Is the Future of Live Gigs in NFTs? UMEK Says “Yes”

Techno producer UMEK is just about to drop his first NFTs, among them the first-ever tokenized livestream and live event. We discussed the potential that these new shifts have for the booking of emerging artists.
Is the Future of Live Gigs in NFTs? UMEK Says “Yes”
Opinions
Urska Jaksa

Do NFTs have long-term potential in the music industry? UMEK sure thinks so. We sat down for an interview with one of the biggest Techno DJs, Viberate’s co-founder and the latest artist about to join the NFT club, this time with a twist: besides the fresh remixes of his iconic track "Lanicor", a classic in the Techno library, fans and event organizers will also bid on his first-ever livestream and live gig NFT.

      📌 If you're new to NFTs, here’s everything you need to know as a musician.

"You can now simply mint a gig, which I think is fantastic. We have the opportunity to help artists and organizers create transparent and secure bookings."

Artists have been minting tokens for their digital art, tracks, even concert tickets, but a live gig NFT is a new one. Take us back to the origin of this idea.

It all began in 2017, when my team and I started Viberate with one main goal in mind – let’s create a digital marketplace for artists, sort of an independent talent agency. So far, we’ve built the biggest database of verified artists out there, but the booking feature has yet to see the light of day.

With NFTs it all clicked. You can now simply mint a gig, which I think is fantastic. We have the opportunity to help artists and organizers create transparent and secure bookings. My NFT drop on April 29 is a test drive for that. If it succeeds, we can expand it and include the booking feature on the Viberate platform.

UMEK drops first-ever live gig NFT.

UMEK drops his first NFTs on April 29, including three remixes of his 1999 hit track "Lanicor" and the first-ever tokenized livestream and live event. 

Are NFTs here to stay?

Every new thing that comes along is always labeled as a fad, but an artist will always push and test boundaries. That’s the point of art. NFTs can become a staple of our time and inject some real creativity.

Coming from Techno, adopting new technologies comes quite naturally – we work with different programs and test new gadgets every day. But even us DJs, who are more tech-savvy, still have a pretty archaic way of booking. In all this NFT craze, you want to do something groundbreaking that nobody has ever done before. For us, that is definitely tokenized gigs.

 

Most of the artists making the news with their whopping NFT sales are superstars and smaller artists can’t possibly match the amount of buzz they’ve created. Are livestreams a possibility for smaller, unestablished artists to get into the game?

We’ve been hearing the news of NFTs with ginormous price tags, but that’s not the only way to go. Imagine you aren't the biggest DJ in the world, maybe you’ve mostly done local gigs before – but you know you can create a unique personal experience for your fans.

Livestream NFTs via Zoom or similar services are a great solution during the coronavirus crisis, because you don’t need a booking agent and there’s no booking fee. You mint your livestream NFT, someone buys it, you set up cameras at home, fix the audio as agreed in the smart contract, and roll.

In these times, which are hitting artists extremely hard, someone can show their support by purchasing an artist’s livestream NFT. This could be an actual lifesaver if the corona crisis continues for a longer period.

“I don't see livestreams as NFTs replacing live gigs. There's nothing that compares to that feeling on the dancefloor. But livestreams allow artists to create a unique experience for their fans. And NFTs can help fuel the booking process in a way that benefits both artists and fans.”

So livestream NFTs can help smaller artists in a time when all live gigs are on pause. But can these two concepts coexist? How do you see tokenized livestreams once the industry recovers?

Livestreams can be as simple as a one-hour set or for a birthday party where five people share the expense. You can cooperate with a visual artist, maybe add a meet & great ... It’s on the artist to decide what the extra ingredient will be. That’s what makes it different from a “traditional” live gig.

It's not the same, it's a completely different experience, and there will always be people who'll want to rave. There's also plenty of people who'd like to have a party at home for a small group. Artists can solve the question of demand, and NFTs are a good tool to do so.

I can see this being used in the future a lot. Even when we get back on track, a completely new market has opened up, one where you can reach the artist directly.

"Imagine you aren't the biggest DJ in the world, maybe you’ve mostly done local gigs before – but you know you can create a unique personal experience for your fans. Livestream NFTs are a great solution."

This brings us to the initial idea, which could introduce a whole new way of booking artists with no talent agency backing.

Exactly, it has great potential for smaller artists, for those on the margins. Bigger artists will still use their managers and booking agents, but it’s so much harder to get representation when you're just establishing yourself. Most of the 0.5M artists we have on Viberate don’t have an agent, and with a booking feature, we could become one for them. Airbnb did a great job of showing that something like this is possible.

What’s the role of NFTs in this?

NFTs can solve a lot of negotiation efforts with smart contracts. Both parties have to agree, you know exactly what the price is – take it or leave it – or bid on it. Especially if you’re an unknown artist, you can set a price and you can’t be swindled out of your money. You can’t find yourself in a situation where you aren’t paid after playing a gig or are pressured into a discount. This security is one of the strongest components I see in NFTs. It makes it easier for artists with no agency backing to manage the booking process.

It’s true you still have a sort of intermediary with NFTs, but the percentage is significantly lower, you can’t be steered and told how to operate. You can make more decisions for yourself and build your career in your own way. The connection here is amazing.

The live music industry got hit especially hard during the pandemic. With most artists feeling the financial consequences, can NFTs ease the pain and help artists transition to the new normal?

It's super hard for many artists right now. A lot of them unfortunately already had to opt for different jobs, because making music just doesn't pay the bills right now. Livestreams can put a band-aid on the wound, and minting your live gig NFTs to secure a couple of shows for when the industry finally reopens can give you an additional source of income right now. And in the meanwhile, you're still able to produce your tracks.

"NFTs can solve a lot of negotiation efforts with smart contracts. Both parties have to agree, you know exactly what the price is – take it or leave it – or bid on it. Especially if you’re an unknown artist, you can set a price and you can’t be swindled out of your money."

What’s the future of tokenized live gigs?

Gigs have the potential to become tradeable. If you have a platform like Viberate – which shows up-and-coming artists based on their online stats, where you can check every artist, go through their tracks and socials –, booking the ones with the potential to get big isn’t that hard.

The owner of a token can also sell it later for a higher price. Buy it, save it, resell it when the artist gets bigger. Voila. When a DJ becomes successful, the price of their live performances goes up and there’s a whole new secondary market. It’s like buying Amazon stock at the beginning. You don't want to miss the train.

Let’s end with a classic. On April 29, you’ll also mint three remixes of your 1999 hit track "Lanicor". With a constant flood of comments such as “it still slaps”, “a killer”, and a bunch of other nostalgic words of praise, it’s obviously a fan favorite. How did the remixes come to be?

Two tracks changed my life in 1999 and 2000: "Lanicor" and "Gatex". Suddenly there were so many booking requests we couldn’t handle them all – six, seven for the same date.

In retrospect, it is a piece of art that I put out into the world without realizing it. During that time, I was making five tracks a day and "Lanicor" was the product of probably two hours of work. There was still a feeling of “wait, this track is really something”. And then there’s this magic that happens once you put it on vinyl. I remember that Dave Clark was spinning in Ambasada Gavioli and I couldn’t be there because I had a gig. My friend brought him my vinyl record, and he played it then and there. He liked the track and became one of the biggest supporters of "Lanicor".

"Lanicor" is one of those tracks I’ve been wanting to remix for the longest time. One of the three remixes has been ten years in the making, the other took five years, and the third three years. Now there’s this great opportunity to refresh this classic and transform it into a collectible.

What can fans get with the "Lanicor" remixes?

When "Lanicor" came out, it defined an era. This is a chance for my fans to own a piece of Techno history, a period we’ll all look back on. My goal was to create something one-of-a-kind, but still make it accessible. That’s why one of the three remixes comes as a single copy, while the other two have 10 and 30 copies, respectively. I'll also destroy the logic files so I can never re-create these tracks.  The one limited copy is for somebody who wants to own something nobody else has, and the editions with multiple tokens have a fixed price and are more affordable for my fans. This way, they can still be part of this story and get a collectible.

Urska Jaksa

Urska Jaksa

Managing Editor at Viberate
Storyteller with a nerd eye for music data. Believes in the healing power of group singing, while her ultimate cure are live shows.