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Steve Aoki Says He’s Made More Money With NFTs Than From 10 Years of Music Advances

At a Gala Music event, the veteran DJ and producer said royalties don’t even come close to paying musicians’ bills.

3 min read
Steve Aoki performs at the Bill Graham Civic in San Francisco in March 2018. Image: Shutterstock

Steve Aoki is no stranger to NFTs.

As an artist, Aoki has been in the NFT space for a few years and wants to see these unique assets transform the music industry.

Aoki also is a fan of Gala Games and its latest offshoot, Gala Music. He gave the opening talk at a private Gala Music event at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on February 10, which began with one-on-one Q&As.

Gala Games COO Sarah Buxton spoke about gaming and music, followed by electronic artist BT, who discussed his Orbs NFTs, which dropped Monday. The Orbs stirred controversy in the NFT space over the weekend because of their high starting price—11.1 ETH each (about $32,000)—although that price will gradually decline until they’re all sold.

Following the one-on-one chats, there were live performances by H.E.R., BT, Kings of Leon, 3lau, and Aoki himself.

In his opening Q&A, Aoki called himself a “futurist.” He said he believes NFTs will truly will transform the music industry, which currently offers artists a measly income from royalties. Aoki said that his live DJ gigs probably make up 95% of his music income.

NFTs are unique tokens that exist on a blockchain like Ethereum or Solana and can indicate ownership over an image, a piece of music, or even a physical asset. The market for NFTs as exploded within the last year, and it's now a multi-billion-dollar industry.

“If I didn’t have DJ-ing… I would have to get a job,” he said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Under the current economic model, in Aoki’s view, royalties aren’t even worth thinking about, but advances do help artists somewhat.

“But if I was to really break down, OK, in the 10 years I’ve been making music… six albums, and you [combine] all those advances, what I did in one drop last year in NFTs, I made more money. And also, I was way more unhinged with music,” Aoki said.

He said part of the reason NFTs are so exciting is because of how reliant they are upon the communities that spring up and support them. For Aoki, that’s a great thing because many musicians have large, rabid followings.

He used BTS as an example, but didn’t mention the blowback the Korean pop stars faced from fans after announcing their NFTs.

“As music NFTs become more of a part of how we integrate and support artists, the labels will have to do more than just add the song on a playlist,” Aoki said.

Aoki is a creator as well as a collector. He not only owns a number of Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs, he’s worked on a Solana-based NFT marketplace. And now, he’s launching Aokiverse—a membership club based on NFTs that will “coexist with the real world.”

For Aoki, Web3 means ownership, and that includes owning your data. He said that in the future, as technology improves, the days of Facebook and Instagram hoarding user data will come to a close, and the internet will become something that empowers users. 

“There will be a new version where we’ll show what we own,” he added, “and that will be a part of who we are.”

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