Days before 21 Savage sparked debate about Nas’ relevance in the industry, Nas released his fifteenth studio album and the final piece to his “King’s Disease” trilogy – King’s Disease III. The album failed to make much noise, placing outside the top 50 on both the Spotify and Apple Music charts, and with no solo entries on the Billboard Hot 100. The album isn’t expected to make its mark on the charts, as for his last two albums ‘Magic’ & ‘King’s Disease II’, his solo songs underperformed by a large margin to those featuring more relevant artists such as ASAP Rocky. However, one solo song stands out and saves Nas from being certifiably labelled as irrelevant – “Rare”.
“Rare”, off of his earlier album King’s Disease II, hit over 15,000,000 streams on Spotify, the most from any track on that album, and significantly more than most of his other recent solo songs. Here’s why: Nas partnered up with Royal.io to release “Rare” as an NFT collection on the platform. Royal, on the Ethereum blockchain, enables artists to give up ownership of a song or album to fans who reap streaming royalties and other benefits, such as VIP concert tickets and exclusive content. Nas released the song as a three-tier NFT project, hosting $99, $499, and $9,999 options. The project was released 6 months after the song/album did, but sold out in minutes.
Following the sell-out, Nas raised $369,000 by just giving up 50% of streaming royalties for the song (along with other benefits). The project was financially effective for Nas, but less so for his fans. “Rare” would need to garner an additional 73,000,000 streams for the fans to break even on royalties (assuming an average of 0.005$ per stream). The NFT project was released six months after the song’s initial release, the period in which the bulk of streams are gained; so that’s 73,000,000 streams from the day the NFT released. Nas also gained traction, benefiting from a significant jump in engagement on social media at the time of the launch, even more so than the actual album release date.
There’s no denying it’s a smart business move from Nas. He received a $370k payout by relinquishing 50% of the royalties to a song he already got the bulk of streaming revenue from, while still reaping the benefits of increased social awareness and building a more engaged community of fans through shared financial interest, exclusive discords, and other benefits. What this demonstrates is that Nas still has a marketable brand. Perhaps the rapper finds it more difficult to compete against his modern-day competition on traditional Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and Web2 platforms. However, by tapping into unsaturated areas of Web3, where he can exploit the space’s hype, there is great potential to not only maintain his relevance but augment his position in the space.
Nas’s lower numbers on DSPs may make him less relevant in Web2 arenas, but his NFT project on Royal.io shows that he has a loyal fanbase and marketable music. The project rewarded him both financially and in terms of community-building aspects. This could be a testament to how the music industry is shifting generally. Perhaps fans don’t “not want” Nas, they may simply prefer him in Web3 form. Over the long term, it could be argued that maintaining popularity on new-tech platforms as they become more mainstream will require providing more genuine utility to fans, perhaps pricing projects in a way that provides an actual return on investment (ROI) in acceptable periods of time. Whether his project’s success can be attributed to the hype around Web3 applications, and not the music itself, is still unclear, but Nas is amongst the first to tap in, so reaping the benefits is fair game.
Edited by Vincent Williams
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