When British rock band Muse release their ninth studio album Will of the People on August 26th, the NFT (non-fungible token) edition will be the first release of its kind to qualify for the UK and Australian charts. It’s the first new format to chart since the album streams began in 2015.
It will be sold through ‘green’ NFT platform Serenade, which in February was selling official Brit Awards NFTs for £10 each.
Serenade founder Max Shand describes the Muse release as “the black t-shirt of NFTs,” a useful digital format that’s easy to buy. “What a fan wants is something simple and understandable, but that gives them a sense of closeness to an artist and a sense of recognition from other fans,” he says.
Unlike many NFTs, buyers do not need a crypto wallet. After the purchase is made on Serenade’s website, a digital wallet is created and the NFT is transferred to that wallet. If users have an existing crypto wallet e.g. B. for BitCoin or Ethereum, you can use them.
The UK’s Official Charts Company (OCC) approved NFT albums for the charts a few months ago, but this is the first release where the provider, in this case Serenade, has been approved as a chart return digital retailer.
“There’s been a lot of noise about NFTs being the future of music, the future of entertainment, the future of ownership,” says Martin Talbot, executive director of the OCC. “It’s great that this is becoming a reality.”
He says Muse’s release didn’t force an update to the OCC’s chart eligibility rules, it’s the first to meet inclusion criteria.
In April, British indie rock band The Amazons released a 100-copy limited digital box set NFT, which includes pre-orders of their How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me? album, due in September. This was sold as part of a bundle rather than a standalone version.
Serenade had been in talks with Warner Records, home of Muse, for several months about releasing an NFT album. Muse, which had partnered with blockchain platform CryptoKitties to create digital collectibles in 2020, was seen as the obvious first choice.
“The band have always been at the forefront of technological innovation in their creativity and artistry,” says Sebastian Simone, vice president of audiences and strategy at Warner Records in the UK.
The Muse NFT album costs £20 and is limited to 1,000 copies worldwide. As an NFT and limited edition format, it is relatively sparse in its offering. Buyers will receive a downloadable version of the album – complete with a different sleeve – as high-resolution FLAC files; Muse members will digitally sign it, and the names of all 1,000 buyers will be permanently included in the linked buyer list.
“We wanted to focus more on the product than the additional experience,” says Simone.
As copies are limited – and not all are available in the UK – the release will not materially distort Will of the People’s expected chart performance.
“If you want to influence the chart, there are definitely ways to do that,” Simone says of NFTs’ potential to dramatically boost first-week sales. “With Muse, it’s actually not as important as they are [already] on tens of thousands of pre-orders. We expect the No. 1 spot to be very clear this week.”
As with other NFTs, the original purchaser can resell it, and 15% of the resale price goes back to the band and the rights owners – Warner Music for the sound recording rights and Universal Music Publishing for the composition rights.
The OCC confirmed that resale of the album does not count as a “new” sale.
“There are absolutely no plans to change the core principles [of the charts] where we count sales of something when it’s brand new and you buy it first,” says Talbot. “We don’t count sales to the second buyer.”
Future releases could include extras and fan rewards that will be added to the album as the campaign evolves around it. The OCC will ensure that the extras are not so bloated upon release as to violate chart rules. “What you’re always looking for is something of such high value or so desirable that it overshadows the music itself and people don’t buy it for the music, they buy it for the music [added extras]’ says Talbot.
As for whether this could all collapse into gimmicks, Simone says Warner is already planning similar releases for other acts. “It will continue to spread,” he says. “This will be the beginning of the door opening.”