DJ Steve Aoki can claim almost 3 billion music streams, bringing together an admirable solo discography of seven albums, 106 singles and a multitude of collaborations. His electric flows cross genres like crosswalks, work with hip-hop trend setters will.i.am, Lil Uzi Vert and Afrojack, 1990s boy band Backstreet Boys, snotty rockers blink-182 and (in some of his best work) elevate the metal rap team Linkin Park.
The man is so ubiquitous and revered that you would expect him to drive a golden Rolls Royce. The music industry, however, is tough. During the launch of the private Gala Games Music platform, Aoki claimed that his live DJ gigs probably account for 95% of his music revenue. The rest comes in the form of paltry royalties and sporadic advances. (It is, after all, the job that the iconic David Crosby stopped shouting at the clouds to discourage kids from doing.) After 10 years of setting the music world on fire, Aoki finally has found the key to a musical fortune: NFT.
“In the 10 years that I’ve made music…six albums, and all these breakthroughs…in one drop last year in NFTs, I made more money,” Aoki told Gala Music.
As an artist, Aoki is not a one-trick pony. In 1996, his first act was to draw on his production skills to found the genre label Dim Mak out of his college dorm. Recognizing the brand’s potential in fashion-forward attire, Aoki also included events, lifestyles, and clothing brand Dim Mak. It served as a launch pad for global music partnerships, books, documentaries, visual arts and now NFTS.
After years in the business, Aoki spied a multi-billion dollar NFT market and reacted like the true college entrepreneur he is: he joined in and joined forces. One of the first products to emerge was hairy, a double music video of an Aoki-inspired werewolf that award-winning German artist Antoni Tudisco has colored with his bright, psychedelic color palette, featuring purple and yellow undertones. Hairy sold a year ago for $888,888.88, completing an initial bid of over $4 million, which isn’t a bad score for a first-time market entry.
Millions seem like normal payday as Aoki’s anime series Dominion X is available as an exclusive NFT now for up to 1,000 Ether ($2,578,710) on the Open Sea NFT Market.
Also out of work with Tudisco, Aoki teamed up with Seth Green’s Stoopid Buddy Stoodios to present what is now “the first episodic series to launch on the blockchain.” This stop-motion animated short follows the adventures of character X, first seen in the Aoki-Tudisco NFT Dream Catcher drop.
The fanged pink puppet is “blissfully oblivious (he) is pitted against the microscopic inhabitants beneath his feet – ninja farmers Chonk and Swole”.
Although the series is child’s play, jumping into NFTs isn’t just a game for the record director. Aoki believes in enabling NFTs to revolutionize the recording industry.
“As musical NFTs increasingly become a part of how we onboard and support artists, labels will need to do more than just add the song to a playlist,” he explained to Gala Music.
Aoki noted how NFTs avoid the need for record labels, thereby cutting artists of all stripes from contracts to connect directly with fans. Distributors and publishers might feel the pain, but they’ve long been a shackle preventing creators from profiting from their output.
Like all utopian perspectives, however, there are multiple perspectives on this paradise, including that of the fans. K-Pop stars BTS faced backlash when they announced a summer slate of NFTs. The main complaint? The environmental impact of NFTs.
Yet, as Aoki claims, the media maker is a “futurist” and there’s already an entire industry framework aimed at attacking the carbon damage of NFT. Because the future is not going away and a multi-billion dollar industry is not going away anytime soon.