A Working Musician's Journey in Web3

When I first heard about web3, it was somewhere near the end of 2021, and things were flowing as smoothly and slowly as ever in the web2 world of online working musicians. I immediately experienced one of those “aha” moments in life where I knew something was happening, and I didn’t want to miss out.

At that point, I had created a steady income working as a remote studio guitarist, collected hundreds of reviews in Airgigs, Fiverr, and Upwork, and built up a name as the guy who “serves the song.”

Even though I gained financial freedom, I had long given up being an “artist.” A working musician usually walks in the shadows as the unsung hero you won't know the name of, even though they contributed to most of what you hear in both classics and modern music. It’s a fantastic job that blends passion with hard work but brings little to no artistic satisfaction.

Stepping into the web3 community and slowly catching up on what was going on with the unprecedented success of not-so-popular artists kindled a slow hope that eventually grew in a vision. What if this new movement was a way for working musicians to finally break through both the artist and financial cap put on us from the industry?

I am not a web3 guru and don’t proclaim to have found a formula, roadmap, or definitive guide on working musicians of web3. I want, however, through this article, to share some of my thoughts and tips that helped me and others get started on this yet-to-be oiled web3 music industry. Some ranting and personal tastes are also included!

In web3, a working musician can finally be an Artist.

Even though there is no denying the artistic values of working musicians, in the end, you become what the public makes of you. Even when my name popped up on some recordings or I played with some big-shot artist on stage, the joint agreement in today's music is that the singer is worth knowing the name off, the producer in some rare cases, and that’s it.

No one really cares who does the work or writes the music in some cases. That’s perfectly normal as the Era of the instrument leading the band in Pop music is long gone. And not everyone lives in a music city, and breaks of session work to found a legendary band like Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin.

Of course, some vastly successful working musicians have made a name for themselves as artists in web2 or the real world. However, that is only limited to musicians in developed countries who record/play with huge artists. For example, being born and living in Albania put me many steps behind LA, Nashville, or London session musicians.

As of now, I’ve had a good experience in web3. I’ve been astonished that so many of my colleagues in other countries have been selling their music and art. And most surprisingly, people actually cared enough to ask them how they were doing, what inspires them, and what is the story behind their art.

In my first space, where I played guitar and jammed over some old compositions, I got asked in-depth questions about my art. Being always the person on the side of the show, the biggest form of appreciation for me online was IG comments ( before the bots took over!). Feeling like an Artist for the first time was indeed a great feeling. I can finally share my artist page!

My first space opened my eyes to the possibility of virtually moving to another online world and starting from scratch. It’s not like I don’t want to be the session man; I love that! But I think it’s time to go a bit further and brand myself as also an Artist.

Have a listen to my music if you want to support me then you should only consider buying if you truly like what you hear! I’ve followed my own advice, making it affordable to buy for anyone with both goodwill, and If I can indulge myself, good taste in music.

Follows are not everything, but they are important

Music has become a number game as everything is accountable and measurable. Even in the online working musician world, you need to be the guy with the most reviews and profile to get a chance to get hired.

Apart from it, you have to be very web2 smart to hunt some particular tendencies of various platforms and start selling your services at a very low price. As low as most people in the US wouldn't take the time to open their DAW for that kind of money.

In web3 however, up until this point, you don’t necessarily have to be web2 famous and already have 20k followers to get started. It helps to have them for sure as in time, the numbers game will become important; however, it’s far more worth it to have 100 people you genuinely connect with and that might purchase your NFT than 10k people asking me what pedal I used to get the tone.

The logic behind web3 art to this point is not having massive streams, views to turn them into prospects and leads and close a “sale.” My marketer alter ego hunch tells me that it might come to that point in the future but, as of yet, is as straightforward as it can be.

100 collectors provide far more value massive streams and 100k follow in the web3 world. Many examples of unknown musicians have sold collections worth thousands of USD or more than that only because they build a community following them on web3.

I sometimes compare the web3 world to a small country like Albania, where everybody knows everyone and ends up creating a small group of followers that all invest in each other. Why? Because we are still the only ones here, the trouble starts when the rich investors come from abroad, a.k.a web2 companies and labels.

All this said, now it’s the time to grow the numbers, as trust me that they will matter in the future!

We can break out of the 1 Minute box

I’m being optimistic a bit here as the formula for a modern song has to deliver within 15 seconds and be “platform” friendly to be a hit.

Music has always adapted in a way to physical limitations and technology, for example, there was a limit to how many songs you can put on vinyl or CD. Today though, with even the slightest interactions being measured, pop music production has mostly degraded in machinery that needs hooks after hooks so they can fit into what Tik Tok and Instagram offer.

This Reminds me of what George Orwell wrote in his book “1984.’

“The tune had been haunting London for weeks past. It was one of the countless similar songs published for the benefit of the proles by a sub-section of the Music Department. The words of these songs were composed without any human intervention whatever on an instrument known as a versificator. But the woman sang so tunefully as to turn the dreadful rubbish into an almost pleasant sound."

There is a saying that says, “Before pro tools, we had pros.” The pros, a.k.a, the working musicians, need far more space than the “boxes” of social media platforms. I’m guilty of fitting all the guitar ideas into 60 seconds and trying to wrap it all up inside that time to fit IG.

Here is a time I failed to abide by the 60-second rule and had to resort to YouTube

With these, I want to direct a request to web3 musicians to break out of what they learned in the last 10 years of overly social music. Mint your songs and music like you want it to be. A collector dedicated to buying your NFT will have the attention span of listening to your art. If not, we have to educate the public like the big companies have been doing forever. Why should we do that? Because we can.

Here is the first NFT of my ‘Fleeting Thoughs’ collection - ’The Outer World’ is a one-take live guitar loop composition in what I call 'the zone' - the moment you just play, not think, yet feel everything. This ‘Sound Painting” is a blend of my music with the genius artwork of my good friend Erlind Selba.

We can break the geographical pay gap

NFTs do not abide by the rules of other industries where location is still the most crucial factor.

Web2, even though it has globalized the world, still values geographical location above all when it comes to accessibility and the distribution of value. This is especially true for musicians where the fanbase is calculated from the industry as the total sum of money they can offer in their lifetime to the artist. For working musicians, the logic is the same. One of my recording sessions for a big artist is still paying around 30% of what I would be paid if I was in the US recording the same song.

You, the reader, might find this confusing as you have everything accessible in a developed country. Just to make a comparison, in my country Albania, Spotify was only available for download last year, and we still cannot monetize YouTube videos even if we have millions of views.

Poor music is not going to last long

The NFT music space is flooded with music artists of all levels. Without sugar coating it, I would say that more than 50% of all musicians in the NFT space are below average in terms of songwriting and production of their craft and yet many sell out due to the new nature of this economy and the community-oriented system.

That is perfectly normal as there will always be differences in skill level, which will push people to develop further. In time though this will change and the best will always stand out. Another reason is that the community keeps expanding and more music lovers of all genres, along with industry experts are coming into the space.

Keeping this in mind, as music artists, we should aim to put quality first, even though you could at the moment sell a lower quality version of your music and still earn the same amount.

This lack of standards for quality and accountability are the main factors that tell us that we should apply a set of rules that guide us towards long-term success.

  • Underpromise and overdeliver
  • Don’t speculate without any basis
  • The value should come first
  • Compare yourself to the real world not only to web3 when providing value
  • Keep in mind that you will be accountable in the future more than you are now in the space

More on those and some history talk here

Don’t release before having at least a small community

Collecting small wins is the way to success.

My advice is to wait until you at least know that you might sell some of the NFTs your mint. First, because a collection that sells out fast has a higher chance of going up in price, and second because it will keep you pumped for more.

The price of your first mint, in my opinion, should be a decision dictated by research. In my case, I asked people how much would they spend on an NFT edition of a song and looked up the other prices on the platform I decided to release on.

Practice talking like you practice an instrument

I have a big mouth and like to talk (selectively) about everything. This kind of helped me make it through the session world and most of the other activities.

Sharing your story and the story behind your music is the A, B, C of music NFTs. Fail to touch a heart by saying what your song means and it will be hard to succeed. You don't have to be very smooth about it as a poet, just be real, practice a bit and get some help from others. And the main thing is that if you don’t want to do the talking and shilling game, don’t do it!

Show People, Don’t Tell them about your work or that all are going to make it (The common WAGMI). It’s not yet proven by any statistics that the common way is the only one way to sell NFTs or to become succesfull in a space where no final goal is yet set.

Personally, I’m not a fan of being bullish to sell NFTs. I believe music should be bought by people who appreciate it, and you can’t shove it down their throats. My vision is to build a community that likes me and my music. Due to the laws of economics, the more devoted followers I have, the more chances I will have to sell my NFTs either from one of them or from an outside collector who sees potential.

If you agree with me on the above points then you might like my seemingly ‘controversial’ article NAGMI - Not All Are Going To Make It (and that’s fine)

If I was to state my goal after giving some thought to it, I’d say

My goal with my NFT music is not just to switch from being only a behind-the-scenes working musician to an artist - I aim to build the roadmap of the future musician in the web 3 world and mix both the visual and audio world into one meaningful experience. Help me revive the dying art of the studio player, without which none of our favorite classics would ever come to existence.

And if you want to support me, collecting any addition of my track ‘Desert’, on Mint Songs, my NFT on Foundation, or contributing whatever sum takes me a step closer to that. I think I’m about 70% at putting everything together and all the money would be spent on paying up for designers and developers.

Keep being a working musician.

Make your schedule, plan, and put a certain amount of time and consistency into music NFTs daily.

Think of it as an investment that will pay it in both Branding and Financial Freedom. However, do not keep all your financial hope on web3 on selling your music as the price might lower drastically over time. There are many other ways for musicians in the web3 world to be rewarded financially and to create a buzz, such as:

  • Write and compose music for other NFT projects.

It’s the best time to DM people you meet first in spaces and ask if they would want a theme song for their NFT project. In my opinion, either offer your service entirely for free at first in exchange just for that exposure. Luckily it’s not the kind of exposure club owners offer instead of the small bucks they would pay anyway!

  • Share your wisdom through live events.

There is a profound lack of music professionals as of now in web3 and an overload of them in web2. Just think of the many pros you can learn from in YouTube that has content enough to overshadow all the web3 creators.

Now it’s the time to organize Twitter spaces, discord lives, twitch streams, and whatever you can think of to brand yourself as professional. You can join my spaces too.

  • Take part in the serious music NFT project.

I do not advise you to take part in all NFT projects as that would put you out of focus. Pick 3-5, join their Discord, and be a good active participant. Personally, I had the best experience of web3 being part of the PixelBands project and even got in touch with the founder to run an event together.

All I did was show up, make quality music, and when the time came.

If you are up for it, you can join the Discord I created for working musicians of web3.

  • Collaborate with other musicians/visual artists you like

Don’t give your music to anyone just because they sent you a DM to collaborate. Think of it as if all the musicians in your city wanted you to play for them, you would be extra picky to choosing the best ones!

If you like a musician’s or artist's style and vision, DM them right away and be the first one to ask for a collab.

Final thoughts on NFTs for working musicians

A good musician knows how to listen, and that is exactly what we should apply in the web3 world.

Paying attention to what’s happing around us while preparing our repertoire of music and artwork will pay off. Even if not soon, in some year’s time we will be the established web3 musicians others will refer to!

And I want to be friends with you that took the time to read this! Hit me up on Twitter or on Discord. And If you’re up for some hypnotic acoustic guitars with an oriental feel this track might just be your cup of tea. For the non-crypto readers who just want to buy me a coffee, feel free to do that too!

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