NFT in India

By Audio Pervert - 7/02/2022

Harry Styles literally minted a NFT of his song “Treat People With Kindness” which would then be considered a "derivative" even if it’s the exact same song available on (and heavily favored by) Spotify. Harry also auctioned his cloths at a concert recently! However Harry Styles or X cannot replicate nor sustain that 'one-trick-pony' or call it 'rabbit-in-the-hat'. Early 2021, musician and EDM star Grimes tokenized 10 artworks titled ‘The WarNymph Collection Volume One' as her first NFT drop. Within hours of the drop, her content had racked up over $6 million in circulation. Much praise to Grime's clever marketing team, which struck gold in existing conditions. Hedging somewhere between talent, risk and fluke the union of music and NFT is clearly quixotic, brimming with hope, hurdles and hoax. But wait, NFT and the entertainment industry could not have chosen a better time to explode!

By now, you would be forgiven for being skeptical or plain old fashioned, if your unable to grasp the basics of Non Fungible Tokens (NFT), rapidly mutating and multiplying since 2020 and disrupting many facets of popular music, it's corresponding global industry and the artists. The pandemic is barely ending and Web3 is here! "Everyone from predictable venture capitalists to respected multimedia artists had argued that the technology has the potential to save independent music...nothing that their most equipped proponents have done so far feels very revolutionary." states Pitchfork, clearly skeptical of NFT, somewhat like playing lotto (speculating all the time). While Pitchfork bypasses the existing hype, fact remains that NFT or not, there is nothing called "independent music" left in reality, that too not inside a 'dog-eat-dog' neoliberal culture. Be it Twitch or Discord or Metaverse, we are gamified, steadily more akin to brands. Nothing so independent about it. However this story is not about indie or it's stakeholders. We take a look at India, as a case study of NFT boom in the music and entertainment industry. A clear rise of investors, angels, singers, actors, digital content creators, producers and tech-gurus, scaling up Indian NFTs. Supposed to be already worth $144 million, however still awaiting legal and fiscal go-ahead. But if it's about money, Goddess Lakshmi has long been tokenized, vectorized and floated, worth all her digital splendor and super powers! Millions of Indians don't care about what the state has to say and do about NFT and Crypto. So let's get on with it? Not so fast and not so 'Harry Styles' please!

FanTiger launched in 2021 is an Indian NFT aimed at the indie music market, a sector with millions of consumers and tens of thousands of artists. Beta version launched, one of the principle drivers behind FanTiger is Pravega Ventures based in India, a growing institution within the NFT and crypto-economy market. "Supercharge your growth". Even as the branding and propaganda of FanTiger is almost up there with international rivals such as Audius, OPUS and BPM, the site does not provide upfront clarity about 'Returns On Investment' (ROI), the involved taxes, commissions etc. for artists signing up. Question being, regardless as artist or fan, why invest in FanTiger, when so many services already exist, with much bigger outreach outside India, like OpenSea, BPM,, Rarible etc. FanTiger should explain it's unique selling proposition to begin with...

Alive - "Every Song Is A World". The NFT based venture is offering virtual worlds where songs become the building blocks of interaction (between artists and fans). Artists can create virtual interactive spaces for visitors and fans, and consequently become part of the NFT based exchange. Web3 class, the site offers a smooth walk-through as a short glimpse of what lies within The site is powered by Unity, a global leader in
3D tech, including AR and VR, BIM models etc. As a Web3 experience provider, should thrive and attract more Indian talent, for it's lucid and unique interface. How such interfaces retain attention and fan-following remains to be seen. Alive's "house" is aimed at gamers, indie musicians, producers, digital artists and the gamut of 15 to 40 year olds, who network, create and publish on platforms such as Discord, Twitch, Slack, Mumble etc. More than a year in the making and pimping, the curation is audibly average, yet very futuristic to look at.

"Ritviz and Nucleya announce India’s biggest NFT drop on WazirX NFT [August 2021]". Highly touted by the mainstream media in India, the duo's entry into the NFT based market is surely an interesting case study, not for the music per say, yet for the convergence of market, content and new stakeholders. A new role that few Indian artists are taking up as of now. Given that EDM was the first popular genre of music to embrace NFT, crypto and blockchain (Read our article "Blockchain and Music" 2018), the mushroom like explosion of crypto-economies, has also made it's impact in India bit by bit. Sandesh Suvarna, VP of WazirX (India's #1 Crypto Exchange) said "the auction feature by Ritviz and Nucleya is going to be a game changer for NFT enthusiasts, and we’re excited to announce this by dropping exclusive artwork by India’s leading artists". The game changer and exclusivity aside, not Sandesh Suvarna or anyone else from the Indian music industry can predict (less vouch) for the stability of the NFT market yet. Even the existing algorithms can't! Would these experts deliver 'game changers' for thousands and thousands of lesser known artists? Those with less capital to invest and especially those who create music independently, outside the realms of bollywood and pop (same thing in India actually). On the bright side, this 2021 splash by WazirX, Nucleya and Ritviz has actually outperformed most of the Indian NFTs since last year. Yet objectively speaking, this spectacle (of pop, NFT and superfluous capital) appears like "casino capitalism". If it works, we make a pile of money, and if it doesn't, who cares... lets move to the next sunny beach!

Jupitor Meta. "India’s first fully curated NFT marketplace. Founded in 2021". The venture is offering users a world of "passionate and exuberant investors, a large talent pool that is driven by an entrepreneurial mindset and a culture that drives learning and celebrates creativity." Based in Chennai (Madras), Jupitor Meta has diversified it's roster yet with a clear focus on southern content, which is visible within it's branding, VR experiences, music, digital art. The website is replete with futuristic art - "digital snacks on Marina beach" and "Chennai's drone based future". The more useful part of the website, is the FAQ section where one can read about "Wallet and Tax Implications" - agency will claim 22% as tax and further 18% as GST.

Hence, can we assume that NFTs to INR (cash) conversion is possible in India? This question ends up in a dead end of stifling methods, shady back-alley deals or high commissions charged by foreign intermediaries.
NFT based music ventures lack transparency and facilitation in India - which becomes detrimental, for many artists eager to explore but unable to earn at a steady rate. The need for education and mentorship arises, before artists can actually use (and profit from) this new technology.

Yes many things in Bollywood are always "india's first". Hot on the trail of NFT, is Sonu Nigam, one of the biggest Bollywood singers, with a career spanning 30plus years. Sonu Nigam dropped his NFT as a set of new songs. Launched in London earlier this year, and heavily pimped by the likes of Kamal Hasan, Salman Khan and Amitabh Bachhan, the entity is powered by JetSynthesys Mumbai. Sonu Nigam announced that the NFT would be followed with regular auctions of his
yet unheard and unreleased lyrics and poems. Here we are not talking about the music or the given talent, but about the rank and file of actors and singers, with deep pockets, rushing to invest in Metaverse, NFT and the digital worth of their fame and following. The industry is buzzing, speculating with emerging prospects, of gamifying Bollywood stars (and fans alike). But the old market order is back to play, where the biggest and wealthiest players will win and exceptions will be far and few. The stakeholders are also symbols of mediocrity and corruption in Bollywood. Amitabh Bachchan in reality is a known tax evader (Panama Files) and at 80+ years (still) seeks more revenues. While Salman Khan, like many male actors, way past his exaggerated (macho) prime and lacking any real talent, has to reinvent himself as NFT. A Non Feasible Talent ?! Bollystars and their Bollycoins! But wait, millions of diehard fans did toss a dime or two, as devotion and respect for their 'Bollygods'. Alas, in reality one BollyCoin is worth 03 cents as of now!

Metapurse by Metakoven. Real name Vignesh Sundaresan: hosting an event in the virtual metropolis of Origin City to celebrate his recent purchase art by the digital artist Beeple - worth $2.2 million! What followed was Metapurse. The branding and message is clear and simple, aiming at "causes instead of objects" and "intentions instead of profit". The about page reinstates that "ROI is not the primary driver of this fund". Long story short, Sundaresan has been an active player in the crypto universe as early as 2012. His leading appearance, ranked as "100" in Art Review 2021. Sundaresan’s leap into the artworld is bit of anarchy, bit of craze, (or call it dedication). Sundaresan is one of those very savvy players, who has navigated (imagine a pro-surfer) the unregulated, wild frontier world of virtual objects and value. While crypto rivals raised questions about Sundaresan’s past legacy, in 2021 a Reuters investigation revealed further. A series of virtual events (2018-2021), leading to the stellar rise and consequent crash of a crypto-coin Sundaresan had created and floated for investors, to buy into his NFT purchases. Over the last four years the operation had indeed scaled up, worth more than $ 12 million until November 2021. The rest is 'crash history'. The moral of Metapurse? In crypto, a tiny few make millions, because the vast majority tends to lose or continues to speculate (invest).

"We’re just beginning to see how NFTs could potentially shape the future of the music industry. With big names like Kings of Leon, Dead Mau5, Gorillas, Grimes etc having paved the way, we’re seeing more and more artists turning to digital assets..."
hails the Rolling Stone. As fudged as such publications get, one must politely remind ourselves that millions of dollars are spent every year to keep all such "big names" big (if not bigger) and that is never going to be a reality for the vast majority of artists, perhaps as talented or more. Beyond the hoopla, indeed NFTs are out to disrupt the old ranks of the music industry as well as the domination of Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube etc. Challenge the markets of CDBaby, Distrokid, Bandcamp and all such centralized distribution services. NFT does pose unforeseen challenges on current copyright laws. The zeitgeist beyond imagination of the experts who framed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 (ratified in 2002 and in 2007). However DMCA or EU IPR Laws do not apply allover the world, especially in densely populated regions like India, China, Africa, Brazil etc. As of now, Indian IPR laws have practically nothing to say about Crypto / NFT and the implications.

While nation states, economists and banks scramble to throw the net over Big Data, Crypto, NFT, the global proliferation at an individual level is without doubt a very interesting disruptive story. Regardless of geography and language, the billionaires, venture capitalists, actors, celebrities, singers, sport-stars, designers, mindfulness gurus, DJs, producers, models, etc etc are out to ride the 'non-fungible', of hyper-valuation, of millions made (or lost) in minutes and countless 'here today, gone tomorrow' coins. Blockchain, NFT and cryptocurrency in terms of potential or possibilities, has to step beyond the current "casino-quagmire". Or can we just bypass the hype, till the next  new surge comes along? Is NFT equal compensation? In a nutshell, not yet. Majority of NFT providers, regardless of the investment in terms of time, labor and output, are yet to provide a definite structure (stable economy) of revenues to live with. Windfall crypto-profits are but far and few!

Musician regardless of the kind of music they make or play, should be aware, investigate and explore the NFT universe. Given that without risks there are no rewards, yet a gold-rush does not last long. But hey! let's not forget, that making music is not like buying lottery, nor is the artist a token, and the industry is not just about some "Bored (Greedy) Apes".

An objective and visual analysis of the emerging market (Metaverse, NFTs, Crypto and experiential services) can be found here by Mckinsey Quarterly

  • Share:


0 -