Why Do NFTs Matter for Music?

The cryptocurrency-adjacent digital art format has driven millions of dollars in sales for musicians in recent days. Is it a force for democratizing the industry or just more hype?

On February 28, Grimes auctioned off $5.8 million worth of digital art pieces within 20 minutes. More specifically, she sold NFTs. Short for “non-fungible tokens,” these cryptocurrency-adjacent virtual collectibles have recently attracted vigorous debate in the music community and beyond. The same weekend as Grimes’ sale, electronic musician 3LAU sold $11.6 million in NFTs, while Latin-trap star Ozuna sold out a batch of NFTs for about another $800,000. Now Kings of Leon are getting in on the action.

The NFT sales boom has touched off a mainstream music industry gold rush, which some proponents argue could become a long-term boon to artists who have suffered economically under the streaming-era status quo. But the frenzy also raises difficult questions about class and the value of art in the age of digital reproduction. Here’s a brief rundown of what music NFTs are, and why they’re sparking conversations about more than just chasing money.

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