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Serenade Founder, Max Shand – on the True Value of NFTs

Max Shand is a tech entrepreneur, professional fan, and founder of Serenade – the eco-friendly NFT marketplace that enables musical artists to generate new, sustainable revenue streams from their work.

Max has discussed the music industry and NFTs at SXSW, Liverpool Sound City, NFT NYC and Spark Fest, and is scheduled to speak at Music Biz and A2IM in the coming months.

Max answered a few questions for us about Serenade and the true value of NFTs.

Much of the narrative around NFTs today focuses on their value as an asset class or commodity. Do you think this is a betrayal of their original purpose, and what value do you believe NFTs bring beyond their value as a commodity?

It may seem strange as the founder of an NFT company to say this, but if someone asked me how I would invest $1000 into NFTs, I genuinely wouldn’t have a clue. I collect NFTs to display my passion and love of the artists I care about, and to build a digital record collection just like I’ve built my vinyl collection over the last decade.

It is my belief that the ultimate purpose of the NFT is not to make a profit or become a commodity; it is to bring a creator (be it an artist, or musician) together with a fan in a creative, scalable format. Serenade has been specifically designed specifically to make this possible, by simplifying and demystifying NFTs, and by reducing the technical barriers to entry for a fan so they can focus on what really matters – music and its artists.

Do you believe NFTs can best benefit fans (by developing new forms of merchandise and forming new communities) or the artists (by helping them develop new revenue streams)?

The promise of an NFT is one that serves artists and fans alike. By an artist releasing NFTs directly to fans, they get compensated fairly and have a forum for creative expression. We have found that artists are eager to express themselves creatively with the NFT format, but they simply would not compromise on eco-friendliness or trust.

Because fans receive this direct engagement, they get more access and a sense of intimacy from their favourite artists. Fans that share the same passions then get to come together and feel a sense of belonging. It is a win-win for everyone.

Given we produce NFTs 44,000x more efficiently than a standard NFT and speak the language of the industry – which is all about the artist and fan relationship, – we’ve been quick to make inroads.

Serenade says its focus is in creating new relationships and communities with NFTs. Does this mean the value of the NFTs and the secondary market is of no interest to you? Will this ideologically purist stance not impact your profits?

Success for Serenade is enabling artists to generate new revenue streams by delivering wonderful experiences (be they unique musical recordings, artwork, imagery or documentary footage) to fans. This relies on artists finding new ways to creatively express themselves, and fans to interact in new ways around the brand and offerings of the artist. A secondary market is squarely in the picture here as fans want to buy and sell in liquid markets that don’t bind them to a dormant asset – but this said, it’s not the primary motivation for the purchase! 

Serenade has a strong focus on being eco-friendly. What are the typical environmental impacts of NFTs, and how are you addressing this?

Serenade operates on the L2 ETH Polygon blockchain which carries with it the benefits of a proof of stake blockchain. This means we can produce NFTs that have 1/10th of the carbon footprint of a Tweet! 

How do you work to balance the interests of fans, artists, labels, the secondary market – as well as the technology and environmental concerns involved in producing NFTs? Surely something has to give?

We focus on the artist-fan relationship. If it makes a fan happy, and adds depth to their artist relationship, then we go in all guns blazing. We are fortunate enough that we are able to do this with the support of the artists’ labels and the wider industry, all whilst enabling a secondary market with a minimal environmental impact.

There is of course caution around NFTs within the industry, but many of the labels have been really supportive, and we’ve received investment from senior figures at Atlantic Records, Warner Music Group and others. There are lots of ideas in the music industry, and less execution, so labels and publishers are excited to see that we’ve been tangibly developing our marketplace and new opportunities for their artists. Ultimately, the compelling nature of the NFT business model is pushing artists, publishers and labels to innovate.

What are Serenade’s ambitions moving forward, and where do you see both yourselves – and the NFT market – heading in the next few years?

Our ambition is to continue to embed ourselves in the music industry and its many wonderful players – management companies, labels, publishers, agents, promoters – to ensure that fans can access the wealth of creative potential out there, and artists can directly benefit from the revenue this creates.

I’m most excited by the creativity NFTs are unlocking in artists. Artists are thinking of weird and wonderful applications of the technology that can land their fans with great new products to engage with. As a fan myself, what’s more exciting than a new technology motivating artists to think outside the box and super-serve their audience?

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