“It doesn’t feel like a party at all. It feels like someone is giving birth...” That’s how the music producer Hanjin Tan put it when we prepared to release his first single as an NFT (non-fungible token).
At around 11 pm last Sunday, Tan held a live party on Clubhouse and Instagram to showcase his NFT. While chatting with fans, he was finalizing the subsequent auction at the OpenSea NFT platform. “I’m losing my mind!” he told the party.
At 11:27 pm, he sighed to his relief as his NFT single Nobody Gets Me was finally up to bidding. He became the first Chinese-language musician to release an NFT, and naturally, his work was the world’s first Chinese language NFT-ed song. Soon, three people joined the auction, raising the reserve price of 0.07 ether (around USD120 at the time) to 4 ether (around USD7,000). On the fifth day, the bidding went further up to 6 ether, which was around USD12,000!
To understand why digital assets like NFTs are worth so much, we must first understand how they work. Put it simply, NFT, like cryptocurrency, is based on open and transparent blockchain technology, which is verifiable and scarce. Their difference lies in the “F” in NFT. Fungible means homogeneous – meaning that cryptocurrencies are all fungible tokens because the crypto you have can be exchanged with those with other people as long as they are of the same value. On the contrary, every unit of NFT has a unique identifier and is neither interchangeable nor divisible. It makes NFTs traceable and forging difficult. NFTs, therefore, resemble digital certificates on the blockchain and are suitable for tokenizing precious physical assets or digital works.
For most people, it is difficult to comprehend why someone would spend as much as USD12,000 to buy a single, but a fantastic NFT market is getting hot lately. On March 21, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold an NFT of the world’s first Tweet for 1,630 ether – or USD2.9 million at the time then exchanged into about 50 bitcoins and donated to aid COVID-19 combat in Africa. Retired Japanese porn star Ai Uehara sold three NFT pictures for 31 ether (approximately USD57,000), with the most expensive one priced at 20 ether (about USD38,000).
Tan’s publishing of a song as an NFT was motivated when he was active at the Clubhouse platform, where he was attracted to several “rooms” about NFT and met some artists who had such experience. Then he conceived an idea to conduct an experiment and make himself a guinea pig for all Chinese language musicians.
The renowned musician has been through many ups and downs in his 22-year career. He also witnessed the depression of value of music, from the CD era to MP3 and currently streaming. “Life is difficult for me and my contemporaries. The next generation will only be even harder.”
Performance opportunities shrank for Tan and his fellow musicians thanks to the pandemic. Streaming income “exists, but it can’t feed us.” Now, NFTs may become another way to publish people’s work, and in turn, an additional source of income.
“Come to think of it, if every musician can launch a song and some graphics, their income could match a YouTuber that can support themselves without having to work too hard. Isn’t it quite good?”
The buyer of this NFT will get an IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) link to download the files, which 24-bit/192kHz WAV audio file of Nobody Gets Me, and an MP4 cover animation, which is about seven seconds long. What’s more, they will have an hour-long exclusive zoom conference call with Tan – for his fans, this may be the best part.
Asked how he measures the success of this little experiment, he said: “for the first issuance of NFT, it’s already a success because I’ve made a profit. That proves the feasibility.
“But the experiment hasn’t ended though: is it just the first step, whether it is sustainable remains to be seen.”
Update: The world’s first Chinese music NFT auction concluded at 7 ether (about USD14,500)!