How Justin Blau’s startup Web3 is trying to disrupt the music industry

  • Justin Blau, also known as DJ 3LAU, is the co-founder and CEO of startup Web3 Royal.
  • The platform allows fans to buy token royalties on songs or albums from their favorite artists.
  • Of the $42 billion in annual revenue generated by the music industry, 12% goes to artists.

In his high school yearbook, Justin Blau’s main quote was to “revolutionize the music industry” one day.

On the outside, Blau’s career has taken several unexpected turns: intern at Credit Suisse, EDM artist and, since last year, co-founder of a Web3 startup backed by venture capital giants like Andreessen Horowitz. But the longtime DJ and producer told Insider that music “was always part of the plan.”

The Las Vegas, Nevada native grew up the son of a hedge fund manager, who previously dreamed of working at Goldman Sachs. While enrolled at Washington University in St. Louis as a finance major, he landed internships at Credit Suisse and UBS.

Blau, better known by his stage name 3LAU, picked up the music and started performing while trying to get his foot in the door on Wall Street. “I showed up at Credit Suisse and two interns had my song on their iPods,” Blau told Insider in 2012. “At the time, it was awesome.”

But he quickly declined offers from major financial firms like black rock and dropped out of college to pursue music full-time. The mashup artist, whose work quickly went viral, began performing at major festivals like Lollapalooza and Electriz Zoo, as well as producing remixes for Rihanna, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry. In 2016, he launched an independent music label called Blume Records.

“It became the center of my life sooner than expected. I thought I should get into finance first to earn enough money to retire somewhere in a forest and make music cool,” Blau said. “But the internet, social media and the rise of dance music all really took off the moment I started producing. DJ shows in college quickly transitioned to festivals and a music career in full-time.”

Justin Blau’s dive into Web3

In 2017, Ethereum piqued Blau’s interest after reading blog posts and thinking about what on-chain ownership might look like. These included NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, in contexts such as concert ticketing. In 2018, he then hosted the first blockchain-powered music festival.

Blau recalls forming ties with crypto heavyweights like Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Gemini, as well as Duncan and Griffin Cockfoster of NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway, whom he cited as early influences on his journey into the world. nascent space.

After touring for most of the past decade, Blau is fully focused on his new venture, Royal, in 2021. Co-founded with former Opendoor executive JD Ross, Royal is a music rights marketplace that allows fans to buy token royalties or fractional ownership of the work of their favorite artists.

“It could facilitate a change that I’ve been waiting to see for most of my career as an independent artist,” Blau said. “We have a lot of work to do. It’s really head down. My focus is on myself and my team, making sure this technology does everything we want it to do.”

In November, Royal announcement a $55 million Series A, with backing from the crypto arm of Andreessen Horowitz. Other participants in the round include Paradigm, Coinbase Ventures, as well as artists like Nas and The Chainsmokers.

Blau, however, is quick to separate what Royal does from the “musical NFTs” category, adding that his startup offers LDAs, or “limited digital assets” for fans willing to support creators. More than 10,000 collectors have invested more than $1.5 million in music rights on the platform, according to data from Royal.

Shaking up the music industry

NFTs are essentially, according to Blau, a certificate of authenticity on the blockchain. On-chain tokenized assets can lend something to the music industry that it currently doesn’t have, an artist-to-fan monetization pipeline.

“Music NFTs are perhaps an easier way for Twitter to reference the intersection of Web3 and music,” Blau said.

Of the $42 billion in annual revenue generated by the music industry, 12% goes to artists, according to a report by startup Audius. Additional data indicates that 90% of streams from major platforms like Apple Music and Spotify go to the top 1% of artists, Rolling Stone reported.

Blau and Ross from Royal attempt to disturb this by making music royalties a more accessible asset. Last week, the startup announcement that token collectors will earn $36,000 in royalties across four songs in their first round of fan payouts.

“It’s very rare that fans have any ownership in music,” Blau said. “The idea of ​​you being able to own a piece of a song and get paid alongside your favorite artists has always been something exciting to me and the fact that we made it work last week is pretty amazing. “

He added, “We started the business 14 months ago, so it all takes time, like new technology does. I would say we’re really in the dial-up era of what the blockchains are capable of doing.”


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