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NFTs: Are They Relevant for Radio?

While there is no simple answer, it is a fun subject to explore

I rarely purchase art. But an original Chuck Jones animation cell of Bugs Bunny promoting MTV’s launch — complete with its original hand-drawn sketch — seemed like a great investment. 

I plunked down $400, a lot of money for me at the time, figuring a massive payoff would follow. While I continue to enjoy the art, I’m still waiting to make bank. If only Bugs had been digital and NFTs had existed, I might be living large today!  

You’ve no doubt heard about NFTs and perhaps even wondered if there’s an application for radio. While there is no simple answer, it is a fun subject to explore. 

“NFT” stands for non-fungible token. Essentially, it’s a unique digital token of authenticity, stored in blockchain. NFTs can be anything digital: art, poems/lyrics, music, spoken word, even tweets or posts. 

NFTs prove “ownership” of a specific work. That ownership may or may not convey copyright or reproduction rights. The strangest part is that while you may own the NFT, that same piece may, for example, appear for free download elsewhere. 

The value is in the NFT itself because it creates scarcity of that product. As NFTs sell, they display a list of previous owners. The advantage to music artists is that they can potentially sell directly to fans. NFT platforms could offer artists a share in the sales of their songs, art, etc.  

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Amazing sums have already been scored. A year ago, edgy Canadian musician Grimes auctioned off digital art that garnered nearly $6 million. Graphic designer Beeple initially made over $10 million on just two crypto-art pieces and then one of his pieces was auctioned off by Christie’s for $69 million. YouTuber Logan Paul has also sold clips for up to twenty grand — yep, the same ones you can watch for free.  

iHeart radio has begun experimenting with NFTs. Last fall, it utilized NFTs for contesting around the iHeart Radio Music Festival. The company is now touting their partnership with NFT platform OneOf, to sell NFTs for their nationally syndicated show “The Breakfast Club.”

“OneOf and ‘The Breakfast Club,’ including both the on-air broadcast and digital podcast, have teamed up for an exclusive partnership to bring the accessibility of NFT’s to a mass audience, give diverse artists a platform in this emerging space, and create six drops of digital NFT collectibles inspired by the morning show and its legendary hosts,” iHeartMedia wrote in a press release in February.

The NFT platform OneOf, which is backed by Quincy Jones, was named “the official collectible NFT partner for the 2021 iHeartRadio Music Festival.” Digital festival posters were created by artist Cory Van Lew and signed by artists and talent that attended the festival in Las Vegas.

OneOf has also partnered with Warner Music Group and The Grammy Awards and brought in a cool million for a never-released song by Whitney Houston.

I did stumble onto one international streaming NFT radio station on Sound Cloud. It’s impossible to tell if they’re having success. They claim to be a non-profit platform for independent musicians, clubs and festivals. Likely the attempt is aspirational, but you gotta give ’em credit for trying.

If nothing else, the subjects surrounding NFTs are generating a lot of talk on radio and as fodder for podcasts. Many podcasts are dedicated solely to the subject, while many more are full-length episodes.

The NFT Talk Show Podcast is hosted by artist and collector Toni Payne.

Would I invest time and money in NFTs or advise station to jump in? As a stunt, sure. As real business, I don’t see it yet. 

I did collect classic radios for a time, but soon ran out of room, money and interest, so clearly I’m not the guy who takes big risks on even collectable earthly assets, let alone digital bytes. There may be something in NFTs that works for selling music directly to audiences, but that’s a long putt as well and works against the established order — which, unless involved, will neither endorse nor enable. 

So if you’re interested in NFTs, I say:  Best of luck! Let me know how it goes. And if it doesn’t work out, I do have a classic Bugs Bunny animation cell that may be of interest…

The author is a veteran multiplatform media and marketing executive. Email [email protected].