Web3 can help the music industry save the planet.

The following MBW op/ed comes from Mike Walsh (pictured). Walsh is UK Head of Strategic Partnerships at Serenade, as well as a Founding Committee Member of music industry climate charity EarthPercent. Launched in 2021 by Australian tech entrepreneur Max Shand, Serenade bills itself as an “eco-friendly, ground-breaking new artist/fan-centric web3 music platform”. Last month Serenade launched ‘Digital Pressing’ – a new, collectible music format that is chart-eligible in both the UK and Australia.

It’s been a crazy hot summer throughout Europe, with record temperatures recorded across the continent.

As autumn approaches, the memory of train tracks buckling in the heat, government weather warnings and water shortages will no doubt fade somewhat as we once again settle into the rhythm of everyday life. But all the while the now-parched elephant in the room that is catastrophic and irreversible climate change smoulders menacingly in our peripheral vision.

The climate emergency is painfully real but, as Brian Eno has said, it must be re-framed as the “climate opportunity”.

What can we do to make things better for future generations with the tools we have; emerging and established? There are many answers in all sectors to be found in technology, and the music industry is no different.

The really smart music businesses utilising web3 tech (as opposed to the other way round), understand that this nascent technology can be used for a greater good, such as:

  • The potential for emerging artists to be seen and supported by an audience, and super fans to be seen by some of the biggest acts in the world.
  • Stronger bonded communities around artists.
  • Transparent and accurate recurring royalties for all rights holders (unlike any other format) and the potential to power charity income streams, in perpetuity.
  • Verifiable sense of ownership and provenance to digital music.
  • And, most importantly……. the potential for the music industry to have a significantly smaller carbon footprint.

As these content-rich and carbon-light products scale there is a real opportunity for artists to simply produce less physical stuff. Free up the bands who tell us they feel more like t-shirt manufacturers than artists. And what is the cassette if not just a landfill chart trigger?

Companies in this space who ‘mint’ NFTs (and in our case, Digital Pressings) on demand have no dead stock or warehouses full of product needing eventual disposal.

By minting on Polygon, a blockchain famed for its pioneering environmentally friendly approach, NFTs or Digital Pressings can be delivered at a fraction of the cost to the planet.

To put that in perspective, the carbon footprint of delivering 1,000 Digital Pressings minted on Polygon is lower than that of consuming a single pint of beer in your local pub, or how about this: one tenth of a single tweet.

All forms of musical consumption come with a carbon footprint. It’s an inevitability, and one that we accept as part and parcel of the product and surrounding experience.

Decades of untenable, negligent mass production has led us here; to a point where we view CDs and DVDs as near disposable items, that sit idling on bookshelves, or choking up charity shops, before facing their landfill fate.

Vinyl, for all its sentimental beauty and ability to intimately draw a listener into the musical experience, has a staggering carbon footprint – in fact 197,100 times that of a Digital Pressing.

And these blockchain-based energy efficiencies are only going to improve when Ethereum (by far the single biggest piece of web3 architecture) moves to a more sustainable minting system – due to happen in September this year.

It is also worth remembering that NFTs are NOT crypto, and again the smart companies in this space offer music fans a frictionless and crypto-less fiat currency experience, with the value of their purchases totally divorced from the highly volatile roller coaster of cryptocurrencies.

Are we saying we should all pack in the physical and move to the sunlit uplands of the metaverse? No, of course not, but by providing eco-conscious fans with an alternative ownership format there can be some level of progressive change.

The music consumer experience can be improved – there are still gaps to be filled where downloads and streaming are involved, but it’s still early. And we’re aware of that.

It’s often repeated that were web3 the post-Millennial social media boom, then we’d still be in the MySpace era. The solutions and the products that will define this period are likely still sparks of imagination in an eager entrepreneur’s mind, and by placing environmental awareness at the centre, we can seek to ensure these ideas have the time to come to fruition.

Web3 is not going away, and it is human nature to be suspicious of new things, but let us not tar everyone using these new technologies with the same brush.Music Business Worldwide