The Future of Music: Crypto Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon are an American rock band that formed in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1999. The band is composed of brothers Caleb, Nathan, and Jared Followill, along with their cousin Matthew Followill. The band’s early music was an awe-inspiring blend of Southern rock and Garage rock, along with a strong Blues influence. However, as bands get older their music adapts to the conditions of their success, evolving into a more alternative rock sound readymade for arenas and stadiums. Twenty-two years and eight studio albums later, Kings of Leon have returned with their 8th studio album titled ‘When You See Yourself’.
‘When You See Yourself’ sees the Kings of Leon ditch the arena-sized sounds of songs that we first became accustomed to through singles such as ‘Sex On Fire’ and ‘Use Somebody’, to embrace their more mature, laid-back versions of themselves. Caleb, the lead singer, explained: “We know a lot of people would love us to come out with long hair and moustaches, to be the guys from ‘Youth & Young Manhood’ again, but we’re a different band now.” Moreover, as the band grows wiser, their audiences grow with them, and ultimately so does their musical style.
Much like the general consumer, as they become older their priorities become more financially-swayed, and this is no different for the Nashville-based band. The launch of ‘When You See Yourself’ will see Kings of Leon become the first band to release an album as a form of cryptocurrency. The album will also be available on all major digital platforms, including Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, and Amazon, but topically, through YellowHeart, a fully decentralized platform that will allow artists and teams to sell directly to fans. The YellowHeart version of the album will be the only one released as a non-fungible token, a form of cryptocurrency that holds assets rather than money.
The tokenized versions of the album range from anywhere between $95, to $2,500, with each individual package supplying the consumer with their own individual listening experience. The most basic experience includes enhanced media, such as a moving album cover, a digital download of the music, and a limited-edition vinyl album.
This makes the NFT itself a kind of digital limited edition with its own collectability and value, much like rare vinyl albums — you can sell it to another collector for whatever they’re prepared to pay for it. Meanwhile, the band also sold a handful of “golden ticket” experiences, that would include a lifetime pass for the band’s concerts, guaranteeing four front row tickets and VIP treatment on every tour.
However, it appears that music has always been destined to transition towards an Ethereum based economy as a potential solution for the music industry’s problems. The traditional model for music releases is fueled with certain complications, with the artist typically getting paid last in the long chain of executives and promoters. For the artists, NFTs bypass streaming and traditional download markets and puts the money straight into the band’s bank account, which is a huge bonus when live large gigs still seem a way off, and the income from streaming services still proving to be rather minimal. Whereas for fans, the uniquity of NFTs marks a return to the concept of value in owning music, much like with vinyl and CDs, but with a more utopian facing twist. Music now becomes an investment.
The switch to the NFTs has not only seen Kings of Leon’s bank account grow significantly, but the innovative way of releasing music has seen their new album skyrocket straight to number one in the UK album charts. Moreover, in Sam Steiger’s review of ‘When You See Yourself’ he wrote: “It’s with very good reason that Kings of Leon have, for almost 20 years, been able to consistently bother the upper limits of the charts. I see no reason for that trend not to continue.” Whilst Kings of Leon have hit it big with the NFTs in terms of sales, the real question has to be, is this the future of music? It appears that despite being a huge step in the evolution of music, the blockchain NFTs still maintain certain limitations.
Notably, the climate controversy surrounding NFTs. NFTs are partially responsible for millions of tons of planet-heating carbon dioxide emissions generated by the cryptocurrencies used to buy and sell them. Some artists who have already benefited from the craze think it’s a problem that can be easily solved, whereas others believe the proposed solutions are nothing more than a pipe dream. Another limitation appears to be that the cost to ‘mint’ an NFT starts at a minimum of $70, which means that the price of the token would start in the region of $100. The high cost is a result of the online sales platform taking anywhere from 3 to 15% of the transaction for the initial sale, causing the average fan to be priced out. NFTs seemingly appear to only be available to the super-fans exclusively.
There are clear concerns that come with NFTs, with one, in particular, being the ecological concern, however, artists believe that the environmental impact of tokens can be easily fixed through further extensive research. Moreover, with the average listener supposedly being priced out of purchasing the token, Kings of Leon’s new album has shown that they will sell regardless, and can even prove to be a strategic investment as opposed to a token bought solely to listen to, given how the token price fluctuates much like crypto stocks. Welcome to the future of music.