The NFT music rights startup Royal, a privately-held company which received an influx of $55 million in funding from the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz back in November, has teamed up with the hip-hop legend Nas. On Tuesday, January 11, fans will be able to sign up to purchase NFT tokens that represent royalty shares up to 50% in his songs “Ultra Black” and “Rare.”
“Ultra Black,” is the lead single from the artist’s 2021 Grammy Award winning-album King’s Disease, and “Rare,” is a single from follow-up album, King’s Disease II.
How Will The Sale Work?
Royal users can currently sign up on the website to be notified by email when the sale begins, and one song will be available at a time.
Once the sale is live on the site, they can then log in and the limited amount of limited digital assets will be available for purchase, “on a first-come, first-serve basis,” says Justin Blau, an EDM artist who records as 3LAU and alongside D Ross, a co-founder of home-buying startup Opendoor, oversees Royal. “There will be three tiers for each song; gold, platinum and diamond, with diamond being the most exclusive and representing the highest percentage of royalty ownership. Pricing is fixed in the primary sale.”
As far as payment goes, you can use a regular old credit card, or you can opt for cryptocurrency, “specifically USDC on Polygon for crypto payments,” says Blau. “One of our goals is a seamless experience for people who may be new to the NFT world. Checking out with a credit card will be as easy as any online store.”
What Do You Get From Investing In Nas?
Users who sign up with Royal will receive notifications with exact times ahead of the drop, which will be the first live sale of limited digital assets on the platform.
Nas will offer fifty percent of the streaming rights for each song, with different tiers available for each track. “There will be a limited amount of tokens available for each song,” says Blau, “ranging in tiers representing different royalty ownership. 1,110 total tokens for Rare and 760 for Ultra Black.
Fans who purchase shares in Nas’s work, or in any artist who Royal works with in the future (they're not announcing any future co just yet), will not only get royalty earnings, but according to Blau, “they will also be eligible to receive special perks such as access to exclusive discord channels, merch and show tickets. This will vary depending on the artist.”
Why Did Nas Get Involved?
“As a musician, my success is driven completely by my listeners. My livelihood is based on how much my fans support my music. Right now, my listeners aren’t compensated at all for that interaction,” said Nas through a spokesperson from Mass Appeal, his independent record label. “Humans are deeply connected to music, but in today’s digital-first world, it’s impossible to actually own and collect it at the scale we consume it.
“Historically, ownership of music royalties, streaming included, has been exclusively available to labels, hedge funds, and private equity firms as a portfolio asset,” he said. “Royal is changing that by turning music into an investment asset available to everyone.”
Blau says that Royal had a connection to Nas’s team through their investors a16z and people on Royal’s artist team, who presented the opportunity to Nas’s manager Anthony Saleh. “Nas is an innovator and a leader, and that’s why he wanted to be the first artist ever to do this,” says Blau.
Beyond the ability to potentially earn money and bragging rights, Blau thinks that NFTs represent an opportunity for fans to connect with artists in a way that the streaming ecosystem doesn’t currently provide.
“Currently, the digital-first way we consume and interact with music leaves an emotional gap. Before streaming music, people would make physical mixtapes and build vinyl record collections — there was a culture of ownership and community around sharing music that you had an emotional connection to,” he says. “Streaming music is here to stay, but there’s certainly room for innovations that fulfill the human need for ownership and emotional connection, and NFTs are one of them.”
The new digital world can be a tricky one for artists to navigate these days. Will this be a way for Nas to survive the times?
What Is Royal?
NFTs made a high-profile splash in the gaming and the visual art world last year, and while artists such as Kings of Leon offered their album as an NFT, Royal is looking to deepen the connection between non-fungible tokens and the music world. In November, it held a contest to win royalties for Blau’s recent single “Worst Case,” as sort of a dry run for a larger roll out.
“By purchasing streaming royalty rights to 'Ultra Black' or 'Rare,' the owners of those rights will be receiving their earnings via smart contracts, directly proportional to how much of the rights they own,” says Blau. “In October, we tested this with 50% of the rights to the streaming royalties of my recent single, ‘Worst Case,’ where 333 Royal users received LDAs (limited digital assets) linked to those rights. The holders of those assets will receive funds proportional to royalty earnings the song has earned.”