Music Distribution and Ownership in Web 3.0

We’ve previously discussed the ways web 3.0 can benefit musicians. Given the flexibility with which musicians can encode their art, there’s more crossover between ownership and distribution in digital music than there is in the music streaming paradigm. Musicians will want their fans to be stakeholders in their success; they’ll be their biggest champions. Musicians will also want to optimize their distribution depending on their goals as an artist.

Distribution models

Crypto has enabled a new dimension to music distribution. Because musicians can distribute their music as bearer instruments (a collector can hold the digital copy in their wallet), collection size influences distribution. Collection size influences the behavior of the collectors and the price each sale can demand.

Distribute one - A musician might choose to sell only one original copy, optimizing for scarcity and novelty. Just like scarcity creates prestige around luxury brands, this approach might be ideal for some musicians. Scarce distribution has been popular so far in web 3.0 music because it has led to high price tags for releases. Scarcity is well suited for resale, where the artist may be able to continually earn a royalty for secondary market transactions. A scarce distribution model is a way to make fans stakeholders in the future success of the musician because early collectors might be able to sell the music later on at a higher price.

Distribute many - Similar to tradition, a musician might choose to sell a large or unlimited number of copies, optimizing for reach, engagement, and relationships. The musician can build a robust social graph that they can continuously leverage for future music, concert tickets, merchandise, etc. The social graph is owned by them, not Spotify or Youtube or TikTok. This model is poorly suited for speculation because presumably there’s less resale value for an abundant asset. Instead, super-fans are probably buying for some small additional perks, like high-fidelity audio files.

Distribute a few - A musician could also sell a small collection of original copies of their music, optimizing for a high-quality collector group. Bridging the gap between the above models, this distribution allows artists to have a more curated social graph and distribute their music as a collectible. This model similarly bundles distribution and investment.

Ownership models

The simplest ownership structure for musicians is to receive all the revenues from the sales of their music. This makes sense for hobbyists who don’t want to worry about the complexity of an organizational structure. Record some great music in your basement, publish it that afternoon, and immediately earn money from your sales. If you have some collaborators, set up a simple royalty split for each song you record, and call it a day!

If a musician opts for limited distribution, the collectors will intrinsically have a stake in the future success of the artist. Limited distribution makes the music more of a collector’s item with prospects for monetary appreciation so there is a greater feeling of investing in the musician. Musicians’ fans are stakeholders of their success but distribution is likely to be very concentrated.

If a musician has higher aspirations, they might want to structure their digital footprint as a business. They might split revenue (shares) with collaborating musicians, a manager, advisors, early investors, and maybe even a board of directors. The musician would structure deals with each tier of their business. The structuring could get complex: the manager gets a piece of all sales, the collaborating musicians get a cut from certain songs, investors get a share of the revenues from the album they backed, etc. Below, Corporation Plaza illustrates a primitive version of this using Nina as the backend.


The music industry is in experimentation mode when it comes to this new paradigm of music ownership and distribution. Hopefully, some of the above examples are helpful for musicians considering their preferred distribution methods. Additionally, it’s worth playing around with and publishing music on Nina, Sound, and Catalog. Try out Spinamp, FutureTape, and Ooh La La to understand how most fans might interact with this new form of music publishing. If you’re a musician or builder that’s interested in learning more, please reach out.