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Gunnar Greve believes, with all his heart, that Web3 and decentralized networks are about to turn the music industry upside down. In a good way.
Greve is the long-term manager of Alan Walker, the Norwegian-British electronic music sensation whose tracks have been streamed across audio and video no less than 50 billion (!) times (including user-generated content) – including more than 5 billion times in China.
In addition, Greve is a co-composer of Alan Walker’s music (including the 2015 global mega-smash, Faded).
But all of that is just part of why Greve joins MBW founder, Tim Ingham, on this MBW Podcast (supported by Voly Music).
Alan Walker’s background is intertwined with the world of video games.
Walker is a video games design geek, and proud of it. His music career began when, as a teenager, he began sharing his epic compositions with fellow video games fans online.
Today, Walker (with Greve’s help) has devised his own entire fictional world – The World Of Walker – within which his fans, the Walkers, are (unsurprisingly!) the good guys.
This world extends to Walker’s music videos, which have racked up over 11 billion views on his YouTube channel – which also happens to be the world’s 11th biggest music artist channel on the platform.
It’s no great shock, then, that Gunnar and Alan are rather enthused about the possibilities for Web3’s combination with music – and the impact it can have on artist-fan relationships.
If you’re growing a little weary of all the chatter around the metaverse, NFTs and the blockchain, this is just the pep talk you need.
Listen above, or read edited and abridged highlights from the discussion below.
Can you give us some background on how Alan’s career has been different from the average artist?
I found Alan on YouTube and met them in person for the first time in 2015.
For me, Alan opened up this world of gaming and
online communities. Coming from a hip-hop background from the ’90s, [I saw] a lot of similarities and resemblance to sub-cultural movements [in the online video games communities].
It was a mind-boggling door opener, an invite into a world of an online community of gamers and creators. It shaped my own view of how we should build [Alan’s] brand and what approach we should take when trying to cater to an audience that has a pretty high level of skepticism when it comes to new content and new creation.
“The mask was a sign of solidarity and unity: anyone could be a Walker and Alan Walker [himself] could be any one of his Walkers. It’s an empowering message.”
A lot of people ask, what’s that mask about? Is he hiding? [Walker’s ‘uniform’ as an artist is a baseball cap and mask, making him hard to identify in a crowd.]
You can see that we were watching a bit of Mr. Robot at the time! But it was very much [about] catering to a young demographic of online gamers and an online community where equality is very important. The mask was a sign of solidarity and unity: anyone could be a Walker and Alan Walker [himself] could be any one of his Walkers. It’s an empowering message.
When I met Alan, he had developed his first mobile game at the age of 14. And on my first night at home with the Walkers – the real Walkers, aka his family! – Alan and his younger brother were laying on the floor, assembling a computer – circuit boards and stuff.
We really wanted to create something far beyond a DJ or a song – we wanted to create something where people could kind of live in our world.
What about the World Of Walker?
We wanted to create this universe where the Walkers is a movement, a community of solidarity, a vision and goal, which is to unite to create a better world for all.
We started building out the storyline that basically spans 3,000 years back in time, and goes about a few 100 years into the future. You’re following the ancient Walkers and the modern day Walkers, with Alan [at the] core. [It] has become really a diverse world of immersive entertainment: go on the fandom wiki and you can read pages and pages and pages about characters, happenings, different locations and environments. We have everything from avatars to drones to intricate storylines. [The drones Greve discusses are based on designs created by the artist Beeple, who famously sold an NFT for $69 million last year.]
We wanted to create this enclosed [World Of Walker] community, a closed platform. We’ve now got about 103,000 registered Walkers. It’s a secret platform, you have an identity, which is just a number. Alan is Walker number zero. I’m Walker number One!
“We wanted to create this enclosed [World Of Walker] community, a closed platform. We’ve now got about 103,000 registered Walkers.”
Whether it’s fan-fiction being shared, or just a community forum where you discuss and chat with your fans [about] where your next concert [should be]. Giving opportunities to the fans to engage and initiate activities of their own has made this community more and more vibrant.
What’s down the line is the Walker-verse. That is what my head, my time and my passion have been completely consumed by over the last six months and probably will for the coming year.
We didn’t know when we started [World of Walker] back in 2015 that the metaverse was going to be the future. But sitting here now with the community, Alan with his music, his fan base and everything around it, it does feel like the metaverse couldn’t have come at a better time.
Alan recently STRUCK A DEAL WITH CORITE, a fan-funding platform now integrating elements of the blockchain and Web3 into its business. Can that model change the future of the music industry; this idea that fans take a stake and get a financial return for investing in an artist that they love? Could it even change the historic dynamic, whereby artists received advances from a label as their key source of financing?
For what it’s worth, I think it’s not only a threat, I think Web3, the decentralized economy and fan-driven or fan-fueled activities, participation and direct involvement. It’s [a relationship of] creator to co-creator; that’s going to change completely – a complete 180-degree change – not only the music industry, but the entertainment industry as a whole.
If you look kind of closely at it and go a bit deeper, you will see that the gaming industry is already completely changing on the back of this, [with] these new opportunities and technologies coming in.
“they really see how the decentralized economy but also decentralized consumption – tailored and customized experiences, content and music – is going to completely change the industry that we all love to live in.”
You know, [the Corite deal might] seem weird. Why would we work with a fan funding platform? Alan doesn’t need funding; it’s almost like a bit rude for a guy who has that many followers, views and streams to ask people to fund this news. But it’s not about that.
Corite represents a very interesting and exciting team, but also a mindset and a view of the future. I think a lot of new and emerging artists will find their breakthrough via a fan-funding and crowdfunding platform.
But what I find the most interesting about these guys – and in general, the world of Web3 and blockchain technology – is the fact that, they really see how the decentralized economy but also decentralized consumption – tailored and customized experiences, content and music – is going to completely change the industry that we all love to live in.
What about NFTs? A scam or the future?
There aren’t [many] marketplaces or [NFT] players out there who haven’t approached us in the last three years. We’ve been offered so much money [to do Alan Walker NFTs], it’s almost, in my opinion, a bit shameful.
I think NFTs as we’ve seen [them] in these last two years, is a wave and a bit of a bubble. Mainly because people really don’t understand [Web3] just yet, how to use it and what to utilize it for.
For us, the big auctions and one-on-one [NFT sales] are really not that interesting; at the end of the day it’s driven by 3,000 to 4,000 heavy whale crypto [enthusiasts/investors], and the value of what is being paid [versus what is being] created is not consistent – they’re not mirroring each other in the way they should be.
We’ve been exploring and doing a lot of work – observing other people’s failures and successes – to really see how NFTs will become a key and imperative part of everything we do. And for that I think you again have to look at the gaming world.
“There aren’t [many] marketplaces or [NFT] players out there who haven’t approached us in the last three years. We’ve been offered so much money [to do Alan Walker NFTs], it’s almost, in my opinion, a bit shameful.”
I don’t know if you’re familiar with Axie Infinity, or some of the NFT games out there that have now created an entire, tokenized economy around their games.
Axie Infinity is a very simple avatar game, where you buy your avatar as an NFT, create a wallet straight away, do all your transactions and interactions in the game on the blockchain.
[It has] 1.5 million monthly active users, and it’s done USD $4 billion in transactions. They understand what [NFTs] are; it’s not about creating a fancy looking video and selling it for $2 million online. It’s about creating utilities and assets that can live, and that can create value for the future for whoever holds them.
Everyone who approaches [NFTs] as a money grab is going to fall and hit themselves on the head – or somewhere less pleasant – because that’s really not what this is about.
NFTs are going to play a huge role for those artists who understand it, and I see some artists now that are really starting to get the hang of it.
I can’t wait to share with the world what we have in store.
MBW’s podcasts are supported by Voly Music. Voly’s platform enables music industry professionals from all sectors to manage a tour’s budgets, forecasts, track expenses, approve invoices and make payments 24/7, 365 days a year. For more information and to sign up to a free trial of the platform, visit VolyMusic.com.