Non-fungible ‘tokens’ for talent

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Express News Service

CHENNAI: By bridging the gap between artistes and fans, by encouraging conversations around the art and by allowing independent artistes to establish their presence without having to be a part of the commercial music space — the Internet has revolutionised the music industry. But, time and again, corporations within and outside the music industry, seem to have found new ways to reap profits from the ones already struggling to fund their projects.

Adding to the existing complexities, the pandemic has only worsened their plight by depriving them of their other sources of income live gigs and international tours. While the struggle to stay afloat continues, on the brighter side, the music world is slowly warming up to the growing trend of NFT (Non-fungible tokens) a rare collectible that is stored on a digital ledger.

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Musicians can create NFT to auction off various forms of digital media to their fans who pay using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum and others. Just as this concept is picking up pace, the recent news of the world’s first reported sale of an NFT by a Tamil independent artiste, Kaber Vasuki, grabbed many eyeballs. The artist sold a rare phone recording of Vasanam, one of his most popular songs, for 50 ETH (valued at approximately Rs 1.5 crore at the time of sale).

“NFT is a huge leap for artistes to raise funds. It’s a digital equivalent to a stone carving as nobody can delete the record of a transaction. I’ve been singing since 2008 and was the first Tamil artiste to crowdfund an independent album Azhagu Puratchi in 2014. Money has always been a problem, so, this is a boon for artistes like me,” says an elated Kaber, over a call from Canada. Penned in 2012 and released in 2015, Vasanam only gained popularity in 2018 and he put it for auction this April. So, what makes it special? “Unlike a film song, an indie takes its time to reach the audience.

So every time I write a song, I record it. Few musicians get to listen to the raw version. That’s what makes this demo special. I’m glad it reached the hands of someone who respects and enjoys my work,” says Kaber, the former vocalist of Kurangan band. He has also contributed lyrics, vocals and music to films like Aelay, Metro Maalai and Dhaarala Prabhu. Singapore-based Metakovan bought Kaber’s NFT on behalf of the Metapurse fund, an NFT Fund and Production Studio.

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Following this feat, does Kaber think NFT can help artistes? “NFT is not the complete solution. It offers a way to develop the existing business model to make it more favourable to artistes. I’ve been reading up a lot on this and I’m confident that NFT can redefine how artistes finance their project. This way, you can auction some of your works to your die-hard fans who pay the highest bids, without a middleman. You wouldn’t have to depend on the film industry or get caught in the rut.

Instead, have a smaller audience and produce quality content. I’m not denying there’s a flipside to NFT but it’s worth exploring,” he suggests. Kaber recently collaborated with rapper Balan Kashmir, singer Anjana Rajagopalan and artist Alpha Something, and has released a few singles. He’s also working with musician Praveen Mani. “I haven’t been in India for the last two years. But, it’s good to see the Tamil indie scene evolve with such promising talents.

Unlike before, more avenues have opened up for performance. I’m glad youngsters are wielding music as a weapon to bring about a change with hard-hitting lyrics. Legends like AR Rahman have also started working with indie artistes. All we need is some recognition and unshakable trust in the self to make it big,” signs off Kaber Vasuki. The artist will be breaking down NFT for musicians in simple terms for better understanding on his social media accounts on Instagram and Twitter. For details, visit Instagram/ Twitter: Kaber Vasuki

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How NFT helps

Musicians can create NFT to auction off various forms of digital media to their fans who pay using cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.

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