Ethereum Coin. (PC-Shutterstock)
Independent Tamil musician Kaber Vasuki has sold a phone demo of his song ‘Vasanam’ as a non-fungible token (NFT) for 50 ETH — valued at nearly Rs 1.5 crore at the time of sale. This is the biggest reported sale of an NFT by an Indian artist amid an unprecedented interest in digital works.
The buyer: Vignesh Sundaresan aka Metakovan, whose trust purchased a digital collage named “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days” by an artist named Beeple for nearly $70 million.
Metakovan bought the NFT for ‘Vasanam’ on May 11 as a personal purchase while Beeple’s Everydays was bought by his Metapurse Fund in an online auction in March. ETH is abbreviation/symbol for a cryptocurrency named Ethereum.
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Kaber said he got the idea for making an NFT when he started researching on cryptocurrencies and blockchains earlier this year. “Once the first few NFT sales by artists were announced in the media, I realised this might be a way for me to raise funds for my music too,” he told this reporter.
For cryptocurrency noobs, an NFT is a digital certificate of ownership that is stored on a distributed ledger. “I basically created an NFT — a digital record stating that the music file was created by me. The buyer has bought the music file and the record stating that the file has been transferred to them,” Kaber said.
The popularity of digital art and NFT has been on the rise in the recent past, especially after the March 11 sale of Everydays for a record $69.3 million at a Christie’s auction.
Metakovan, whose crytpo-based Metapurse Fund focuses on NFTs and other virtual properties, said he has known Kaber since 2012. “Listening to him, I discovered something quite powerful. Growing up, I looked to the Beatles or Pink Floyd for insights about the human condition, but there was still a vacuum. With Kaber, I suddenly had music and poetry that drew from my own everydays — the buses, the people, the slang. A philosophy I could identify with at every level,” he said.
The magnitude of this sale signals that NFTs bear a huge potential to affect multiple industries including art, media, gaming and music. With respect to indie music in particular, NFTs offer a new avenue for fundraising, auctioning rare material, creating limited edition packages and even creating unique royalty splits and copyright deals.
"This is incredible news, especially for independent musicians,” said Chennai-based musician Troydon Netto. "The last few years have been especially tough for us indie artistes, and this definitely opens up an avenue worth exploring.”
Speaking to this reporter, Kaber said he did not doubt the NFT market for digital art. “I knew I was offering something of value to potential collectors, but I initially doubted if anyone would purchase my NFT. My initial price was set to 2ETH…and then I dropped the price to 1 ETH,” he said.
Soon, doubt would change to surprise and surprise to disbelief. The first bid from an anonymous bidder came to around 5 ETH, and that was followed by a bid from Singapore-based Metakovan for 50 ETH!
“I am very happy, but, more than that, it felt like a validation for a decade of sticking to my belief in my work and consistently putting out music despite various challenges. It really felt like a payday after a decade of struggles,” said Kaber about creating a record through the NFT sale.
NFTs have been riding the boom in cryptocurrencies. These tokens essentially prove the uniqueness of a digital work, used to crack a vital problem in online collectibles such as digital art, or even tweets— give ownership of items that can be easily duplicated.
Metakovan feels that popular, mainstream music predominantly focuses on mass markets which cater to majority tastes, and in the process the smaller markets are crushed—and it is here that NFTs play a big role.
“India is a multicultural place. But culture is forced to cater to a mass market. With crypto, and NFTs in particular, you now have a new patronage model, a micro market model, an economy that prizes the producer. The relevance of all this is that art need no longer be produced just for the mass market. It can be produced at very high quality, even for a niche audience, a people that resonate strongly with it,” he replied in a written response to questions asked.