Splits can be used for Music NFTs too as it allows collaborators to split revenue from the NFT sale. Similar tool as Splits on Mirror are 0xSplits which works basically the same. 0xSplits will allow integration with dApps like music NFT marketplaces which collaborators can use for splitting revenue from NFT sales. By the time of writing, 0xSplits royalty project is live on test net only.

With the ability of using smart contracts for music sales, it is just a matter of time until we will find new standard as solution. Royalties are perhaps the main missing particle which is missing in the music NFT industry, another one is metadata. We do struggle with metadata when speaking about NFTs in general in terms of NFTs as artwork, PFPs NFTs… now adding music NFTs to the scope of metadata importance. Founders from multiple companies & DAOs are working on a new Music NFT Standard. It is meant to be an improved version of ERC-721 and OpenSea metadata standards which both are very general and non intuitive for musicians. The main issue we have with both standards is the lack of on-chain metadata. I wrote many articles on issues with ERC-721 and metadata. Generally speaking, we should find alternative to stop using JSON as a metadata blob. Uploading metadata on-chain is costly but we are in the process of finding solution without blowing the chain and wasting money on gas fees when minting Music NFTs.

Some examples of ERC-721 deployment contract with gas optimization:

Gwei Slim ERC-721 by Iain Nash

Metaverse NFT Factory by Aleksey Bykhun

New Music NFT Standard proposal

Teams at Catalog and Mint Songs are working on a new standard — ERC based on what has been discussed in the Water and Music Working Group. There are two proposals on standards, both are being discussed across teams and related developers. Check out their Music NFT Metadata proposal (this proposal is in draft stage and gathering feedback).

The main considerations for new Music NFT standard which should be applied:

  • Backwards compatibility for frozen metadata, once the metadata gets frozen ie uploaded on chain we should be able to work with them afterwards
  • More optionality and powerful royalties that don’t lean too heavily on the intricacies of the Web2 space without complying past standards, this has to be new but usable
  • Token as primary metadata authority for aggregators, data integrity and control the rights of artists and labels, allowing these roles to function as composable permission-less structures
  • Expanding scope of ERC-1155 — use Music Token Standard instead of Music NFT
  • Type of data has to be future proof, if we are going to create a standard we have to make sure it will be useable in the future too, metadata should have 3 types of metadata: descriptive, ownership & performing rights, recommendation data — tags
  • Metadata should also cover 3 levels of the product — album release, recording data, composition data about rights grated with the sale
  • Existence of album tokens with interoperability with song tokens
  • Reference name of metadata standard as version number

I’m excited to see the development of Music NFTs getting more popular. Many big influencers are highlighting the importance of Music NFTs. With the circumstances of pandemic the creators lost their primary source of income -merchandise and live shows. Music NFTs give creators a chance to continue working in music industry and have income without sacrificing their passions for compensation.

Sources & Inspirations for this article:

A Beginner’s Guide to Music and Blockchain: Why it Matters for Musicians

A better Music Token Metadata Standard

Can Web3 Really Revolutionize Music Royalties?

Music NFT Wiki page (Will be Updated soon)

Consider making donation to Ethereum Magicians Gitcoin grant to support NFT Standards Research and Development

Thank you to Garrett Hughes from Mint Songs and to Jeremy Stern from Catalog for reviewing previous version of this article and providing valuable feedback on Music NFT topic 🙏