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An Australian-founded eco-friendly NFT music marketplace has raised $6 million in funding from the likes of actor Hugh Jackman and musician Bernard Fanning, with a goal of getting artists onboard the emerging – but contentious – NFT space.
Founded by Max Shand, a venture capitalist, music writer and the first employee at tech giant Afterpay, Serenade offers artists a way to create limited-run ‘digital pressings’ of their albums as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which fans can then purchase alongside various other digital collectibles.
Serenade founder Max Shand says he is conscious of the negative perception of NFTs within the music industry.
“The sale of that digital pressing gives you a direct new revenue stream from fans and a relationship to your superfans that you can develop over time. It also allows artists to do things that have been either too expensive – such as a box set – or just not feasible,” Shand told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
Serenade has also been approved in the UK and in Australia to be the first chart-accredited NFT platform, meaning sales of digital pressings on the platform will count towards artists’ ranking on the charts.
“It fits neatly into your release cycle as an artist, so when you release your album on Spotify, you also release your record, you also release your Serenade digital pressing,” he said.
So far, the business has attracted notable local acts such as Confidence Man, Client Liaison and The Kooks. However, Shand acknowledges the scepticism within the broader music community over the use of NFTs, with many artists questioning if the technology is a scam, and raising concerns over its environmental impact.
Shand said the company was working hard to counter these perceptions, noting that Serenade runs on the layer two Ethereum network Polygon, which is less carbon-intensive than its crypto peers.
“You would have to produce 197,000 Serenade NFTs to equal the carbon footprint of a single 12-inch vinyl,” he said. He’s also conscious of not appearing too much like “tech bros imposing ourselves on an industry”, opting to instead try and work closely with artists interested in joining the platform.
Serenade’s $6 million funding round was led by an assortment of local industry professionals, including executives from Atlantic Records UK, Future Classic, UNIFIED Music Group, Warner Music Group, and Secret Sounds, the latter of which boasts Fanning as a co-owner.
Shand said Jackman, who recently received a $10 million payout from his investment in RM Williams, was attracted to Serenade for its potential to allow creators to better monetise their art. Investors have all taken equity stakes, with Serenade having no plans to release its own crypto token.
“What we are working very hard to do is normalise a new format of music collecting and ownership in a traditional industry,” he said.
“We are active in Web3, but we’re more excited by how you can get a wholly new collectible format into the hands of someone who might not actually know the nuances of the underlying tech.”
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