Inspired by the creative possibilities in Web3, the electronic musician and past world champion turntablist Niall Dailly, a.k.a. DJ Plus One, built interactive visual experiences around his new album “Metamorphic.” And there’s a unique twist: NFT holders can ultimately decide whether the rest of the world gets to freely experience that media.
Dailly, a past member of the Scratch Perverts and Jack Beats, began exploring NFT possibilities when the COVID-19 pandemic set in. Live performances were put on hold, and the Scottish musician suddenly had a lot more free time.
After digging into the Web3 space and drawing inspiration from early audiovisual NFT pioneers like Deafbeef, Dailly began considering how to create something fresh and meaningful around his solo album project “Metamorphic,” which will be released under the moniker DAILLY. A nudge from a friend about the creative ability to “do anything you want” with Web3 tech set the wheels turning in his head, he tells Decrypt.
Dailly sought to create a visual narrative around his new album, but wanted it to come off as more than just a “really lovely visualizer,” in his words. On the other hand, building something within an existing metaverse game world didn’t feel like the right vibe. It had to match the tunes, but also stand out enough to try and grab the interest of modern music enthusiasts.
“People see things on their phones when they play music, and you kind of have to preach pretty far these days,” he says. “People don’t really pay attention.”
Working with 3D artist Logan Gomez and art director Jeff Metal, Dailly used Lidar tech to scan real-world environments via an iPhone, using the data to represent East London locales in an homage to the rise of the electronic music scene. Through both hands-on and generative manipulation techniques, they developed visual imagery to pair with Dailly’s glitchy electronic soundscapes.
Each interactive space is viewable in a web browser on a reasonably capable computer or device, letting users explore a 3D environment and soak in the audiovisual imagery. It can also be experienced through a VR headset, such as the Meta Quest 2 or Quest Pro.
Metamorphic’s interactive environments will be sold in an exclusive Ethereum NFT drop this month by BeetsDAO (the collective behind the NFT sci-fi book project Lost Children of Andromeda and the Snoop Dogg x Nyan Cat NFT collab) and art platform Async Art, with 10 total renditions of the album each featuring the 10 songs.
In total, 100 NFTs will sell for 1 ETH each (currently about $1,260), and each points to one of the web-based experiences. (An NFT is a blockchain-based token that proves ownership of a unique item, including digital media like artwork, music files, and collectibles; NFTs can also serve as an access pass to both digital experiences and real-world events, and provide the ability to vote on community and project decisions.)
The relatively limited drop size won’t be the only determining factor in what may prove to be a pretty exclusive club of owners. That’s because interested buyers—whether they’re individuals or NFT-collecting DAOs—must interview with Dailly via video chat before he approves anyone to mint the “Metamorphic” NFT albums.
After all, they’re being entrusted with a big decision about the future of his creation.
An ethical quandary
When “Metamorphic” launches, the interactive web-based locales will be available for anyone to experience via the official website, regardless of NFT ownership. The public version of the experience will remain online for at least six months, and users can freely explore the 3D settings as much as they please.
Whether those experimental music-fueled worlds remain online after that point will be up to the NFT album owners to decide. Dailly frames it as an ethical dilemma to go along with the art and the vibes.
Should art that’s owned by a select number of people be accessible and available to all? Or will they choose to hoard the art for themselves and keep it private after that initial window? The concept and prospective benefits of scarcity can take different meanings within this framework, and NFT owners will need to consider the options before voting.
“Do you believe that [“Metamorphic”] existing in the real world is of benefit to you or not? Are you egotistical enough to think, ‘Actually no, I want it just for me,” Dailly tells Decrypt. “Or are you maybe smart enough to think that if I leave it out forever, actually, my NFT is going to get more and more valuable the more famous this gets?”
The dynamic was inspired by the traditional art world, Dailly says, as privately owned artwork may be displayed to the public in a gallery for a couple months, but then remain out of sight. He didn’t want the “Metamorphic” experiences to only ever be seen by a handful of owners, but he also wanted to provide appeal for buyers and give them a tangible say in the matter
Dailly himself will vet prospective NFT album buyers, but that doesn’t mean that he can fully control who ultimately makes the decision. If all 10 albums aren’t sold in the initial mint, then the remaining songs will be put up individually in a public sale. Furthermore, album buyers may choose to “break” an album and sell individual NFT tracks on the secondary market.
Initial album buyers will receive a special token with governance rights, which they can keep even if they sell off tracks. Meanwhile, collectors who purchase all 10 individual tracks can later claim their own album token with the same rights, if any are still available—there will only ever be 10 of the album tokens, thus 10 total votes towards the future of the project.
The function to disable public access to the website with the “Metamorphic” experiences is built into the NFT project’s smart contract. (A smart contract contains the code that powers autonomous decentralized apps and NFT projects.)
In this case, each album token owner can trigger the destroyPublic() function to call a vote after the initial six-month period, and upon quorum and majority vote, the “Metamorphic” website will be forever switched to a token-gated version only accessible by the NFT holders.
Ultimately, Dailly says that he’s at peace with the idea that holders will determine the fate of the public experience, even if they aren’t who he selects to steward the project.
“You can’t sell someone something,” he says, “and then be like, ‘Yeah, it’s free forever.’”
A passion project
It’s an experiment, albeit one that both Dailly and his partners at BeetsDAO admit is likely to lose money once all is said and done. Creating the album and refining the visual accompaniment was time-intensive and costly, plus NFT demand and crypto prices are down and it’s a modestly-sized drop.
The “Metamorphic” music will eventually be released more broadly as well, including via a second planned NFT drop that will offer up album audio tied to a unique still image generated from the Lidar-driven footage. No ETA has been set, but pricing is expected to be more mass market-friendly, with a price point akin to a CD box set.
“Personally, I need something that’s almost like ‘merch table’ prices, or like ‘poster at the gallery’ prices,” Dailly explains. “I need something to make this sit right with me ethically, and that’s sort of where the ‘phase two’ conversation started.”
Even with another NFT step ahead, Dailly describes the initial experiential drop as more of an inventive art project than a business move. It’s a proof-of-concept to show another angle of what’s possible with Web3 media and community governance, and a commentary on the debate between public exhibition and private ownership of art.
“At a certain point in life, when you’re older and you’re really going for something you feel passionately about—you do these things,” he says, adding that the open technological possibilities around Web3 only amplify his fervor for the future of music in the space. “When people use the tech here to do different things, that’s when I get crazy excited.”