Popular musician and producer Pharrell Williams spoke at the VeeCon NFT conference on Saturday.
He described the potential impact of Web3 on the creative industries, but also on human rights and the world in general.
Musician, producer and fashion designer Pharrell Williams thinks a revolution is rocking the music industry, the financial system and even government – and he thinks blockchain and decentralization Web3 technology is the key.
Williams appeared at VeeCon Saturday, and during an onstage interview with entrepreneur and event builder Gary Vaynerchuk, the entertainer – known for hit songs “Happy,” “Get Lucky” featuring Daft Punk and “Drop It Like It’s Hot ” with Snoop Dogg – described his introduction to NFT and how he sees the underlying technology enabling social progress.
An NFT acts as proof of ownership for an item, and they are often used for digital goods such as artwork, profile pictures, collectibles, and even music tracks. They can also provide access to gated communities and experiences, and should serve as building blocks for the metaverse—a more immersive future Internet.
Williams said he started exploring the concept of NFTs a few years ago and was “overdue”. Vaynerchuk returned a facial expression suggesting Williams’ take was inaccurate – that he was actually ahead of NFTs, given that the marketjust took off in 2021– which made the audience laugh.
“When I say I’m late, it’s because I thought about it more than I did anything,” Williams explained. “And thoughts are great, because thoughts are things, right? But it doesn’t really matter until you do something about it.
More recently, the 13-time Grammy winner explored the creative potential of NFTs and the wider world of Web3 technology, including how it can disintermediate traditional music labelsentertainment studios and distribution platforms, and enable greater connection between artists and fans.
Music is a growing area of the NFT market, and artists like Snoop Dogg, chain smokers, 3LAUand Nas have been among the leading proponents of using blockchain tokens to stream music and provide additional benefits to fans, such as reduced streaming royalties for people who purchase their NFTs.
Williams said there are downsides to the rapidly rising NFT market, especially those that might step in just to make money without a long-term view. “You’re dealing with people who are just hanging around, trying to grab a quick buck,” he said. “You call them ‘crooks’.”
On the other hand, however, NFTs can offer new kinds of benefits to artists. He noted the possibility for artists to receive secondary market royalties from NFT sales that can be integrated into the smart contract (or underlying code) that powers these assets. In the traditional space, an artist may no longer see any benefit after the initial sale of a work.
Williams described a few Web3 projects he is working on, including the Gallery of Digital Assets, which he described as “a safe space for traditional artists who have been very successful in having a place where they can step into the digital world.” He said other platforms are helping veteran artists enter Web3, but “it might not be what you want it to be in the end.”
Another initiative is dark ambition, a nonprofit program aimed at supporting startups by Black and Latino entrepreneurs. Black Ambition has a Web3 category and the program offers mentorship to chosen startups as well as funding of up to $1 million.
Web3’s biggest impact?
Ultimately, Williams believes the stakes in the blockchain and Web3 space are even bigger than just disrupting technology and entertainment. He believes that decentralized communities and creators will be able to bring about meaningful change in the world, pushing back against governments that seek to limit or remove human rights.
“You come here to talk to people about blockchain and Web3. What you need to know is that this is a time when everything is changing right now,” he said. “You look at all these old systems – you know they’re outdated, you know they don’t work. And you stand up, and you say, ‘No more.'”
He noted the recent market downturn who sent the crypto and NFT price sinking – which contrasted sharply with the VeeCon “summer camp” type vibe– but suggested it would only be a temporary slowdown as the underlying technology continues to gain momentum.
“Yes, we are in a recession. Yes, your crypto will fall like everything else. But you know what? It’s going to hold, because it was founded on something very different from what Wall Street was founded on,” he said, pointing out the legacy of slavery for financial epicenter.
Williams continued to speak in grandiose terms about the potential of decentralized technology to disrupt current systems and create more equitable models for all.
“Blockchain and Web3 is unlocking something that scares the system,” he said. “They work very hard to put laws in place to try to legislate around your concept, your idea. You are all the most powerful human beings on this planet. You don’t know that yet.
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