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Money Choice: Why I believe NFTs can empower musicians

Tan Hanjin, the Singapore singer-songwriter living in Hong Kong, made his first NFT drop in March 2021. (PHOTO: Tan Hanjin)
Tan Hanjin, an award-winning Singapore singer-songwriter living in Hong Kong, made his first NFT drop in March 2021. (PHOTO: Tan Hanjin)

By Lyn Chan

SINGAPORE — Digital artist Beeple, aka Mike Winkelmann, caught the world’s attention when his NFT, or non-fungible token, went for US$69 million at a Christie’s auction in March 2021.

Before the stunning sale, the most Beeple had ever sold his work for was US$100, as disclosed on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He also said, "I think you're going to see a lot more people do this, and a lot more artists take this approach, just because it is another way you can monetise and make a living.”

To put it simply, an NFT is a digital asset, including images, GIFs, songs, and videos, which is created using blockchain technology. It provides proof of authenticity and ownership.

Tan Hanjin, an award-winning Singapore singer-songwriter living in Hong Kong counts himself as one of those artists.

“Most musicians don’t (even) make enough for rent. In America – the biggest music market in the world – the earnings of 99.8 per cent of registered musicians are below the poverty line. Naturally, the situation is worse in non-American markets,” he lamented in a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore. "When NFTS came along, they appeared to me as the first-ever viable solution.”

He rolled out his evangelistic war cries, but soon realised that he needed to boost his vocal rallying with solid action. “I took on the role of a lab-rat, and put out very basic demos of music NFTs for other musicians to reference and copy.”

Tan’s first NFT drop took place in March last year, nailing his place in history as the first Chinese musician to launch an NFT. The single, Nobody Gets Me, fetched 7 ether (about US$ 20,053) in a matter of seconds, according to a Variety report. Tan was ecstatic, saying, “My entire drop was built around the number seven, and the buyer understood that. It made me happy as a creator that narrative still counts for something in this day and age.”

The 46-year-old who has collaborated with names such as Christina Aguilera, Eason Chan, and Sammi Cheng, has since sold two more NFTs. The xxxx Is An NFT is a 27-second MP4 of a new song. It was made available in 77 pieces, each costing 7 Binance Coins. Tan earned 539 BNB from the effort. The third NFT Tan created is a collection exclusively for his fans. Phase one saw the sale of 48 Hamsterz at 1 ETH.

Three successful drops later, Tan is in the thick of the NFT action. He is already thinking of launching a supply chain-facing music-FI platform. “I want to make a real difference. Meaningful change.”

Meanwhile, he can be found at Cyberport, Hong Kong’s government-supported version of Silicon Valley. Under his care is an accelerator programme that aims to help start-ups keen on NFT creation and/or blockchain adoption.

The evangelism continues.

How much thought goes into creating each NFT?

A lot. The first drop was a demo for any beginner attempting their first drop. Therefore, a one-of-one auction on OpenSea made sense. I started with the single, Nobody Gets Me, as it’s a song about a musician grinding it out in a foreign land. His trials and tribulations. His devotion to the dream. NFTs are viable in my mind, but until I prove it in real life, it remains a dream to the bystander.

For the second, I wanted to prove that music NFTs are viable on other chains; Ethereum gas fees are pricey. The Binance Smart Chain was the only alt smart contract chain available then. I also wanted to demonstrate to the music communities the viability of multiple copies and fixed pricing.

My third NFT drop was to a mini collection to prove that NFTfi – crowdfunding on blockchain – can be done on a very micro scale. That went pretty well.

Describe your NFT creation process for Nobody Gets Me

One week to study, and a couple of days to produce and mint. One week of non-stop marketing on Clubhouse and social media. Three weeks of handholding other musicians and evangelising about NFT in the media.

Research was mostly done on Google, and by talking to crypto-natives that I got to know on Clubhouse. It was long and hard, and continues to this very day.

Opensea is the easiest and most accessible platform for beginners. It has the lowest operating fees. It was the obvious place to release my first demo. Setting up a MetaMask wallet, creating an OpenSea account, and minting for the first time will be trying for anyone. Once you’ve walked it, you’ll know it. It’s not rocket science though; it’s just foreign.

My experiences in researching, creating, and marketing NFTs have strengthened my conviction that NFTs can change the world. It’s just hard to tell now, as the landscape is nascent.

What are your views on blockchain?

I believe the blockchain is here to stay, and will grow to become a major part of our lives.

There are many people and honest businesses suffering in this post-COVID Web 2.0 world. I believe that NFTs and NFTfi are the solutions. Where crowdfunding has failed, NFTfi will succeed. Immediately, automatically, and immutably, buyers get what they pay for, and businesses get paid for what they offer, no matter the sell-through rate.

Creators and businesses can go to market multiple times. Buyers can re-sell the NFTs they bought, and buy other NFTs that they missed out on in the secondary market. This will ‘save’ a lot of creators and businesses in need. NFTfi will create a fair and democratic marketplace for supporters and early investors.

Any advice for others contemplating creating NFTs?

Do it. Just do it. Don’t delay. Don’t be afraid. The time is now. The next guy does not know much more than you do. Even if he does right now, he might not next month. We are extremely early.

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