FEATURE: SQUARMS – The Revolution will be tokenised | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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SQUARMS have been doing the rounds for a while now with their specific flavour of dystopian hip-hop electronica. A typical SQUARMS track will oscillate between observations on society at large and sardonic quips about the minutiae of the 20-something sesh-life, slowing down only to point out the contradictions and delusions that lie within. With Dai Jou Bu, the band hope that the format of the release will prove as enlightening as it’s content – all will become clear…

SQUARMS have always had a foot in cyberspace, but most recently they’ve been causing a stir during lockdown with their immersive livestreams, the latest of which was subtitled EAT THE RITCH, and announced their plans for Dai Jou Bu in a pitch-perfect pantomime of dizzying stock market graphics, live cooking and of course some music. This multi-medium binary banquet of a livestream proved the perfect vehicle for SQUARMS to announce that they saw NFTs as the way to bring value back to artists; and that they like their Spotify executives medium rare.

So let’s get into the jargon shall we? 50 copies of the SQUARMS Dai Jou Bu vinyl can be purchased with an NFT attached, an NFT stands for Non Fungible Token and comes from the world of bitcoins, blockchains and all that other cutting edge tech.

Put as simply as possible, an NFT is a verifiable method of creating digital scarcity; a way of bringing exclusivity to a digital piece of content. It’s like Picasso’s signature on a work of art, but in a digital, heavily encrypted form that’s available to all artists. With an NFT you can also trace every previous owner of the content and the fan’s demand for this product can dictate its market value, very much like the fine art world of Rembrandt superfans and die-hard Banksy hipsters, so I like to think anyway. That means artists can be paid in correlation with the passion of their fanbase, rather than at a cynical flat rate like Spotify.

Let’s be honest, the future for independent artists is looking rocky, pandemic aside, Spotify’s near monopoly on the streaming market is set to get much more malevolent with a new scheme asking artists to pay for a boost in their recommendation algorithm. Yep. As if the 0.0031 pence artists get paid per stream wasn’t enough of a shafting, they’ll be expected to go out of pocket for any recognition on the platform; pay to play for the streaming world. Spotify say you don’t have to opt in of course, but it helps. The NFT market places the value of art at the finger tips of the artist, and the people who love that artist with no middle management or shady billionaires necessary.

an artist could stand to make life-long income on content at a rate dictated by the market value of the product; the more your fans love you, the more they can support you

Another appetising benefit of NFTs is the ability to set specific parameters in order for the content to change hands, one of which could be granting the artist a fixed percentage of the NFT’s resale value, a resale royalty essentially. That means an artist could stand to make life-long income on content at a rate dictated by the market value of the product; the more your fans love you, the more they can support you. SQUARMS say they see this as a way to “completely sidestep the bias of the current model”, adding that “the initial record sales will be cheap; only what they cost us to make”. The vinyl will retain their value in cryptocurrency and will likely appreciate as the band continue to go from strength to strength. The duo became the first ever recorded band to perform on the blockchain as part of Kaneda Records’ PayPal For Punks in 2019, so it’s safe to say they see a genuine future in the crypto landscape, and are already making an impact.

NFTs are not as new as they may seem, they’ve been ubiquitous in the gaming world for quite some time now but there are cases of high profile artists recently adopting this tech, it also appears to be creeping into mainstream conversation. Grimes sold six million dollars worth of digital art as NFTs at the beginning of this month, that’s a figure sure to get Spotify’s algorithm sweating. Deadmau5 recently launched £100,000 worth of NFTs through the World Wide Asset Exchange platform and there are even streaming and concert ticket platforms (Audius and Yellowheart, respectively) utilising this new technology too, and growing fast.

If this so great then why isn’t everybody doing it, I hear you cry. Well, change within the mainstream music industry has never been a streamlined affair, with multiple publishing houses, producers, songwriters etc. owning a share of a single track, the migration over to a decentralised network of artist to fan interaction isn’t going to be plain sailing. And frankly, major labels don’t want to change the current model that has benefited them so greatly all these years. Instant change can come from the ground up with DIY artists like SQUARMS, who are in control of their intellectual property and unwilling to accept the paltry morsels served up by Spotify. As more and more independent artists and services look into the possibilities of blockchains, NFTs and decentralised currency, the hope is big business will be forced to take note in order to remain competitive. For now, I’m putting my stock in SQUARMS.

Watch the video for Dai Jou Bu below


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