Hype Machine Founder Creates Future Tape, Joins Zora To Advance Music In Web3

The music industry exists in a structure that requires a certain desire to continuously and competitively level up in order to participate, be seen as relevant and garner sustained financial success. With many layers to peel back, often built on strong relationships and connections to those who have been doing it longer, a new paradigm is begging to be created in music.

In nearly every artist interview, the question of “what’s next?” is present as if the art created is not enough. The real impact of the “what’s next” or “always-on” mentality has become clear as contractually obligated artists are pressured by labels to “go viral” on social media and now artists like Halsey, Charlie XCX, FKA Twigs, and others are speaking out about the unsustainable and unhealthy nature of constantly creating content. In 2005, going “viral” meant you charted on Hype Machine, a blog aggregator developed by Anthony Volodkin, which showcased a data-driven view of where music was finding and connecting with its most powerful audiences on the internet.

A cosign from a popular artist can launch the career of another and a cosign from a major label can promise to do the same. Having the right agent, distributor, publisher, manager, or publicist is part of the traditional success formula deployed to accelerate an artist’s career and drive hype – and it can work – but what other models are possible?

While Web3 companies have been quietly building tools to decentralize music and democratize the space for artists, there is still a very long way to go before music and Web3 are synonymous. The popularity of NFTs has shown the power and promise of Web3 in music and the value of music as art, however, the usability and utility of these non-fungible tokens still remain to be unseen at scale.

The team at Zora, which is dedicated to bringing creativity onto the blockchain, has been powering the paradigm shift many want to see in music since it was founded less than three years ago. Music startups Catalog, Mint Songs, Spores, Glass.xyz, and Poolsuite are all built on Zora’s protocol. The speed at which Zora has leveled the playing field by building simple tools that allow artists like RAC, Disclosure, Toro y Moi, and Pussy Riot to buy and sell NFTs, NFT collections, build independent marketplaces and create experiences, puts Zora at the forefront of music and Web3. Zora recently raised $50 million, valuing the company at $600 million. The round was led by Katie Haun who departed Andreessen Horowitz to launch Haun Ventures along with participation from Coinbase Ventures, Kindred Ventures and more.

One major hurdle in Web3 is curation and the ability to use data to see what NFTs are popular or charting much as Hype Machine did with music during the rise of blogs. Today, Anthony Volodkin joins the team at Zora to build out his latest project, Future Tape, the first mobile music NFT app (and website) that allows users to search, listen and explore the latest music tracks across Web3 platforms. Future Tape started as an experiment – and the way Volodkin introduced himself to Web3 to learn about new music releases in the space. “Music NFTs are a new media format,” says Volodkin in his recent announcement on Twitter, “it’s a chance to collectively imagine how music can work: the product itself, the release, curation, compensation mechanisms, alongside the transparency & openness provided by blockchain tools.” Pulling in the data by using Zora’s API and then creating custom tools to communicate with Nina and the Solana blockchain, Volodkin was able to cull together a common language that allowed for the data to culminate in a way that was easily understandable and viewable to someone unfamiliar with the Web3 space, especially in music.

“Anthony has well over a decade of experience building open music tools on the internet,” says Jacob Horne, Cofounder and CEO of Zora. “A lot of the ideals of Hype Machine that were decimated by the Streaming Age are now being explored and expanded upon in Web3. Future Tape is an early window into this new era of music: free to play for everyone, but strong value capture for artists without intermediaries. Future Tape’s vision is an app where all artists across all platforms and all blockchains can be found.”

Future Tape will not be branded as a Zora product, runs relatively simply visually and centers track art in new ways much like NFT art appears in Web3. “Future Tape will continue to run as is, and continue to utilize a lot of Zora’s infrastructure and tooling under the hood,” adds Horne, “we think it’s important to cultivate Future Tape as a platform-agnostic experience, and keeping it as a separate experience lets us continue to explore that and form new partnerships with tools, artists and platforms who love that experience.”

Education sits at the forefront of mainstream Web3 adoption and until more people know how to utilize the tools and can find value in them, bridging the gap between Web2 and Web3 – meeting users at Web2.5 – will be vital to shifting the paradigm many want to see in music. With Zora’s recent $50 million fundraise, led by Haun Ventures with participation from Coinbase Ventures, Kindred Ventures and more (valuing the company at $600 million), Zora may be able to tackle this education gap through their growing market mindshare and Zoratopia program, dedicated to seminars, events and educational material to demystify Web3.

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