Why Heavy Metal Band Avenged Sevenfold Keeps Betting on NFTs

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With millions of albums sold and a sizable global following, heavy metal band Avenged Sevenfold is arguably the largest music act building in the Web3 space today—from launching its own NFT-based club to helping ticketing giant Ticketmaster roll out token-gated ticket sales.

Avenged Sevenfold frontman Matt Sanders (a.k.a. M. Shadows), himself an avid NFT collector and CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club member, recently joined Decrypt’s gm podcast. He detailed how the long-running band first embraced NFTs and why it continues to build with the tech despite up-and-down hype and a volatile market.

Sanders described the push as a long game, with the original Deathbats Club—a collection of 10,000 Ethereum NFTs—designed to serve as the “connective tissue” for broader plans.

The collectibles, each featuring a unique bat illustration, were launched in December 2021 outside of an album release cycle to “educate fans” and help them “get their footing.” Deathbats Club members gain access to exclusive merchandise, ticket giveaways, and can join a dedicated online community that includes band members.

Establishing the token and building a community around it allowed the band to start discussing next steps with major players around the music industry, said Sanders.

He mentioned Ticketmaster, streaming music leader Spotify, and online shopping platform Shopify as the kinds of companies that needed to get onboard to provide true value to holders. All three companies have dabbled in the space to date, including with enabling NFT sales, collectible giveaways, or token-gated benefits.

Ticketmaster ended up being the first of such giants to align with Avenged Sevenfold and its Web3 tech partner Bitflips, announcing in March that they had collaborated to launch the ticketing platform’s NFT-gated ticket sales integration. Avenged Sevenfold is the first band to offer the option to fans, having trialed it successfully ahead of the public launch.

“We figured that pure Web3 tickets—like, pure NFT tickets—were a little too much of a step for people at this point,” Sanders said. “Selling out The Forum or [Madison Square Garden] and telling people they had to have a MetaMask wallet didn’t seem like a good idea to us.”

But Avenged Sevenfold isn’t simply aiming to serve its collector base of roughly 5,300 unique Deathbats Club NFT holders. The band wants all Avenged Sevenfold fans to come along for the ride, and has rapidly expanded its Web3 efforts in recent months via free NFT mints and passes that provide tokenized utility to anyone who engages with the band.

Earlier this year, the band held a large-scale alternate reality game (ARG) that challenges fans to piece together clues—both digital and in the real world—to ultimately uncover details about Avenged Sevenfold’s upcoming album, “Life Is But a Dream…” As part of the experience, fans minted over 900,000 free NFTs on Ethereum scaling network Polygon, Shadows said.

And then following the initial Ticketmaster announcement, Avenged Sevenfold launched TicketPass, a free-to-claim Polygon NFT that lets fans get access to token-gated sales—albeit after paying Deathbats Club members.

It’s part of a larger-scale initiative from Avenged Sevenfold and Bitflips to reward die-hard fans that consistently engage with the band, whether it’s by attending concerts, buying physical merchandise, listening to streaming music, and other potential tie-ins to come. Over time, the fans who are most plugged into the Avenged Sevenfold ecosystem will gain greater benefits.

“You can think of it like a rewards program accelerated to the max,” Bitflips founder Joe Totaro told Decrypt in an interview.

The goal with all of these efforts is not to force fans to buy NFTs or handle cryptocurrency. It’s a bonus feature, Sanders said, enabled by blockchain—a sweetener that can reward those fans with exclusive opportunities and potentially even strengthen their connection to the band.

“It doesn’t ask the fan to do anything more than what they’re already doing,” he affirmed.

Since launching the Ticketmaster integration and TicketPass, Sanders said that he’s seen interest from other artists in launching a similar program. In the past, other bands were excited about NFTs when “price go high,” he said, but the band “didn’t hear from anybody” once NFT sales and prices started dropping last year.

For the Avenged Sevenfold frontman, creating a better ticket-buying model for fans than the current scalper-dominated barrage is going to require more artists and bands to take a risk and bet on new tech—and take matters into their own hands.

“I think it’s going to take some people with big balls to kind of jump in and go, ‘OK, we see what’s happening here,’” Sanders said. “We’re seeing an opportunity here where we can really mold what the landscape looks like for the artists—because it’s coming from an artist. We don’t want to let that opportunity pass us by.”

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