For Music Artists, Does the Key to Restoring ‘Identity’ Lie Within Tokenization?

Published on May 29, 2019

If you haven’t heard of NASGO, it’s time you do. This year, we have begun to see a trend of more artists changing the ways in which they make accessible and distribute their content (music, videos, fan club benefits, etc.).

The question is why? What is scaring artists so much that they are thinking of going independent?

One, loss of identity. Over the years, we have seen artists either leave their labels to go independent, or search for independent labels that allow them to retain their sense of identity. Most often with the bigger labels, the label owns the artist’s name.

Two, without traditional record labels and representation, the resources available to an artist are extremely limited. Up-and-coming artists continue to search for business and tour managers, music production facilities, public relations agencies, and other sponsorship opportunities, all by themselves.

Three, the traditional business model has left most artists enslaved, with little income or profits to show, after all the work they have produced over a year. Why? Music has become digital. The idea of peer-to-peer file transfers and downloading changed the game forever, causing a continuous ripple effect throughout the music world. Many believe artists are swimming in cash, but the reality is, most of these artists don’t see a return, if any, for many years to come, especially with what seems to be increasing number of intermediaries with their hands out.

So, how are artists staying afloat? Many rely on heavy-loaded touring schedules and live performances, as well as the frequent release of content, directly through streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

Some, like Shelita, Justin Blau, Jafaar Jackson, and Cali Tucker, have decided to utilize blockchain technology to help keep tighter control over their work, and their fans closer.

Grit Daily and MSNBC spoke with Eric Tippetts, the co-founder of, NASGO, a fast-growing blockchain application platform devoted to helping music artists, influencers, and businesses tokenize their content in efforts of helping fix an already fragmented music industry.

Grit Daily: What was the inspiration behind NASGO?

Eric Tippets: As entrepreneurs, my business partner and I, stumbled across the music industry. What we’ve observed is that after the release of Pokemon Go, the world is heading towards gamified experiences. And that drove us to what we built today. We wanted to provide a mechanism for which people can transact and communicate with the Blockchain, even gamify it.

GD: How did you envision this?

ET: Our focus was on content curation and music artists. Where are people creating content? We started analyzing the social media platforms looking at the type of content created. The problem was that most of these people attempting to curate content are not making anything off it. While platforms like Instagram make money, the creators have no clue how to monetize. Take for example, those influencers who have 1-3 million followers—most of them have no clue how to monetize that.

These individuals like by “likes,” but, are those likes paying your bills? Our mindset was, why don’t you take that content, have a platform that allows you to lock it, and your followers through the use of native tokens, can unlock parts of all of it. Therefore, you’re in control and have the power, not the platforms. You are monetizing in a global fashion.

GD: You mentioned in our conversation that the music industry is “fragmented,” what did you mean?

ET: Artists don’t have much control over their name and the time in which it takes for them to see a return on their sales. Fans are fanatics and they want to support you as an artist, paying and providing you the ability to create more content, versus just ravaging the whole industry. We are beginning to see many artists redo their own songs, just so they can claim ownership over it. I’ve spoken to many artists, most recently, Jeff Timmons of 98 Degrees. He is still waiting for residuals.

“When we did $3 billion in six months, with over 3.5 million Chinese nationalists onboarded to our platform, we learned of two major issues—velocity and how to break the Chinese infrastructure.”

GD: What do you mean by “breaking infrastructure?”

ET: We had sixteen different bank accounts that would get shut down weekly, simply because those institutions could not handle the velocity. When you’re doing between $30-$45 million per minute, the red tape kicks in.

GD: So, what followed?

ET: Our CTO came to us and told us he was working on a project involving the Blockchain for the past 2 years. According to him, he created something that would be able to handle our transactions volume, while eliminating security threats and other banking issues we were having. It took us a little to understand what “blockchain” was, but once we got it, we immediately realized this was it, and this was where the world was going. He said it would take six months to completely transition over, but it ended up taking three years.

GD: Why?

ET: The money we were putting into it. We were self-funding—we never raised money, nor did we do an ICO. At one point, there was $600,000 in development costs…for one month.

NASGO Aims to Pioneer ‘Identity’ for Music Artists

The company, with over 4,000 representatives, has been making strides, having appeared on the millennial news network, Cheddar, which was recently acquired by cable provider, Altice USA, discussing how artists can continue making music with cryptocurrency.

Shortly after the network appearance, the company presented on the importance of digital currency as a social impact tool at the United Nations in August last year. Co-founders Tippetts and Stephen Jiang presented at the Media for Social Impact Summit, with the help of musical artist and client, Jafaar Jackson, son of Jermaine Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson.

NASGO is comprised of three systems:

  • BlockBox
  • VAPR

Through its blockchain platform, “BlockBox,” an easy-to-use blockchain toolbox that helps individuals or businesses set themselves up for the creation and exchange of their customized utility token, NASGO helps businesses, sports influencers, musicians, and others tokenize their business models. Specifically, the ecosystem looks to expand points of sale, closer communication for customers, social media, tokenized loyalty programs.

VAPR is an app viewers can download to their mobile device to access AR content from myriad sources via satellite.

AMICO is a global e-commerce application, which includes social media, communication, video channels, and a storefront/marketplace, and a decentralized wallet for working with cryptocurrency coins.

The app, according to Tippetts, is a payment gateway, which accepts the top 300 cryptocurrencies, plus the NSG token on the NASGO network, which can be transacted with.

“Every time you transact using a token, it automatically places that person in your contact database,” he added. “In fact, there is great power in integrating with blockchain as opposed to thinking in terms of running on chain or off chain.”

“Blockchain allows the tokens an artist distributes to remain entirely on chain for trackability, transparency and trust, even if aspects of the app and process are happening off chain,” he continued. “Having the tokens remain entirely on chain is unique as this is how an artist knows where their tokens are and where their fans and where their followers are at all times. In the current world, it’s somewhat of a black hole. But with that knowledge, they know where to apply their greatest resources and time to the best outcomes.”

GD: How does this relate to the artist putting out music?

ET: An artist can say, ‘come play with me,’ provide you with a link, you click on it, and the content begins to automatically download, as an application. Keep in mind, at no point is it asking you for any personal information. Blockchain technology and digital currency is complex enough for many people to understand, so we wanted to make it so simple that people don’t have to worry about giving up personal information.

What Are the Artists Saying?

Far from a fad, digital currency and blockchain technology have become a staple of the business world, much sooner than most have expected.

Actor, Ashton Kutcher, recently donated $4 million in XRP tokens, a digital currency introduced by Ripple, to the Ellen DeGeneres Wildlife Fund, during his appearance on DeGeneres’ show.

Jaafar Jackson, son of Jermaine Jackson and nephew of Michael Jackson, partnered with NASGO, discussing his plans to tokenize his upcoming musical releases as a way to raise awareness, gather contributions, and donate part of his earnings to humanitarian causes. Jackson was recently at the United Nations and the New York Stock Exchange, promoting his latest partnership with NASGO and the release of his new album.

Cali Tucker, from NBC’s “The Voice,”have joined the ecosystem, alongside Jackson in their support for this highly-growing ecosystem. For Tucker, a rising country music star, daughter of singer LaCosta Tucker and niece of Tanya Tucker, and contestant on Season 6 of NBC’s “The Voice,” she has recognized the unfortunate, unequal journey female artists face when it comes to discovery. Tucker stated her desire to become one of the first female artists and country stars to release her music on the Blockchain.

Back in October of last year, Tucker partnered with NASGO at a Dolby Theater premiere at SXSW in Austin, Texas. During her recent performances at SXSW in Austin, Tucker elaborated on how her partnership with NASGO would work, in an interview with Forbes.

“Tokenization is a remarkable way to eliminate the gap between artists and fans,” Tucker said. “It empowers artists to bring their new material forward more quickly and to expand it instantly and more broadly to listeners and viewers worldwide. I’m very excited to be helping pioneer this critical development that will take the industry of music to new realms.”

Tucker has been recording with platinum-selling Grammy-nominated producer, G’harah “PK” Degeddingseze, known for his work with artists such as Chris Brown and Janet Jackson. In her partnership with NASGO and the help of sidechain company, ShareNode, Tucker is developing her own digital coin, “Cali coin,” that fans can use to engage with her directly and to gain early access to her newest material, including her upcoming EP that she will be premiering later this year.

How Augmented Reality Can Gamify the Music Experience

Those in the music industry can all agree its fragmented, especially from an artist’s perspective. Specifically, content ownership and fan engagement have hindered the potential for the music industry to fully evolve into today’s digital age.

When music first went “digital” over twenty years ago, with the first digital single, alongside platforms like Napster, Kazaa, and Limewire, it left the traditional music experience behind. It allowed individuals to circumvent the traditional methods in which to obtain content, bypassing the avenues artists literally depended upon to make a dollar.

Additionally, a disconnect between artist and listener grew stronger, as streaming and/or downloading the music didn’t provide the same interactive, fan-club experience artists had through selling compact discs or records.

“People love a social media, gamified experience they can customize,” Tippetts told us.

Technology like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are helping re-insert that lost experience back into the industry.

GD: You continue to say NASGO can “gamify” the music experience. Can you explain?

ET: Think about Pokemon Go when it first came out. Today, there are over 124 million people playing it. Why is that? People like to connect with one another and play with one another. In a gamified experience, everyone knows the Mario Bros coin or token. They love that aspect.

GD: How does gamification apply to the NASCO ecosystem?

ET: Musicians can now inject their content in places like China, which makes the overall experience horrendous. For musicians that can now connect and put their content in places like China, that is just ferocious of consuming content. Instead of piracy, you can control the distribution, by locking the content. Literally. You may have access to some or part of the artist’s content, but you will need to unlock the rest of the content using the platform’s native token, NSG. Here, the artists have full control over their content which is gamified, creating experiences for their followers.

GD: How does VAPR play into gamification?

ET: With VAPR, the assets are available to anyone with a mobile device, anywhere in the world–no Internet required, which is vital for regions such as China, for example, where millions of consumers are hungry for American content but can’t receive it through typical Internet means. An artist (or anyone) can create branded tokens they can offer to listeners or viewers who watch their material. The artist can offer “10 tokens” to anyone who views their material. The tokens go into the viewers virtual wallet and can now be used towards swag, VIP experiences, anything at all. When users want to purchase more tokens, they can purchase them through their wallet using USD, NSG, etc., and can pay a token for each listen, maybe 50 tokens for a 50 percent discount on an artist’s branded merchandise, or can even “gift” tokens back to an artist for an exclusive experience (this is a big draw in cultures like China). So in this model, as consumers purchase NSG to buy tokens, the revenue hits the artist’s account immediately and transparently–no more waiting for quarterly royalty reports and hoping the accounting is right. This is what we mean by re-aligning the industry sector and we believe it will apply to many other sectors as well.

Enforcing Intellectual Property Rights Can Help Minimize Avenues of Unauthorized Distribution

Internet piracy has costed the music industry thousands upon thousands of dollars. Piracy includes the illegal downloading and copying of music and/or video with the purpose of using it for personal or commercial gain, in violation of copyright protection laws.

According to a recent Nielson report, the majority of businesses streaming music from personal accounts on Spotify, Apple Music, or Sirius XM are doing so illegally, costing the music industry an estimated $2.6 billion in license fee losses per year.

Consumers across the world have witnessed piracy and unauthorized leaks for years surrounding HBO’s original series, Game of Thrones, especially with its final season, which came to its conclusion last Sunday. With the accessibility streaming platforms like HBO GO, HBO Now, DirectTV Now, and others provide, why is piracy still occurring?

Unlike the United States, many regions such as China don’t have equal access to internet, or even access to networks like HBO, causing individuals to resort to other methods in which to obtain content.

In the U.S., internet and social media remain prevalent, allowing multiple avenues in which to obtain content, but leaves artists like Shelita, Blau, Tucker, and Jackson out to dry when it comes to collecting royalties and monetizing off the content being distributed.

But how does blockchain technology like NASGO help minimize instances of internet piracy and/or illegal distribution?

With VAPR, transmissions cannot be downloaded or copied because it’s a satellite transmission, available for viewing only. Therefore, the issues of piracy, lack of access to internet, or illegal streaming go away entirely. The music transmissions, messages, and invitations would come from Cali, or her representatives alone, not other streaming platforms like YouTube that make it very easy to obtain content without paying for it.

Forget Traditional Artist Discovery, Welcome to the Digital Pipeline

Traditionally, for an artist to be “discovered” took more than just effort. It took some serious face time with record labels, studios, and of course, fans.

Visibility in today’s digital age has an entirely new meaning for artist discovery. Artists have access to a much bigger, diverse audience, thanks to platforms like YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Music.

Musicians can assess their marketplace visibility and effectiveness by looking at the metrics behind these streaming platforms. However, the key here is to increase the breadth of the audience, while increasing overall engagement with fans. NASGO creates an unlimited digital pipeline for artists to remain connected, always, with their fans.

Going back to Tucker, she utilizes NASGO’s augmented reality (AR) application, VAPR, to engage directly with fans. VAPR transmits her messages and music via satellite waves that can in turn, be viewed through any mobile device ranging from any mobile device to even a full-sized theater screen (in the case of VAPR-transmitted films and full-length movies).

Tippetts believes NASGO has the potential to surpass Pokemon Go, which had over 800M downloads and gross receipts of over $2 billion worldwide. Based on early interest, there are more than 800 businesses registered to come onto the NASGO ecosystem so far via Amico and VAPR. Entire retail brands, such as Dollar Store, with some 2,500 stores worldwide are moving forward.

Musical artists, as we’ve spoken to them, have fairly well all responded “Why not?”  And these are just a few of the examples of sidechain applications we believe will emerge to take advantage of the platform. We’ll shortly be announcing a MyBlockRebate program that will allow tokens to be interchangeable across hundreds of stores.

“This is in our first year only. While 2019 is about education and availability–we believe the stars are aligning for these solutions to thrive.”

Andrew "Drew" Rossow is a former contract editor at Grit Daily.

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