deadmau5’s Team On Embracing NFTs: The Future Of Music

The man under the deadmau5 helmet
Leah Sems
– The man under the deadmau5 helmet
deadmau5 performs at San Jose Civic Auditorium in San Jose, Calif. on Oct. 10, 2019

As deadmau5 has continued to push the boundaries within live tech and his virtual world of Oberhasli, the electronic music producer had also been an early adopter of NFTs. From releasing the single “this is fine” with Portugal. The Man for 0.25 NEAR (which was worth $2.19 when the track was released on Dec. 2, but is now worth $4.03 at press time) to selling VIP packages for his Nov. 8-9 “day of the deadmau5” event at Colorado’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre as NFTs.

“We were just testing stuff out,” Dean Wilson, deadmau5’s manager and CEO of SEVEN20, told Pollstar. “I’ve been banging on for a long time about ticketing on the blockchain and secondary ticketing in general. The only people that don’t get a cut of secondary ticketing are the people that everyone’s coming to see.  … With artistic NFTs right now there is a secondary market for the creator. Now, the artist should be able to get a piece of the secondary ticketing if it’s an NFT on the blockchain as a ticket. And some smart people are making the ticket collectible to this limited edition of the ticket with different art on them. I think we are just about to see the explosion of what the technology’s going to be able to do in the live touring space and the entertainment space.”

The past year has seen many musicians and visual artists convening to sell their work online as NFTs, giving those purchasing the products ownership of various collectibles online. The technology has existed for several years, but common knowledge about NFTs did not explode into the mainstream until 2021. 

“deadmau5 has been doing collectibles for over a decade,” Dina LaPolt of LaPolt Law and deadmau5’s attorney told Pollstar. “So, the core existence of an NFT is it’s a digital collectible. He’s been doing physical collectibles for the better part of 10 years, like with his pins. We’d make a certain amount of pins per tour and they would sell out pretty quickly with the hardcore fans and then those fans would trade them in the future for other pins. So he pretty much had it down with that. And when he decided to do digital collectibles, I was like, ‘Well, who’s gonna buy that?’ But look at what he did.”

For a tech-forward producer such as deadmau5, experimenting with NFTs is a natural fit. In April 2021, Zimmerman and Wilson teamed up with Richie Hawtin (also known as Plastikman), Ben Turner and Inder Phull to create PIXELYNX, a new gaming venture based in London and Los Angeles that focuses on creating a bridge between digital collectibles, gaming and virtual worlds. The company also allows for artists to monetize their own interactive environments via NFTs.

“We’ve realized there are underlying technologies like blockchain that can further accessorize that [virtual] space whether it’s going to be a tokenized object that has utility, like an NFT for example, or some kind of interchangeable format that goes from one property to another one. And it’s just been fun dipping around those properties,” Joel Zimmerman, the mastermind behind deadmau5, told Pollstar.

Having been one of the first music artists to adapt in the NFT space, deadmau5 is now one of the top individual artists in sales with over $4 million. 

“Depending on if you clear it the right way, songwriters and artists can make some good money,” LaPolt says. “But you have to make sure that the record and the publishing company don’t categorize the whole thing.

“That’s the trick. The beauty about deadmau5 is he pretty much owns everything. So, he could do a deal with a graphic artist, a digital artist, and pretty much control the way the NFT is gonna go. But a lot of people aren’t as fortunate as he is, they’re signed to record companies that own their sound recordings, they’re signed to major music publishers, they co-publish and co-own their compositions. You have to set the tone and try not to make them hog all the rights.”

LaPolt has been advocating for artists and songwriters to put their music on the blockchain since 2017, arguing that it allows for creators to get payment in the digital age. Many measurements for royalty payments account for physical copies of records, while streaming sees billions of transactions per day, making it difficult to pay out artists.  

“I think we’re decades away from it, but some companies are doing it,” LaPolt said.