Why I’m participating in Songcamp Elektra ⚡️
June 30th, 2021

Songcamp started late March with a simple idea by Matthew Chaim:

This is a place for music and the new internet to crash into each other.

5 weeks later, 13 strangers had made roughly $34,000 USD through their creative collaboration which they sold as NFTs.

I watched from the sidelines excited to see artists find new ways to collaborate, be onboarded to Web3 tools, terminology, and mindset, and make money along the way. This was exactly the mentality I was referring to in my piece Thinking small: a meditation on scale vs success for artists which encouraged musicians to consider options beyond the rat race of streaming, charts, playlist pitching, and constant touring.

Now, the second season of Songcamp has kicked off and I’m glad to be able to help out the music teams in a strategic capacity. Season 2 is called Songcamp Elektra.

Steep learning curves

Once you have some basic experience with web3, many interactions become fairly easy. You’ve bought some cryptocurrency, transferred it to your wallet, acquired some tokens, maybe bought an NFT, registered your name on ENS (also an NFT, by the way), and joined a DAO where you vote on community proposals. From here on out you’re fairly familiar with some of the topics, they become easier to research, and every next step is less daunting than the previous one. It makes it easy to forget about the steep barriers to entry.

There are two barriers to entering the space: one is tech literacy and the other is economical. As I was onboarding a friend the other day, so they could register their ENS domain, I was actually shocked how much work getting set up was. I spread that out over months, but doing it all in one go was a lot.

We went through:

  • The Metamask sign up process, which is unconventional for many web users, since it requires people to securely store a phrase they need in order to access their wallet. That comes on top of a password. This practice is more common in banking than in most web services – very logical once you’re onboarded, but perhaps less so if you’re ‘just signing up for a thing’.
  • An issue adding funds to the wallet, since Metamask’s partner that allows you to buy ETH (Wyre) seemed incompatible with their bank. Maybe it was another issue, but in any case: repeated errors.
  • Registering at Coinbase to acquire ETH. Coinbase requires ID verification, so you have to upload a photo and wait for review. (if you have tips for easier methods, let me know)
  • Me sending them ETH instead.
  • Being quoted a price on ENS and then having to pay ‘gas fees’ on top.
  • When registering their name on ENS: needing to wait for minutes in order for the transactions to clear. This can make people who are used to a fast web, and fast URL registration, quite nervous.

This is tough and requires a serious commitment from people. Suddenly, the streamlined UX landscape of the internet breaks down and things get clunky. For most people, that’s daunting, which is why I wrote a piece clarifying all these terms recently for my newsletter.

What I like about Songcamp is that it helps onboard people. It is really helpful to do these things as a group and to have a trusted group of peers you’re collaborating with in case you run into trouble or have questions.

Financial barriers

I’m concerned about how hard the web3 can be to participate in if you don’t have much disposable income. The way things work right now, it feels very much like pay-to-play. I’m glad there are projects like The Mint Fund which helps underrepresented creators mint their first NFT by covering their gas fees and offering additional support, however people shouldn’t have to rely on funds in order to be able to meaningfully participate.

The way around is participating in a DAO. You can collectively raise funds and then grant participants tokens, which they can convert to cryptocurrency or fiat in order to accomplish their goals.

Songcamp did a version of this for their first season when they sold an NFT in order to raise funds to cover the camp’s costs.

Group experimentation

Together, we’ll be doing a lot of firsts. I haven’t minted an NFT, I haven’t been part of a split, and as a matter of fact it’s been a while since I could lend support to artists from the very beginning of their creative process until post-release.

Songcamp is about firsts: both on an individual level, a collective level, as well as in a more general sense. The general firsts are that the creative experiments Songcamp is running haven’t been done yet before. As a collective, it’s our first time collaborating and many people inside the collective have never met each other before. On an individual level, this is a first for the aforementioned reasons, but also because there may be web3 firsts like those I mentioned in the intro paragraph of this section.

Fun & valuable

Most of all, it’s fun. I started the article with a sum of money to get your attention, but nobody is in this for the money. We have no idea what the outcome will be. Instead, it’s about collaboration, learning, experimenting, creating, socialising, and inspiring.

It’s exciting to be able to participate. I think the time commitment may even be similar to a well-prepared conference keynote about a topic I haven’t spoken about before. But in that same amount of time, I directly help creatives (and myself) with everything I’ve described above.

The most valuable thing we’ll get out of this is that we’ll learn skills, tools, and ways of organising. We’ll develop new perspectives. All of this will compound with previous experience and make it easier to start or participate in any subsequent web3 projects thereafter.

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