In a lot of ways, Brooklyn-based electronic music producer MELVV represents the massive changes the music industry at large has faced in the past decade.
April 7th saw the dual-release of his new single When I’m With You – as a music NFT on the Sound.xyz marketplace, and of course, as a song available for streaming on your platform of choice. Here’s how his decision may predict future strategies of the independent artists of tomorrow.
Grassroots growth online
Like a lot of other people who had their formative years in the 2010s, MELVV, born Jeff Melvin, found himself drawn to two growing subgenres of music: lo-fi and EDM. He would sit in his parents’ basement mixing samples from Tennyson and Ryan Hemsworth into “what [he] thought [was a] hip-hop beat.” Those early experimentations led to the creation and release of his most popular track Vibe; a 2-minute instrumental currently sitting at nearly 27 million plays on streaming juggernaut Spotify.
The thing is, millions of those plays didn’t even come from an industry-backed campaign. Online, chillout music channels like MrSuicideSheep and Majestic Casual were instrumental in giving Melvin his first big push into the limelight. If you weren’t around then, these channels were huge. Before Majestic Casual was shut down for copyright infringement in 2015, the channel boasted a two million-strong subscriber count.
Thanks to the initial push Melvin’s music received online, he was able to land a recording contract with the legendary Atlantic Records. This relationship would last until 2021, mirroring Ray Charles’s exit from the very same company over half a century ago. Despite making completely different kinds of music, both artists saw an opportunity looming on the horizon that offered more creative and financial control.
The realities of leaving Atlantic Records
Since leaving Atlantic, the 25-year-old producer has re-committed to making the music he wants to make and playing the shows he wants to play. Unfortunately, he picked a particularly difficult time to make the transition back to the indie world – i.e. a global pandemic.
For thousands of musicians across the world, a big chunk of their income disappeared overnight as they suddenly found that they had no shows left to play. Melvin was no exception; he needed to find a new way to secure funding for his music. Lucky for him, the year he decided to go independent was the very same year NFTs became a major talking point for creatives.
Old and new pieces
Right after going independent, Melvin went straight to work getting his material minted as NFTs. He started out by releasing the Genesis Collection – a curated one-of-one collection of some of his most notable early work – on the music marketplace Catalog.
This initial success led him to try out a new release format: releasing the track twice. The first time as an NFT on a music marketplace, then a second time on digital streaming platforms a day later.
When I’m With You is just the first single off a forthcoming EP that will feature more singles likely following a similar release format. Just days after its release, Melvin’s modular-synth-driven ruminations on life without gigs has sold out on Sound.xyz, with its 25 pieces valued at almost 2.5 ETH. ($7,594.35)
With Melvin’s success as an independent musician so far – both before and after his stint with Atlantic – it’s pretty clear that at this point, you don’t necessarily need a record company’s help to make it.