After Mig Mora made hip hop history by becoming the first CryptoPunk rapper, he caught up with the Co-Head of Artist Development at A&R Factory and Director at Offbeat Cultures, Jax Dee to discuss his revolutionary marketing strategy, NFTs and their role in the future of the music industry.
In 2012, Mig Mora, who takes influence from Nas, Jay Z, Cam’ron, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Gorillaz and Ludacris, was ready to call time on his hip hop career after struggling to establish and monetize himself in a crumbling and corporate music industry. After he turned away from music to focus on his career in an ad agency, COVID saw him laid off. He put his marketing expertise to good use by taking a chance on NTFs, his purchase of CryptoPunk 5528 and rebranding of it to Spottie Wifi allowed him to take his music career to greater heights than the traditional promotion and marketing model ever could.
He sold 2,000 albums in 60 seconds as NFTs and made just under $200,000. His notable live performances include hitting up the Evolution Stage at the Metaverse Festival in October 2021 and the afterparty for the BAYC x Sotheby’s Auction, where a collection of Ape NFTS sold for $24.4 million.
In this wide-ranging interview, Spottie Wifi gives a comprehensive overview of how NFTs are more valuable than mp3s, how fan-led communities can monetize music and how NFTs can cut out the middlemen in the music industry.
Jax Dee: Thanks for joining us. I think what you’re doing is fantastic and a lot of people are paying attention. Before we take a deep dive into NFTs and crypto in the music industry, I’d like to give our readers an idea of where you come from. I understand you are originally from Chicago?
Spottie Wifi: Thank you. Yeah, I was born and raised in the Chicago area, moved to New York five years ago and then moved to Florida one year ago, and now I’ve just moved from the suburbs into Miami.
Jax Dee: What brought you to Miami?
Spottie Wifi: It was COVID that brought me here from New York. I moved to New York at the end of 2016 for work, then I met my fiance and had some good things happen in my boring marketing career. But then last year COVID just messed everything up. I was working for an ad agency, and my client was Subway restaurants. As you can imagine, COVID really hurt them. I got furloughed, and then eventually I got laid off.
Everything shut down in New York during the pandemic, we were paying so much for this little shoebox apartment where I was spending so much of my time after I got laid off, I was losing my mind in that tiny little apartment. My fiance and I finally agreed that we needed more space and made the move.
At the same time, I had crypto that I had been accumulating. I started buying crypto at a bad time – I bought it right before it crashed in 2017. So actually everything was crumbling around me. But crypto was my life raft because it started rising, and then I got into NFTs in January this year.
Jax Dee: In retrospect, there was actually never a bad time to buy crypto, but you only ever know that after the fact. How did you become an early adopter of crypto and NFTs?
Spottie Wifi: With crypto, I remember I was visiting my parents for the holidays in 2017. Crypto was always on the news and there were so many stories on social media about people getting rich on crypto, Bitcoin was going crazy. They made it seem like you’re the only sucker that isn’t getting crazy rich, you know? So I impulsively FOMO invested in, putting in more money than I was prepared to lose. Right away everything crashed, but my friend told me you don’t lose money until you sell.
Jax Dee: Yeah, that’s true. You don’t lose money until you realise your losses.
Spottie Wifi: Exactly, it was the best life advice I ever got. I just held everything I bought, kept buying and learning throughout the bear market.
In January this year, I started to see my friends on Twitter talking about NBA Top Shot digital collectables. I’m a huge sports fan, I love basketball and used to collect all sorts of cards, I even collected Star Wars cards. So it instantly made sense to me, and I understood why the NBA would benefit from this, because they can get royalties, and the collector wouldn’t need to worry about digital things degrading and losing their mint condition.
NBA Top Shot was a great gateway for a lot of people this year, including me. Through NBA Top Shot, I reconnected with an old friend and ex-colleague. He introduced me to a guy named CryptoNovo, who had bought eight crypto punks last year in 2020. He’s a great guy. CryptoPunks had already appreciated a lot by the time I met him in February. Over a video call, he started showing me the Lava Labs website where you can look at the prices and attributes of Crypto Punks. During this time, I started to see a lot of videos, from people like Mark Cuban talking about how priceless Crypto Punks are.
They’re the rookie cards of NFT’s, so I said, you know, I have this crypto that has been accumulating and has been appreciating recently. And if I believe in that technology, and if I want to be at the cutting edge of tech and art, maybe I should just take a big swing and buy one of these crypto punks and see what happens. After doing research for a couple of weeks and spending most of my time on Lava Labs, I pulled the trigger and bought my crypto punk 5528, and the rest was history.
Jax Dee: You must have been nervous buying it, what did your fiance say?
Spottie Wifi: I was super nervous buying it because it was my first NFT that I bought with Ethereum. With an NBA Top Shot, you can pay with a credit card. I was super nervous. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, I should have got my friend to help me, but I didn’t want to miss out on this deal; the 5528 I bought was undervalued because it has spots on it, but the spots add to the rarity.
Jax Dee: It’s true. It’s the kind of one that most people probably wouldn’t go for. They might think that the spots make it a little ugly. But it’s a rarity, which gives it more value. So it’s a very clever play.
Spottie Wifi: Exactly. That’s the irony, you know, it was undervalued for how rare it was because of the feature that makes it rare, you know?
Jax Dee: It’s funny because people don’t value aesthetics. They think maybe it’s a little ugly, but they don’t see the value in that. But you did, which is very smart.
Spottie Wifi: Thank you, that’s sort of what I set out to do with music, with branding him. I thought that I need to take this trait that most people see as a flaw, and I need to make it his biggest feature.
Jax Dee: Yeah, you came up with the right name, that’s the brand and the brand identity all in one. I guess part of that comes from your agency background where you’re quite savvy with branding and marketing so you understand these things.
Spottie Wifi: Yeah for sure, I’ve always been good with wordplay and naming things, So I just came up with the name Spottie Wifi. Just like that.
Jax Dee: It’s a brilliant name on many levels. Because of the spots on your punk and because Spottie Wifi says something about technology, and it all leads in the direction in which we’re going with NFTs and crypto. And then, of course, you have the visual, which reinforces everything and makes it so much more compelling, it makes a lot of sense.
Let me just pull it up a notch. So Gary Vee is a huge advocate of NFTs and believes that they are going to fundamentally revolutionize the entire music industry. Do you agree with that?
Spottie Wifi: Absolutely, and I think we can already see it happening. If I’m not worried about being humble, I think I kicked off something that is going to be a big trend, where I believe I was the first rapper or the first artist to embody an NFT avatar or NFT profile pic.
I was inspired by the Gorillaz, but I don’t know if anybody had ever taken an NFT and made it a character, made it a persona and made music from its perspective. Now, in the past three days, you have United Music Group signing for a licensing deal with four Bored Apes from my good friend Jimmy, who owns a bunch of apes, and you have Timberland launching a company to do production for apes that want to personify their Bored Apes. And I don’t think it’s going to slow down as we get more and more digital and more and more immersed in the metaverse.
Jax Dee: Yeah I agree with you. My take on it is that this innovation is only going to accelerate. I think the idea that your early followers and fans will be your primary funding vehicle rather than record labels, is the way forward. Getting out the middleman, you know, and putting the artist directly in contact with fans, so they have a direct relationship. That’s where it’s at.
Spottie Wifi: To put a finer point on it, that’s the much bigger picture than just your persona, personifying an avatar. That’s the big picture.
The thing is, it’s very hard to monetize an mp3. It’s been very difficult to monetize music ever since Napster. But an NFT is a smart contract, so it can give you a lot more value than an mp3.
A smart contract can convey to the listener, the fan, the consumer, and enable the ability to monetize the song, not just listen to the song, and that’s what I’ve been doing. I gave a copyright license to the people that hold my NFT, so they can put my music in their podcasts, ads, films and videogames etc. Then, I can airdrop more content to them, more NTFs.
I have a new drop with Bun B for my new song, All Time High, and that will be a free mint, a free NFT for anybody that has my original album NFT. Then, of course, there are royalties, where not only can I give value to the fans in perpetuity, but I can receive value in perpetuity whenever my NFTs are resold. It’s gonna allow for a more dynamic relationship between the artists and the fans, to where we can cut out all the middlemen that are saturating or infesting the legacy music industry.
Jax Dee: Yeah, that’s a very good way of putting it, you hit the nail on the head with that one.
I think wallet addresses are really like the new email address in Web 3. It allows you to have direct contact, and direct understanding, with the owner of your NFT. So you can send them other things, you can airdrop them tokens and NFTs and you can give them discounts and present them with different value propositions. And I think it’s a really interesting space that we’re moving into.
We touched on giving away the IP rights to the track. What was the exact reasoning behind that? Because most artists wouldn’t do that, they’d say, ‘if I’m going to be giving away the IP then why don’t I just have a record deal’.
Spottie Wifi: The reason was – I was thinking like a collector. I don’t think that as a collector, I would buy an NFT to a song if all I’m getting is an mp3. Why wouldn’t I just stream the song or download the song, it’s back to the Napster issue. That doesn’t solve the issue of why people don’t buy music.
I talked to a couple of lawyer friends, explaining that I want to give something more valuable, or something with more utility than an mp3, but I don’t want to share royalties, give up percentages of my masters or publishing rights.
With this model, I can provide copyright licences with my NFTs. If my NFT owner puts a song in an advert that hits the airwaves or broadcasts on TV, I get royalties that come from the broadcaster, not the collector. It is a win-win situation for everyone, my collectors get paid, and I get paid.
They’re incentivized to see my career grow and my audience grows while being brand ambassadors for my music. They’re out in the world incentivized to talk about my music, and if they have success, if they can convince someone to pay them to license my music, I’m rewarded too.
In the short term, you could say, oh, well, you could have gotten paid that month for your music. That’s true. But I can’t be doing the work of the 780 collectors that I have. 780 people can reach a lot more people than I can. And also, I’m not worried about short term money. If Taco Bell wants to pay one of my fans $10,000 even $50,000 to place one of my songs in an ad, go for it. Because guess what? I don’t care about that money as long as I like the product.
Jax Dee: Yeah, you get it though man, you really get it. Most people would just want to take the money and run.
Spottie Wifi: Well, it also gets back to not only just getting it philosophically, but it’s the model where my albums sold out. I sold 2,000 albums in 60 seconds as NFTs. And it gets back to that new business model that you described, where I’m a crowdfunded record label myself.
Jax Dee: Your fans are basically the record label.
Spottie Wifi: Yeah, I now have the luxury of not needing to jump at every deal, I have a cushion, some capital. My NFT owners helped me to push my music, if they can monetize it, that is a thank you to them for believing in me. My average collector bought three NFTs at $96 apiece; I have to justify that by giving them more value than an mp3.
Jax Dee: You were just saying that you have 780 collectors, but when you launched your first NFT you had less than 300 monthly listeners on Spotify. Can you tell us about your marketing strategy? How did you attract buyers and who were they? Were these music fans of yours? Were they NFT collectors already? Or is it a combination of both? And how did you reach these guys?
Spottie Wifi: It’s a combination of both. A lot of them are music fans. My Discord music fans are my most active fans, they love hip hop and talking about revolutionising the music industry – like you and I are doing right now. I also have silent collectors, I don’t know who they are or what their motivations are.
Since I started at the beginning of the year, my strategy has been to embed myself in the NFT subculture and other subcultures born from collaboration and culture. After becoming the first CryptoPunk Rapper I could tap into an audience of CryptoPunk collectors that were excited to see someone being creative with their CryptoPunk. I wrote a song when the auction house, Christie’s, held their first CryptoPunk auction in May. I wrote us a song called Elite Ape to celebrate when I bought my first one, the fans loved it. That was a big moment.
That’s what I found in the NFT culture, we are such a small, niche minority, and there’s a lot of stigma around NFTs. So when some artists talk about NFTs they get a lot of hate, or they get a lot of resistance from the outside world, but as an artist, I use my talent to celebrate the different aspects of the culture, and people love that. They latched on to it, and I spent six months from the time I bought my crypto punk to the time that my album was available for sale. I spent six months creating culture, celebrating the existing community, and then by the time I had something for sale, all of that love was reciprocated tenfold.
Jax Dee: That makes sense. So it was really about building up the community over a long period. It wasn’t simply about running some campaign, and then all of a sudden it just blew up. Because you’re a believer in the space, you have people on your wagon believing in this with you. So that makes a difference.
Spottie Wifi: And the NFT audience is a very discerning, sceptical, cynical and sophisticated audience. They can smell a cash grab from a mile away. So that’s one of my biggest pieces of advice that I always give people is – don’t enter this community on a Monday thinking you’re going to sell something on Friday.
Come in and listen and learn, get in where you fit in, show love and make friends and build relationships, because that’s what people are looking for. They’re looking for a community in this very digitally focused revolution that we’re a part of.
Jax Dee: Your new NFT drop is coming on November 15th, what’s the roadmap?
Spottie Wifi: Absolutely. So we had a successful debut album sale, and we’re taking the revenue from that and doubling down and reinvesting. This is the first single from the new album. This new album is going to be a lot more ambitious, it’s going to be a year-long project and it’s intended to be collaborative. I’m a big believer in collaborating with other artists, especially mainstream artists. I can help educate much bigger audiences about NFTs and grow my audience.
This first song is by myself and the legend Bun B, from the underground kings. The song is called All Time High, and what we’ve done for this first drop is that we made 27 different versions of the song – 27 different remixes. We have animated artwork for each version that was illustrated and animated by a DreamWorks animator, and on Monday, November 15, you’ll be able to mint or buy one of these NFTs. It’s going to be random, and it’s going to be mysterious as to which one you get. It’s like putting a quarter in a gumball machine – you don’t know which flavor you’re going to get. Some are common, some are rare, but no matter what, owners will get a copyright license and the music can be used for commercial purposes. Owners will become instant members of my community, with voting power on key decisions.
There are going to be four more NFT drops of songs next year from the album. If you collect one NFT from all five of these drops, then you’ll get this historic collab album as a vinyl record.
Jax Dee: That is a cool project. So you’re going to be dropping this NFT on Ethereum as well. Did you consider Solana as a blockchain option?
Spottie Wifi: I have not as a collector or as a creator done anything on Solana or Tezos or other blockchains. I see the value of lower gas fees. We’re gonna see how it goes. But ultimately, I have the luxury of not worrying too much about the gas because I can afford the gas to mint my NFTs on Ethereum. I’m not too worried about if we’re going to sell out in 60 seconds again, I really, really would like to, but I’m not too worried about it. I’m biased because I’m more familiar with Ethereum. I have much more confidence in the permanence of Ethereum than I do with any other blockchain where you can mint NFTs because I’m just more familiar with it.
Jax Dee: You know, Solana went down for 17 hours, just a couple of days ago.
Spottie Wifi: I didn’t know that, like everything I’ve done with my NFTs, I try to think like the most critical, the most cynical, the most discerning collectors. That’s why, even before I knew what I wanted to do with the mechanics of my drop, I knew I wanted a custom smart contract.
Because some collectors will turn their nose at a shared contract from Open Sea or Rarible, and I knew I wanted to give a physical vinyl because some collectors come from the physical collecting world. When it comes to blockchains, I know that there is a small percentage of collectors that are exclusively collecting on Ethereum. They regard Ethereum as the home of all blue-chip collections, NFTs. So for that reason, I try to mitigate or preempt any criticism as early as possible and we’re going to bite the bullet and hopefully, the gas fees are relatively lower than they were on Monday.
Jax Dee: I hope so. Either way, I am sure it is going to be a successful launch. I wish you all the best for it, and thanks for talking to us today.
If you have been inspired by Spottie Wifi and you are interested in incorporating NFTs into your music repertoire, please contact Jax Dee directly at [email protected] .
If you would like to hear more about Spottie Wifi’s latest NFT drop, or participate in his drop, head over to his website. The latest NFT drop launches on November 15th, is free for his current NFT owners and available through public sale.
Follow Spottie Wifi on Twitter.