Promise: First Floor Interview by Shawn Reynaldo

2nd March 2021
As soon as we promoted the sale of this work as NFT, we became aware that a few fans didn’t understand the mechanisms of publishing and master ownership - and who could blame them? Mindful of not feeding into the outdated Web2 narrative that artists are better going it alone as sole creators, rejecting institutions, record labels and publishers entirely - we wanted to set out some honest intention behind the work. We wanted to set the record straight by offering more context behind the sale. And express our general optimism about the promise of Web3 for artists and collectives like LUCKYME. To be even more direct, we don’t condone selling your publishing to a private buyer over NFT. Promise was a mechanical performance art piece positing a potential future for rights in Web3. A space which still needs to be defined and explored. 

Shawn Reynaldo’s conversation with Jacques Greene was first published in his essential substack newsletter ‘First Floor’. It hits many upon many points we wanted to keep on record. And so with permission, we’ve syndicated the piece here...

Talk of crypto and NFTs has been bubbling in the music world for quite some time, but the conversation seemingly went into hyperdrive last week. The pandemic certainly has something to do with it, yet it’s still dizzying to see how quickly so many people have gone from asking “What is an NFT?” to openly debating the cultural, ethical, financial and environmental merits of systems built on cryptocurrency and Blockchain technology.

Before I get too far into the weeds with this, I do recognize that there are probably plenty of First Floor readers who are still at the “What is an NFT?” stage, and that’s totally reasonable. However, today’s newsletter is not a crypto or NFT primer. (I could do five different newsletters trying to explain this stuff, and I’d only scratch the surface.) For those who are interested in learning the basics though, this Rolling Stone article might be a good place to start. Otherwise, just Google the phrase “what is an NFT?” and you’ll quickly see dozens of articles that have been published during the past month. There’s a proper boom happening—during the past week, mainstream artists like Grimes, 3LAU and Ozuna have earned literally millions of dollars selling NFTs—and the music industry is suddenly rushing to keep up.

I’m in the same boat. My own exploration of the topic began only a couple of months ago after I came across this Crypto will fix the music industry newsletter article, and since then I’ve continued digging. For anyone who’s starting out, there’s a bunch of jargon and vocabulary to learn, and a whole lot of (frankly off-putting) tech and marketing speak to cut through, not to mention some compelling arguments that cryptocurrency is an environmental nightmare. (In the interest of fairness, although headlines about Bitcoin consuming “more energy than Argentina” are downright terrifying, there are folks making seemingly reasonable claims that the ecological concerns around crypto are perhaps overblown.)

In short, this stuff is difficult to get a handle on, and subsequently deciding how you actually feel about it is further complicated by the fact that many of crypto’s loudest proponents appear to be tech speculators and people representing the most blatantly commercial corners of the culture industries. Just last week, Zora—one of the most prominent new NFT marketplaces—hosted a “Art of Creation” discussion with Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that the platform is ultimately looking to benefit underground and independent music culture.

Oddly enough, Jacques Greene, a Canadian producer who minted and sold first NFT earlier this month, is wrestling with many of these same issues.

Although his auction—which granted the buyer publishing rights to his excellent new single “Promise”—was undoubtedly a success, bringing in cryptocurrency worth more than $20,000, he’s not a crypto envangelist. In his mind, the whole thing was essentially done as an experiment, but as one of the first high-profile independent / “underground” electronic music artists to venture into the space, he’s suddenly assumed a prominent position in the NFT dialogue, at least amongst his colleagues.

Given that, I wanted to speak with Greene and find out more about how he was feeling in the aftermath of his auction. Over the course of a long conversation that took place late last week, we covered the basic questions of how the auction worked, but also dug into his motives for entering the crypto game in the first place, along with how his feelings and opinions have evolved over the course of the past week. Elsewhere, we touched on the complexities of publishing (and how NFTs could represent a new way forward for that world) and explored some of crypto’s potential downsides, including the consequences of building a new system where only the crypto rich can participate and the inherent dangers of artists rushing to auction off their work to the highest bidder. Simply put, we covered a lot of ground, but hearing from an artist who’s actually been through the NFT process—and subsequently navigated an explosion of hype in its aftermath—felt extremely valuable during a time when the volume of the crypto discussion has quickly become deafening.

(Please note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.)

Shawn Reynaldo: Before you did this NFT experiment with "Promise," did you have any sort of interaction with cryptocurrency or crypto technology?

Jacques Greene: I finally opened a wallet last year and bought a tiny amount of cryptocurrency. I have not had much disposable income, so it's not like I could sink a lot of money into it. I put in around 500 bucks, just see what was going on and how it actually works.

Before that, I had different run-ins with crypto over the years. Extremely early on, my roommate in New York was pretty plugged-in to internet stuff and he installed a Tor browser for us to see what Silk Road was like. I remember scrolling through it and sort of wrapping my head around the concept of Bitcoin, but I definitely wasn't interested. After that, an old friend of mine, Jesse Walden—a guy who went to McGill in Montreal, used to throw parties and ended up managing Dev Hynes, Solange Knowles and (working with) Imogene Strauss—he was telling me about this thing called Mediachain Labs that he was working on maybe six years ago. Over time, I came to understand that it revolved around the idea of having media on the blockchain as a way of facilitating royalty payments, but it was completely over my head.

What prompted you to properly wade into the crypto world now?

Like everyone right now, I think it's a mix of boredom and despair. I've been sitting around my house, so there's been more time to read up about it, and there's also this looming sense of "will I ever make money steadily again?" Crypto is this thing that does seem to keep going up, so I figured that I needed to try and shake the table and see what was up. As the conversations started gaining steam around NFTs, maybe a month ago, my first response was, "Wait, what is this?" I started understanding the idea of them almost being like baseball cards, and that they're kind of trading on cultural capital. David Rudnick selling his flower was also a catalyst, because he's not native to the space. He wasn't some crypto guy making a 3-D astronaut with a crypto logo on it. So much of the art in the crypto space is not great, so seeing his flower go up for auction caught my attention.

I recently drove to Montreal to shoot a live set for Igloofest set, and I used that time to dig into Mat Dryhurst and Holly Herndon's Interdependence podcast, in particular the episodes with Jesse Walden and the Zora founders. I didn't like everything I heard the Zora guys say—they insisted on making their case study with Yeezys and Yeezy resale, which connected to a level of ambivalence I have about this stuff. Turning all culture into rare sneakers is not a great thing. However, there was some promising stuff in there, and it was compelling to hear Holly and Matt—people that I genuinely consider to be smarter than me—express enthusiasm for this and for the possibility of art being valuable again.

After that, Charles Damga, who works at Warp and runs the UNO NYC label, he's now working with Foundation to help them onboard musicians to the platform. He reached out a few days before the auction wound up happening and said, "We're going to be launching more of a music component, and your name came up because there's always been a strong visual sense to your work. We thought maybe you'd be able to come up with something cool." Then he walked me through the upload process and that was it. The stakes seemed low, and I thought, "It's a new thing. It's still being defined. Other people that I respect seem to be excited about it. Let's give it a fair shake."

A lot of the enthusiastic talk about crypto is coming from people with a tech background, and the discourse often tends to mirror that world in its jargon and outlook. That seems to leave a lot of artists, musicians and creative types cold or feeling like there's a certain "yuck" factor they'd have to ignore or get over. Was that your experience at all?

Yes, absolutely. There are numerous barriers to entry that worry me, although I've been told by tech crypto guys who really want this to work that these will eventually go away. I do get that, especially if I think about the idea of splicing tape to create a loop versus just looping something on an MPC or now on Ableton. Things become easier and more accessible over time, and when it comes to crypto, I've been told that we're still in the rudimentary, "figuring it out" phase. Honestly though, I don't know how much I believe that, and that feeling ties in with my concerns about minting fees and transaction fees, which can be prohibitively expensive for artists.

All of this has been a crash course in terms of figuring out where I stand on this stuff, and it's been happening in real time, because I only recently really started seriously considering it. With minting fees, it felt interesting, just because the internet has become so flooded. Perhaps they would force people to be a bit more considered in terms of the art, ideas and culture that they share, because if everyone had to pick their best stuff, that could be a sort of quality control. At the same time, do we really want an internet in which the only culture being shared and celebrated is made by people who can afford minting fees and wrap their heads around things like crypto wallets? I do think there are nice possibilities with this crypto technology, but I also think we're farther away from those possibilities than I first expected.

Many of the musicians that have already ventured into the crypto space are coming from EDM or other blatantly commercial circles. Obviously the lines between "mainstream" and "underground" are really blurry these days, but in your case, you're an independent artist and you come from scenes that are rooted in DIY and non-corporate values. Given that, did you have any aesthetic- or values-based reservations about getting involved in this?

Not directly, because I approached the whole thing as an independent project. In my mind, an old friend and Warp affiliate was saying, "Hey, there's this thing, do you want to try it out?" I was like, "Yeah. Cool." We kept talking, and I worked through the weekend to make the artwork myself. You know, the whole Jacques Greene project is rooted in the fact that I was in the right place at the right time with SoundCloud, and I felt like I owed it to myself to give this a fair shake and have an open mind.

I do understand now that most of the crypto musicians are these EDM guys, but that's something I've really only learned since the auction started. I thought that NFTs were more about visual art and fine art. Again, David Rudnick had entered the space. I don't want to blame it all on him, but that definitely helped to legitimize it for me. And honestly, I just didn't think it was that big of a deal. It was one NFT. I didn't tokenize or start JacquesCoin. I did run that thought experiment, thinking that the next time I release a 12", if there are 300 copies, I could create 300 tokens. But if you tokenize physical objects, buyers can't actually use them unless they redeem their coin, which creates a potential scenario where fans are continually trading coin and never cashing out, never interacting with the vinyl. If that happened, I'd end up with 300 records in a box in my room while people are getting speculatively rich off the idea of the vinyl. That felt pretty dark, but if we're just talking about one digital single, that exposure felt more limited to me.

That digital single was "Promise," which you actually released to the public a couple of days after the auction closed. Was the song something that you made specifically for this NFT project?

No, it's something I made over the winter. A couple of months ago, I made a batch of tracks, basically trying to get myself out of a funk and make stuff that felt a little lighter. I'd been working on some other EP tracks, and I'm excited about a lot of that material, but it's all very dark and kind of depressing, frankly because I've been so depressed. So I made some music to challenge that and wound up with a few things that felt lighter and slightly more optimistic. When the time came to post something on this NFT platform, I liked the idea of using music that felt light and carefree.

Now, the actual NFT, as in the item that people were specifically bidding for, it wasn't the song, correct? It was just a six-second audio-visual piece.

Yes, legally that is all that the guy who won the auction owns.

Who made that?

I did. It's old tour visual footage that Jason Voltaire and I made a few years ago. I think it was originally done with an Xbox Kinect, with someone just lying on a floor.

One thing I noticed about your NFT, and this is true for a lot of the art-related NFTs, is that it's actually easy to copy or pirate. If someone wants that audio-visual file, they can go to Foundation and grab it. The "value" of the actual NFT lies in its authenticity, which can only be verified by its coding.

Yeah, I watched the whole thing go down with Rudnick's flower where someone minted a screenshot of saving the flower to their phone. That's okay though, because the desire to show people on Twitter that anyone could save Rudnick's piece ultimately lent credence to the fact that it actually is a valuable cultural artwork. I think that's where NFT stuff gets interesting—maybe it's not so much about controlling. If we somehow enter a phase of the internet where we lose ease of duplication and the ability to openly share ideas, that's a worst-case scenario. That's why making the high-resolution versions of these NFT artworks easily available is kind of the point. Yes, you can go on Twitter and see the ruined 400-pixel version, but if you want to see the real image, you have to go to Zora or whatever platform, and there, you can also see who created it and who currently owns it. I think there's something to that, especially as we move from the material world to the digital world. It raises the question of what it really means to own something.

Aside from the audio-visual clip, you decided that whoever held the NFT would also be given the publishing rights to "Promise" in perpetuity. Why did you decide to throw that into the mix?

It literally stemmed from the fact that my manager was having a hard time wrapping his head around what an NFT sale was. As we were talking about the fact that it didn't seem to be much of anything, at least according to our understanding of copyright law, we thought it made sense to raise the stakes and add the publishing. I thought, "What if someone who works in a music supervision position buys this and wants to develop a new type of publishing catalog?" That was an interesting proposition. What if a publisher had a crypto wallet and decided to buy this as an asset for their portfolio? Potentially this could be a new kind of publishing marketplace, one that works similarly to the old way in the real world, only you wouldn't need to go have coffee with publishing people in LA and talk about what your plans are.

Now that someone else owns the publishing for this song, what does that actually mean, functionally?

There are still guardrails in place. LUCKYME holds the master, I still hold the artist / performer side and now, Trevor McFedries owns the publishing. In the document that was transferred to him at the end of the auction, I retained permission rights, so the song can't be used in a Raytheon or US military commercial tomorrow. It is up to the token holder to register as a publisher, and it's not my job to chase down whoever owns this token. Once they're registered, then they can get residuals on streams, and if it gets synced or used on a TV show or something like that, they will obviously get the publishing cut.

I need to back this up by saying that I previously signed a publishing deal. I was 21, and the first advance allowed me to move to New York, which was very exciting to me at the time, but the way the deal was structured was real hell. I was in it for nine years and, pound for pound, it was not worth it at all. Mostly I was just paying back these amounts that I didn't even really touch in the first place, and any time that they would try to set me up for writing sessions and trips out to LA to work with people, that was essentially all charged against the publishing advance. Any time my music got synced, it came through Warp or my manager; they never brought a single ad sync, but they still took the entire publishing side. Once I got out of the deal, I came out the other side feeling pretty bitter, thinking that a lot of the publishing system was dysfunctional. So when this NFT situation arose, I came at it from the point of view that a publisher had never brought real value to my catalog, so I couldn't really lose by working with a stranger on this one song. After all, they could forget to register it or register it and then just sit on it. In either of those scenarios, it would be the same as what I'd had for nine years. Plus, it would be limited to just the one track and come with a lump-sum payment that wouldn't have to be recouped.

The guy who won the auction, Trevor McFedries, let's say he does register as a publisher, starts shopping the song around and finds some blockbuster movie that wants to put it in the trailer.

I wouldn't put it past him. He's that kind of guy.

So if that happens and you approve the sync, he'll earn all of the publishing forever.

Yes. If he was really dedicated, he could make back his winning bid in a day with a single sync. It's strange to me as an artist, but it seems like people in this crypto space are focused on the promise of this resale market and the growing valuation of these cultural assets. What I'm seeing from people who buy NFTs is that they want to see a return on investments. They see what they're buying as assets, which of course makes me ask, "Is that really what we want?"

It goes back to that "yuck" factor.

Exactly. My one devil's advocate position is that a lot of art has always been like that. Even during the blog era, writers would try to get in early on the "stock" of an artist so they could buy low and sell high, dumping them the minute they passed their peak. That was obviously happening on a more abstract level, but people always trade on the cultural capital of artists. And if we look at fine art, it's totally an asset and is actually listed in investment portfolios. We don't want to just bury our heads in the sand, or people with more means than us will just continue to play with culture in this way. Long term, I don't know exactly what we are going to do about that, but in terms of this one NFT, I thought of it as a value proposition. I figured that worst case, nothing would happen and I'd have this thing and be a part of an interesting story. Best case, the buyer could try to get a singer on it or pitch it for movies, essentially taking on the role of what a good publisher does, which is essentially what I wanted this whole time.

To make that publishing handover, you mentioned that you sent an agreement over to the buyer. Did you have to do that because blockchain technology is not at a place where you can build those rights into the code?

There's nothing in the blockchain to write that code. I saw someone describe these kinds of token sales as LARPing, because you're essentially pretending that this extra thing (in my case, the publishing) is part of the NFT. Again, the binding sale is effectively only for that six-second audio-visual loop. One reason I did it on Foundation over Zora is because Foundation allows for a private link to be mailed out to the winner, so I put together a Dropbox link with the full song, the high-resolution artwork and a PDF that explains, "It's on you to register the publishing, then you should get in touch and we can set this up."

For the auction, you originally listed the NFT for a price of 0.3 ETH. What made you start with that number?

I was thinking in real-world dollars and I wanted to give it room. I was hoping for a sale price of three to five ETH, and thinking back to eBay auctions, starting low felt like a good thing to do. It felt more approachable.

How much did it cost to mint the NFT?

Gas prices, whatever that means, were abnormally high at that point, but it was about $150 total.

Looking back at the history of the auction, a little more than an hour after it went live, someone bid five ETH, which was worth approximately $8000 at the time. How did you feel when you saw that, and how did your mindset progress as the bids continued to climb over the next 24 hours?

Frankly, I felt relief, like, "There is worth to this," and not just the auction, but me and my work. Someone saw the potential value of owning the publishing of a Jacques Greene recording. There was also relief in the sense of, "I haven't played a show in 11 months and now there's a minimum $8000 (minus the 15% Foundation fee) being wired into my account at this time tomorrow."

All of that felt manageable, but my anxiety definitely started to spiral as the amounts got larger. It was frantic and scary, but also exciting, just on a "this is nuts" level. I also realized in real time that the whole thing was a much bigger deal than I had anticipated, especially in terms of the conversation around it. That also had to do with who was bidding on it. Although the guy who upped the ante to 10 ETH was an old fan who is crypto flush now, I realized that the top few bidders were people who occupy this space of tech and culture in crypto. They had an interest in validating and legitimizing that space, and also setting precedents within it. It was like, "You like my music, and you think this auction is cool, but you also think it's cool for what it means and you see the potential of what it represents."

You ended up being a proof of concept for people who have been involved in crypto a lot longer than you.

Yeah. *sighs*

The NFT eventually sold for 13 ETH, which at the time was worth something like $23,000. The buyer, Trevor McFedries, is someone who people in the music world might remember as Young Skeeter or DJ Skeet Skeet. He's also the creator of Lil Miquela, who's this CGI character / pop star, and last year her team did an NFT that was auctioned off for approximately $82,000. Long story short, Trevor is a very vocal advocate for this technology. Did you feel like he bought your NFT as a genuine fan or do you feel like he was trying to make a statement?

I think it was a mix of different things. We've known each other tangentially since the Hollerboard days and he has followed and supported my career. I do think he's a genuine fan of my music, but I also think that a large part of his winning bid was about pushing this space forward in a direction that he wants to go. And that's his prerogative. So much of this NFT world is framed as this idea of patronage, but let's be honest, currently it really is a playground for the crypto rich. A few days before my auction, he commissioned a Kacy Hill NFT / song for Valentine's Day, and I think those two events are similar in the sense that he is a fan of the music, but is also maybe paying above market rate, redistributing his crypto wealth in a way that serves his professional goals. I'm not blind to that.

As the artist who created the work, do you ultimately care about the motives of the buyer?

That's a really good question. I tried to game the possible outcomes for the auction, and the worst-case scenario I thought up was a major-label publisher buying it. The idea that someone would use the auction as a proof of concept, it honestly didn't occur to me as much. I think it's fine, but I'm worried that there are many ways where this plays out that the crypto space just replicates the same shitty systems from before. We need louder artist voices in that space. The conversation is very much being led by crypto guys all the time. This Pandora's box is open, and even if it doesn't replace the current system, it's going to exist alongside it, so there needs to be an open dialogue between artists and the people forming these things.

As for the intent behind Trevor's purchase, I don't ultimately see it as nefarious. I think he wants to see these things that he believes in get fully realized, but he's also a genuine fan of music and culture and wants better musicians and better creators on the platform. By giving me a successful auction, I think he's trying to lead the way to and tell other artists, "You should be part of this too." I'm okay with that.

If Trevor decides to resell the NFT at some point, will you get a portion of the proceeds?

Yes, I think that's built into all the NFT marketplaces now. I believe I would get 10 or 15% of the sale price.

In the hours immediately after the auction ended, the value of Ethereum fell more than 20%.

As the funds were reaching my account, it just crashed.

It's recovered a chunk of that since then, but as the newfound holder of all this cryptocurrency, how did you feel seeing that volatility?

It was stressful. Between the time that the auction ended and when the currency reached my wallet, I think I lost three grand, but it's all monopoly money. I haven't taken any of it out, other than what I needed to pay my manager I guess. I've actually been looking at charities and organizations that accept Bitcoin donations. I'm coming up short so far, but I'm hoping that I'll find something worthwhile. Otherwise, I don't even know if I'm going to take any of it out of my wallet. Hopefully I can let it ride and it can be a nest egg if another wave of this virus hits.

In the aftermath of the auction, what have the last few days been like for you?

Every artist I've ever known has been messaging me with variations of, "Okay, so what is NFT?" or "This is crazy. I want to do this right now." I don't know if anyone should be putting their publishing on an anonymous marketplace to the highest bidder, if only because the framework isn't really in place yet, but I've been having very long conversations with friends and acquaintances from the music world about what the auction meant and what my thoughts are on it. I've also been hearing from a lot of tech and crypto people, like startup guys, who are like, "Wow, excited to see you join the space, bro. Let me know when you have time for me to run you through this thing we're launching." It's been interesting to have a back door into this world—I definitely did not know that so many people were working behind the scenes on new platforms and additional iterations of the technology. It's been non-stop, and since I haven't played a show in 11 months, I've also been doing odd jobs on the side and I'm trying to fit in some sound design work in the midst of all this. Honestly, it's been the longest week of my life. I'm ready to mute NFT off my Twitter feed.

How do you feel about suddenly being a sort of spokesman for NFTs and crypto technology?

It's interesting. This connects to what I was saying before about the need for artists to be at the table, but we need a way to talk about all these things in public without having to go into some "Let's build bro" Clubhouse room. I'd like to find a way to interface with younger people, the next generation of creators for whom this might be more of a native ecosystem.

I've gone through different iterations of thought, from "I want to walk away from this right away" to "Music and NFTs coming. I could just put everything on there after establishing this precedent." I think the reality will lie somewhere in between. I don't know that this is the last time I will ever interface with NFT stuff, but I definitely won't be tokenizing my community anytime soon. Those kinds of ideas of turning your fans into shareholders are really distressing to me.

I do think there are interesting applications of this stuff that speak to a more decentralized collective action. That's exciting. On the other hand, one thing that's a massive turnoff is that there's no easy way to publish work on platforms like Foundation and Zora that is co-authored. For instance, if I did an artwork with Hassan Rahim, or if I did a collaboration with a singer and wanted to put it out as an NFT, we'd have to start a joint crypto wallet, which is ridiculous given the general nature of creative work.

Collaboration is a good thing. There needs to be an increased exchange of ideas, and right now I think this technology creates an imperative for every artist to become an island, trading on their own cultural capital. That's not the future I want for culture. So yes, I've been thinking a lot about this, both the possibilities and the pitfalls. And if I am going to be some sort of spokesperson, maybe it's good that I'm not some crypto evangelist telling everyone to tokenize their careers. There are ways to work within this field that could be beneficial for a lot of people, but we should think carefully about how it moves forward.

One of the main critiques of crypto technologies is they have a pretty terrible environmental impact. Simply put, they use up a lot of energy, and if these marketplaces that are emerging now were to scale significantly as-is, the results could be really damaging on an ecological level. Did any of this factor into your thought process during this experience?

Absolutely. Just this morning, I was looking into a carbon offset that you can pay in crypto. Carbon offset isn't great, but it's something. Going into this, my line of thinking was that I hadn't taken an airplane in 11 months and haven't really eaten out. Compared to before, my carbon footprint is definitely better than it was. My other thought was that aside from shows, the only real way to make money in music is by selling merch, and that's not great for the environment either. There's really no way for musicians to get paid without destroying the world, which of course is another reason that constantly minting NFTs would be an additional negative thing.

So yeah, my carbon ledger isn't clean, but it's cleaner than it has been in 10 years, so I felt like I had a bit of leeway. Still, the overall impact is pretty gnarly. If you compare it to a lot of big industries, it's just like, "Oh yeah, we've made another thing that ruins the world." It doesn't seem special in that way, but I also think that new ideas should take the environment into account. And if a new idea isn't environmentally friendly, it's worth debating whether it's a good idea. In the meantime though, I think this issue will throttle my engagement with crypto, in terms of interfacing with the platforms and trading one currency for another. I will always keep that in mind.

Aside from the environmental issue, did you get any negative feedback from anyone this week?

Yes. Evian Christ replied in a Twitter thread, and he called it more nihilistic than optimistic. We had a very good back and forth and we took it to DMs after that. We're friends and it was all in the spirit of good conversation. Again, I saw the entire process as an experiment. I didn't pose it as an answer; it was more of a question: "Old-school publishing has never really worked for me, so what about this?" I was ready for anything, even the auction being won by a terrible person, which is why I limited the exposure to one song. I knew there would be positive sentiment and negative sentiment, and though it's been overwhelmingly positive, at least in my feed, I recognize that all of this is controversial. There's a way this plays out that could be nefarious, like all things internet.

I don't think the internet is inherently good or bad. It's a tool that we have that accelerates and raises everything we do to a fever pitch, and that's happening with this NFT bubble. But thanks to this auction, I've had so many public and private conversations, and I think that's really good. Anytime there is ample conversation about music publishing and rights and the possibility of rethinking those things, that's a positive thing.

Looking at your auction and NFTs, it quickly jumps out just how expensive this world is, both for people who want to buy and sell items. Plus it's all built on cryptocurrency, which is totally speculative at this point. Given that, it's easy to look at the space and feel like it's just a playground for rich people that want to gamble a little bit. Do you think it can be more than that?

Not currently, because the gas prices are so high. This is part of the reason why I went with something like publishing, because I realized that the average fan isn't on these marketplaces. Selling a regular piece of Jacques Greene artwork there would have felt disingenuous, because the regular music world is relatively egalitarian and easy access.

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine put up their first thing on Zora and I wanted to know what it was like to bid on something and just help him along. I tried to put 200 bucks on his auction, but on Zora you need to wrap your Ethereum, and that exchange costs money, and then putting the bid down cost another 50 bucks. It quickly became abundantly clear that the entire system is expensive and kind of inefficient. Until that changes, this will very much be a playground for the crypto rich. There's nothing inherently wrong with that—there are entire websites that only sell $2,000 shoes—but framing it as a patronage thing is problematic. In a world where visual art has been rendered worthless by Instagram and music has been rendered worthless by Spotify, it's a band-aid solution for artists to hope that a couple of angel benefactors can support their practice. In that sort of system, there are larger implications (that are kind of awful) that will disproportionately benefit artists whose aesthetic pairs up with the fine art world, or whose mediums are either part of, or tangentially connected to, the wealthy and powerful. I don't think a random person in Wyoming who's making a demo tape in their house is going to see the NFT marketplace as a huge win for artists.

I just have one more question. Aside from all this crypto stuff, you've actually been kind of busy on the music front. You did the live set for Igloofest in Montreal, and you guested on "SENNA," the first single from the new Cadence Weapon album. Do you have anything else on the horizon in the months ahead?

Honestly, a lot of last year I was just extremely anxious, but I was lucky enough to get a fair amount of commissioned remix work. I was able to pay the bills that way and also stay somewhat creative, but frankly, working on Jacques Greene music and trying to conceptualize records was impossible. I couldn't put my mind to it at all. Since the end of last year though, I've kind of forced myself out of that funk and tried to make music every day, just to see if something comes together. From that, I've been putting together the pieces for my first EP in a while. The last thing I put out was the Dawn Chorus full-length, and I definitely don't want to do an album again for a while. I'm also still mourning the fact that only the first part of that tour was able to happen. I've got some unfinished business, so I need to clear the slate and release some new stuff. This year is also the 10-year anniversary of those first Jacques Greene EPs, so I'm trying to see if there's something cool to do with that. Maybe I'll look back at the early days of SoundCloud and see what that's about.

First Floor is Shawn Reynaldo’s essential weekly electronic music digest that includes news & thoughts on the issues affecting the larger scene / industry that surrounds the music.

Promise is a Jacques Greene single, released in chorus with his debut NFT. The owner of the NFT also controls the publishing to the song. That’s a promise.

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