Photo: Scott Dudelson / Contributor via Getty Images
  /  09.01.2023

Every artist eagerly awaits that special moment in their career – the one where they receive a package that acknowledges all the hard work and heart they’ve poured into their music. Yes, I’m talking about their very first plaque. Even though some folks might raise an eyebrow at charts and top artist lists, everyone agrees that getting that initial recognition is a seriously big deal. They usually come in those massive frames that are practically life-sized displaying the artist’s name, the song that rocked the charts, and the level of achievement — like platinum or diamond. But, as we all know very well, nothing stays the same forever, and thanks to Willow Smith and the RIAA, the well-deserved recognition is changing. They’re giving plaques a fresh spin that reflects the evolving music scene and the artists who make it all happen.

Smith, a musician whose fearlessness has always been her signature, recently added another groundbreaking chapter to her journey. She has become the very first artist to receive a one-of-a-kind RIAA NFT plaque – and it’s far from the traditional honor. This phygital item serves as a symbol of her musical achievements, including chart-topping hits like the infectious “Whip My Hair,” which has gone three-times Platinum; groove-inducing tracks “Wait A Minute!” and “Meet Me At Our Spot,” which each secured the remarkable two-times Platinum status; and the soul-stirring “t r a n s p a r e n t s o u l” that went Platinum as well. But it doesn’t stop there, the 3D graphic on the plaque features artwork from Smith herself in collaboration with Roc Nation and the visionary minds at Infinite Objects. 

This NFT doesn’t just exist in the physical realm but is also etched onto the Ethereum blockchain. It’s like capturing a piece of music history and locking it securely in the digital age. But that’s not even the most exciting part; per press release, each single within this collection of musical gems is represented as a unique “trait” of the NFT. This allows the plaque to reflect the growth of said singles, all certified by the prestigious RIAA Gold & Platinum program, on the chain and within artwork on the physical honor. It’s like having a piece of her musical evolution right in your hands, a token of her artistry and the connection she shares with her fans.

How does Smith feel about being the first recipient? “I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to engage in the sacred process that is music. BIG LOVE to RIAA and Infinite Objects! I am so honored to be able to celebrate these milestones in such an innovative way,” the accomplished musician excitedly said in a statement. “Roc Nation takes pride in leaning into new and innovative technology. We’re so excited to present the first-ever RIAA certification to be minted on the blockchain and presented on an authenticated NFT plaque to celebrate Willow,” added Roc Nation’s Chief Digital Officer David Wander & SVP of Digital Operations Luca Zanello.

Curious about how to snag one of these coveted pieces of art? Well, the NFT plaque, while a marvel to behold, is not up for grabs on OpenSea or any other marketplace. No, you can’t just click a few buttons and make it yours. Although, you can view the item on OpenSea, it is not available for purchase. Much like its traditional counterparts, this NFT plaque has an exclusive entrance policy. You have to be handpicked by the artist or the label to receive one. And who is usually on the recipients list, you ask? Well, let’s pull back the curtain: A&Rs, songwriters, producers, engineers, and other key players who make the gears of the music industry turn. And we can’t forget the managers, distribution, and even those third-party figures at streaming companies.

But here’s where the excitement escalates. As mentioned, this NFT plaque is the pioneer, the first of its kind, and while it’s not up for sale, can you imagine a future where artists — especially independent ones — craft personalized NFT plaques for their fans? A tangible token of their appreciation. An exclusive collectible that bridges the digital with the physical, bringing the artist-fan connection to a whole new level. When this happens, just remember you read it here first!

NFT plaques can pose as huge game-changers for not only fans but for artists themselves, redefining the landscape of the industry in a HUGE way. First is the cost factor. Most folks are in the dark about this, but musicians often pay for their plaques, and let’s be honest, they aren’t cheap. But, the introduction of the NFT version allows for a more cost-effective system. You have the power to bundle multiple singles into one accolade. It streamlines the buying process, cutting down on the number of individual plaques required. And it’s not just about the content; size matters, too. 

The traditional larger-than-life relics are reimagined in NFT form and are about half the size. Cutting the proportions down isn’t just for convenience; it has practical implications. Traditional plaques usually take a long time to be delivered, but smaller stature could mean a faster delivery. Not to mention, the NFT renditions live on the blockchain, which means they update automatically when the next accolade is clinched. No more waiting, no more redundant mail, and no more delays in basking in the glory of your achievements. The transition has many perks that can change the game.

This partnership signifies innovation at the intersection of Web3 and the music industry. It’s a monumental milestone that stretches far beyond the boundaries of Smith’s brand; it serves as an opening to a future where blockchain’s potential for enhancing artist experiences and revolutionizing entertainment is brought to the forefront. The ripple effect extends even further – it’s a stepping stone to sparking curiosity and encouraging a deeper dive into Web3. This move is creating a broader narrative of music and technology, and a dynamic future where we can create something truly exceptional.



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