In December 2021, we launched Season 1 of our DAO with our inaugural collaborative report on music and Web3. Our findings drove industry-wide discussions about the most pertinent opportunities and challenges facing the music/Web3 ecosystem, across business models, tech stacks, legal issues, marketing strategies, creative techniques and more. The report also proved the power of DAO infrastructure to break down information silos and pioneer new models of knowledge-sharing and research.
Since our Season 1 launch, the music/Web3 ecosystem has continued to evolve at a rapid pace. In the same breath that celebrities like Snoop Dogg and Steve Aoki are going all-in on NFTs and social tokens, we’re hearing about yet more music NFT scams and rampant fraud on the world’s biggest NFT marketplaces. Startups like Royal are raising tens of millions of dollars in venture-capital funding on the thesis that music royalty NFTs will become a valuable asset for fans and investors alike, while artist social tokens like $RAC are becoming available on mainstream crypto exchanges for the first time. Deals like PleasrDAO’s acquisition of the single copy of the Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon A Time in Shaolin are gradually bringing cultural DAOs into the sphere of mainstream awareness.
The conglomeration of all these trends represents a major inflection point in the music industry’s mental model for what’s possible with Web3, and will serve as a major test for the ecosystem as a whole with respect to scaling technology, messaging and adoption.
With this rapid change in mind, we’re excited to unveil our follow-up “Season 1.5” report, which builds upon and scales our learnings from Season 1 with a new set of iterative, modular resources for artists, founders and innovators.
Over the last two months, 90+ contributors in our community helped assemble the following projects, which will be rolling out over the next five days:
March 7 (today): An 11-part interview series on the state of music DAOs, following up on our tech-focused research from Season 1 that resulted in a market map of music/Web3 tools for artists.
March 8: A deep-dive analysis of music NFT platforms’ onboarding strategies, following up on our Season 1 analysis of how artists across career stages are onboarding their fan bases into Web3.
March 9: A modular music NFT contract template, following up on our critical examination from Season 1 about the challenges of defining legal “ownership” of music NFTs.
March 10: A survey analysis on the music industry’s sentiment around Web3, following up on the fan-facing Web3 sentiment survey we ran for our onboarding chapter in Season 1.
March 11: A community initiative translating our S1 research into Spanish, as part of a new effort to expand the international reach of both Water & Music’s research and Web3 educational resources at large.
We decided to designate this season as “1.5” not only because our research topics follow up directly on those from Season 1, but also because we’re hard at work within our DAO to formalize a long-term, collaborative research model that we can hand over to our community for future seasons.
From a philosophical standpoint, our core team has conceptualized this transition as the difference between prospecting and scaffolding.
While our Season 1 research process has some structure in hindsight (as we outlined in this Mirror post), putting it together in real time was an experience of pure chaos, in the best way possible. Dozens of contributors came together in our Discord server to try to make sense of the wider music/Web3 landscape and to figure out what “collaborative research” even meant in the first place — assembling groundbreaking knowledge from out of the ether, with curiosity and generosity as our primary engines. This could be described as prospecting, or the process of searching through and mapping out a territory that was previously unexplored.
In contrast, much of our energy around Season 1.5 has been dedicated to taking key learnings from Season 1 and building the foundational systems, processes and tools that we can give to the community to continue this work on their own. This could be described as scaffolding, or the process of building more formalized architectures to support emergent behavior. As we wrote in our Mirror post “Rethinking gamification for DAOs”:
“As a DAO, our overarching goal at W&M is not just to serve as a reliable source of music/tech trend analysis for an industry-facing audience, but also to build a system for curious, ambitious community members to execute on their own emergent research and educational agendas.”
Throughout Season 1.5, we have been experimenting with new formats for conducting, publishing and communicating our research, with a focus on finding evergreen frameworks that can be easily adapted in future seasons to accommodate our members’ evolving interests and skill sets. Hopefully, the rollout this week will make it clear that the ecosystem of the resources and products we produce as a research collective can expand much further beyond just a single, longform report, in terms of both format and impact:
Over the course of Season 1.5, we conducted over 20(!) interviews with founders of music DAOs and music/Web3 platforms. In the case of our music DAO project, we published 11 different interview summaries over the course of eight weeks on the Water & Music website, totaling around 15,000 words. Contributors also presented their summaries on member-exclusive calls in our Discord server every Wednesday evening, often bringing in the DAO leaders themselves to give additional context on our findings. These calls became a core learning/synthesis "ritual" in our community, complemented by ongoing articles that helped raise awareness of the research we were doing. This approach drew tighter connections among our media strategy, research strategy and community strategy, and helped us lean even more into our core ethos of “process as product” — namely, the stance that our collaborative process is as much a value proposition for our members as whatever end products we publish.
Our artist and music-industry Web3 sentiment survey from Season 1.5 is the second survey we’ve run in the past four months. There’s a potential opportunity to rerun this survey on a regular basis over a longer period of time — expanding our research into a more longitudinal study of the relationship between music and Web3, while strengthening W&M’s reputation as a source of first-party data about music/tech trends. This approach could complement the work we’ve already been doing for several years of tracking startup investments and deals in our members-only databases.
As part of our music NFT contract template project, we will be publishing not only an educational article, but also an interactive site that we hope artists will incorporate into their own NFT drops. This paves a potential path forward for closing the gap between scholarship and service — namely, always ensuring that our research is not only rigorous, but points to actionable solutions that readers can apply to their own work. In this vein, we’re inspired by other media/research DAOs and collectives like Forefront, Smart Contract Research Forum, Token Engineering and the Metagovernance Project in their dedication not only to pushing rigorous research, but also to transferring those insights into tangible products and tools for their communities to use.
We hope this latest report not only proves to be a valuable guide for understanding the music/Web3 landscape today, but also plays a part in continuing to push the boundaries of what media and research DAOs at large can accomplish.
To dive deeper into the findings and takeaways from our Season 1.5 report, we invite you join us at these virtual and IRL events:
Monday, March 7 (TODAY), 4:30PM EST on Twitter Spaces — Water & Music founder Cherie Hu and co-research coordinator Yung Spielburg will give an overview of what to expect for our Season 1.5 report rollout this week. They will also walk through a summary of takeaways from our interview project on music DAOs, which Cherie and Yung co-led. You can set a reminder for yourself here; the Space will be recorded.
Friday, March 11, 3PM EST on Twitter Spaces — Cherie, Yung and a handful of our Season 1.5 project leads and W&M team members will jump onto Twitter Spaces to give a recap of the rollout week, and answer any listener questions about our research process and how we’re thinking about future seasons.
Wednesday, March 16, 10AM CST @ SXSW — If you’ll be in Austin next week, Cherie will be giving a solo talk at the Austin Convention Center about her experience transforming W&M into a DAO, including fresh insights from Season 1.5.
We’ll also host a series of members-only deep-dive events in our Discord server the week after SXSW (beginning March 21). If you’d like to join these events — and/or if you’re interested in learning more about our DAO and community ethos and how you can get involved as a contributor — sign up for a Water & Music membership today.
Thank you so much for all of your ongoing support, and we can’t wait to share all of our insights with you this week! :)
Water & Music is a newsletter and research DAO on a mission to empower the music industry with the knowledge, network and skills to do more collaborative, innovative and progressive work with technology. We’ve been early to report on several cutting-edge industry trends — from music avatars and niche streaming services to several different strands of music and Web3 including music NFT drops, Web3-native music communities and crypto-based royalty payments. We are proud alums of Cohort #3 of the Seed Club accelerator.
Our community is home to nearly 2,000 paying members across music and entertainment, spanning everyone from emerging artists and startup founders to marketers, investors and C-Suite executives at major music companies. What makes our work stand out is our relentless curiosity, our penchant for experimentation, our passion for interdisciplinary thinking and our recognition of constructive critique as a driving force of progress in music, tech and culture.