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Exclusive Interview: World known DJ Umek drops an NFT live gig, NFT Livestream and talks about his Viberate project

We had the pleasure of chatting with DJ Umek, a well-known veteran in the techno music industry. We went through NFTs, his Viberate project, Corona-crisis and much more.

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Can you tell us a bit more about your background and life before all the fame and recognition? How did the idea to become a DJ come to you?

My young life was pretty standard. I went to school diligently, and at about the age of eight or nine, I started playing basketball. I did well; I participated in quite a few tournaments at home. I also have some medals. I managed to get into the cadet national team. At the age of 17, I then left school and basketball with the goal of becoming a DJ. This decision was quite radical for me at the time, but all the effort I put into it finally paid off. I have loved music for as long as I can remember, even in the basketball club, I was known for always having some music tapes with me. The idea to become a DJ came to me at a school dance where DJ Alf played music. He had a massive sound system, and all these speakers’ installation was extremely interesting for me. Then he played music of his choice, people danced and had fun, so I said to myself, “If this is not the best job in the world, then I don’t know what is.”

How and when did you enter the blockchain/crypto world? With the Viberate project, or have you invested/monitored the technology before?

I stepped into the crypto world with Viberate in 2017, but I already had some knowledge and experience from before. I even mined; I had LEO coins. I remember it was in 2015 or even earlier when Matej Gregorčič (present CEO of Viberate) and I had 14 computers for mining in my attic, where it was insanely hot. I also traded, but I once made such a big mistake that made me sell all the coins and computers and leave the crypto world for a while. I did this at the worst possible time because, at that time, newcomers like me had just started to successfully mine ethereum.

What do you think of NFT’s madness in the world of athletes, artists, and their NFT collectibles? Are “eye-watering” prices appropriate, or is it just a bubble ready to burst? Are you the owner of any digital collections from the world of sports or art? If so, which ones?

That was something to be expected. Sports memorabilia has been around for quite some time, and it was clear that this would move to NFTs. We know what values objects achieve in physical form, and the same happens with things in the digital world. I am, say, a collector of sports equipment from Michael Jordan, and let’s say his sneakers and jerseys sell for millions of dollars. Imagine where it will all go together in the digital world, given that we are just getting started. I think we can talk about a bubble at the moment, which probably won’t burst but will anchor itself on some healthy ground. Then we will be able to talk about some fundamental values of NFTs. These corrections have already taken place, and many projects are failing.

I own about 20 minor works of art. I entered the market through Pixel Art to even learn how this thing works. I got acquainted with OpenSea to get to know the market laws, how to mint and how users or collectors see everything. But I don’t own CryptoPunks or anything like that. I’m practically a beginner, but let’s say I follow all the major NFT platforms on Instagram. I regularly listen to discussions on ClubHouse and so on. I can say that I have already learned quite a bit, and when it comes to NFTs, I think the future is bright.

Given that you are a musician yourself and you entered the world of NFTs, how do you think NFTs will affect the music industry, especially now, in these corona times that are difficult, especially for show-business, as more significant events are mostly not possible?

NFTs will affect the music industry in a variety of ways. Rumour has it that we will be able to receive copyright payments via NFTs as soon as your song is playing somewhere, i.e., without any middlemen. I believe this will happen. However, “dinosaurs” must be tackled in music labels. However, I think it will take quite some time before they conquer these new technologies. There is a lot of bureaucracy in the more prominent labels. They have many job positions for all sorts of things, so I think it will take at least ten years for something to be sorted out the way it should be. I hope that my team and I will be among the first to show how it all works in practice. With Viberate, we set ourselves the goal of arranging things in the live music industry. Two ideas came to us: the first is a live music performance, and I added a live stream. This is very important to me, primarily because of the times we are in now. As I mentioned, memorabilia is also an essential element, so we added my song Lanicor in different versions. I think the most revolutionary is the NFT live stream gig because it is the most easily transferable to NFTs. However, this means that I have to take care of the technical implementation myself, so I have to “bring” the music to the end customer or buyer of the NFT. He then has to connect it to a screen and speakers, which everyone has at home anyway, and you can already see and listen to me. This seems like a great thing to me because even in the post-Covid 19 period, performances via video link will remain. There may not be as many as there are now, but they will stay among us. On the other hand, a live gig NFT can be bought by a promoter, who then has to organize the event: he has to lease a sound system, come to pick you up at the airport… Here are quite a few costs and organization elements.

Regarding NFTs, I would like to mention one more thing: through them, you can offer something otherwise tricky: this personal relationship with the person who buys NFT from you. It’s a kind of digital meet and greets because people can ask you something during the broadcast, get to know you better. This digital world offers many possibilities. There are practically no limits, so I appeal to every artist to use imagination and make each performance at least a little special. In this context, I also wish we had some rating system where people would rate performances to know which ones were good and which ones weren’t. This would mean that those with good live stream performances would find it easier to sell NFTs.

First NFT live event… congratulations! Very revolutionary for the music industry and thinking outside the box. How did the idea for such an NFT come about and how long did the idea grow before the drop?

The first start of this NFT was created as part of our presentation document (white paper) in 2017 when we at Viberate announced that we would offer musical performances via blockchain. We could have done this earlier, but it was technically challenging to implement. There was practically no market for such a thing. With NFTs, there has been a popularization and the emergence of a market where you can sell something, and people are willing to buy it. So the time to launch this product was right. We have successfully tested the thing and proved that we could do it. We are already looking ahead with the team and preparing new drops.

We have a little more interest in your NFTs, especially in your live gig NFT and Livestream NFT. How is it with the time frame? Does NFT have a “shelf life?” If someone doesn’t take advantage of the NFT and sell it on? What about royalties, do you, as an artist, get some resale share, as is usually the case with other NFTs? Does the NFT have any restrictions on the event itself, e.g., in terms of location, time, number of audiences, and perhaps ticket sales for the event?

The live stream will, of course, have a shelf life, mainly because I’m 45 years old, and some DJs are also over 60 years old, so you never know what will happen in so many years. The timestamp is something that makes sense. Still, the user will also decide in what kind of time frame they will use the NFT.

I have to say that reselling performances seems like a fascinating thing to me. So the one who bought my NFT for the live gig can either use it or resell it on the market. Viberate already has the best database of musicians globally. Anyone with at least a little understanding of how business works can check the musicians with our platform and quickly find out which one is growing or is well on their way to becoming a star. If someone buys an NFT from an artist who is clear to become even more popular over time, it makes sense that this NFT may be sold for more money in the future. This is especially interesting when we talk about musicians who are still at the beginning of their careers. NFTs can also serve as a kind of crowdfunding, as some artists have talent but don’t have the money to record an album. Through the sale of NFTs, however, they can pay for studio work and release an album. This increases their popularity, and they can attack the market. As their price rises, such NFTs can be sold by buyers for more money.

The next thing that is very useful with NFTs is this: for an event in Barcelona, someone wants to hire me, but that’s not possible because I have particular business partners there and play music for specific people. On the other hand, if someone buys my NFT, I commit to making a performance for the customer, of course. If it is not possible to reach me through established practices, it is undoubtedly through NFTs. It is essential to know that it is not easy to get a star DJ through an agency, especially not in a short time. You have to hire other DJs before you get to the top pick. Someone can struggle for two years to get to him, and then the agency tells him that he can’t be reached because he already has some other partner and you have a problem. You can solve this problem through NFTs.

The rest of the requirements are as follows: the technical equipment must be arranged like it is specified in the rider, because the performance is still handed over to the agency, where they take care of the technical things. According to the contract, my requirements must be taken into account, but of course the nature of the event must also be taken into account. If it’s a birthday party, I don’t expect the best sound system, but let’s say some “hygienic minimum” is expected.

Is selling NFT live events perhaps a way for musicians to cut out the middlemen, maybe earn more, and raise the price of your music while also lowering the cost of the concert, which could bring the music closer to larger crowds of people?

Of course, that makes sense. Airbnb has already shown how this can be successful in practice. NFTs will achieve a particular market share in this industry. They may become the dominant element over the years, but this transition will take quite some time. Successful musicians and agents together earn millions of euros and, of course, do not want to change their tactics and established practices. This revolution will only happen when there is a change of generations. When a brave artist appears, who, for example, no longer has his website, similar to myself – I only use my Viberate profile – and will offer performances exclusively through NFTs, then this kind of sales have a chance. Once this happens globally, then agents and other intermediaries will no longer be needed. Instead of one middleman taking 10 percent, another 15, a third 20 percent of your earnings, you will only have to pay a commission on transactions and a provider like Viberate. Still, these percentages are not so high because we are not talking about many people but automated processes. I will be thrilled if this happens in the near future.

At this point, I would also like to mention that I am planning a very special NFT – I call it the “NFT Experience.” What exactly will its name be? I don’t know yet, but it’s an NFT that allows the musician to approach his fans differently. Every artist is known for his music, but there is usually much more hidden in it. Maybe there are good sculptors and painters among us, let’s say I collect sneakers, and I don’t know what else. I know quite a few passionate photographers among DJs; one Italian is a good chef. So a DJ can offer a cooking class in some fun way, why not? There are many possibilities. I hope we can run this NFT by the end of the year.

In the first wave of cryptomania, we saw the tremendous success of the Viberate project, then after the collapse of the crypto market, the project, like most others, fell silent a bit, and now it is rising again like a phoenix from the ashes. What has been going on in the meantime and what are the plans for the near future?

As for Viberate, it is like this: the collapse of the crypto market affected us, but our project was set seriously and, above all, for the long run. Covid 19 also did not help with this plan, as the music industry is among those industries that have suffered the most damage. However, there is one very positive aspect: we have been given valuable time to develop our products and meet the commitments set out in the white paper. I believe that otherwise, we would have succeeded much sooner, and even more; people would understand how big and important an analytical platform we have managed to develop. But you don’t have to take our word for it – visit www.viberate.com and see it for yourself. You will find a lot of valuable and exciting information. For example, when I choose artists for my 1605 label, I constantly review their Viberate profiles and decide whether I will collaborate with them.

We continue to work at full steam, and of course, we expect things to fall into place over time. We are constantly improving the platform and adding new features. We cover the most significant social networks and leading streaming music providers, and other platforms such as YouTube and Beatport. Just recently, we added 24,000 radio stations operating in 150 countries to the database. Regarding music analytics, I would say that we currently have no competition on the same level as us globally. At NFTs, we are pioneers in our segment. Still, I hope that other musicians will also realize as soon as possible how they can use them to their advantage. Those of us who are hooked on electronic music are more open to novelties, and I believe that with the new drops, we will inspire even more artists to join us.

Finally, we would like to touch on your plans for the after Covid 19-period (hopefully, it will be over soon). Probably some extended vacation after all the restrictions and regulations? We are also interested if you will get back on track to traditional performances and events, or do you tend to take a more “digital” approach to everything together and maybe release another NFT live event / live stream?

Of course, I would like to get back on track as soon as possible, but I have to say that it’s nice to be home. During this time, quite a few other DJs who have ten performances per month have found something similar. In addition to chasing after as many performances as possible and proving to oneself and others, there is another side to life. I think the mental state of the musicians has improved considerably during this period. Still, I am aware that many suffer from a loss of income when there are no live performances. I also miss them, actual performances in front of a live audience. But I find this balance between live performances and the time you spend at home as something important. Going back to live stream NFTs: one of the advantages of this is that you don’t have to travel, you don’t have to fly to the other end of the world, but you still work. Let’s say you do a live stream on Friday, which can be one, two, or three hours long, and then on Saturday and Sunday, you have time to get together with friends, go to a family lunch, for a walk, or do some sports activity.

ART & COLLECTABLES

In the Largest-ever NFT Drop, WAX will Distribute Ten Million Free NFTs

WAX will give out free NFTs to commemorate its success with a variety of companies on board and rising play-to-earn games.

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#nft #nfthours #wax #drop #10million

Despite the recent NFT market surge, WAX has received little attention. Solana and Flow have both had considerable accomplishments in the field, but Ethereum has high-dollar, headline-grabbing sales and most of the overall trading volume.

Despite the lack of publicity, WAX has quietly racked up impressive numbers. It now has the greatest smart contract transaction volume of any network, with DappRadar having recently reported about 18 million daily transactions. In addition, major brands such as Funko, Mattel, AMC, and Sony Pictures have used it for NFT drops.

WAX—short for Worldwide Asset eXchange—has also recently passed the 10-million-to-11-million-total-wallet-accounts-on-the-platform-mark and will celebrate by airdropping a total of 10 million free NFT collectibles to those wallets. It’s the most significant single NFT drop to date, and the first 10 million WAX wallet holders will get it for free.

The free NFTs are distributed across ten different digital pins, commemorating a different period in WAX’s history. The 10 million NFTs jointly mark the platform’s success up to this moment, from its mainnet launch in 2019 to its carbon-neutral accreditation, and even its recent cooperation with AMC and Sony Pictures for “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”

WAX CEO and co-founder William Quigley told Decrypt that the company planned to commemorate the wallet’s one-year anniversary with a large-scale drop that would be unfeasible on other major platforms. While the airdrop represents WAX’s history, he also wants it to demonstrate to companies that they can use its platform to execute initiatives involving millions of NFTs.

“Most individuals familiar with NFTs recognize that minting Ethereum NFTs is slow and expensive,” he explained. “So we reasoned: Well, no one has ever attempted to make 10 million NFTs. We’ve only done about 2.5 million Topps MLB baseball cards, but even that much outnumber anything done by other chains.”

According to Quigley, WAX had roughly 500,000 registered members at the end of 2020, so the current 10 million record implies a 20-fold growth in users in just over a year. Furthermore, according to data from DappRadar, the larger NFT market surged considerably in 2021, going from over $100 million in trade volume in 2020 to $23 billion last year.

He said that minting 10 million NFTs on Ethereum’s mainnet would be too expensive and that the “chain would have collapsed” due to the network’s low transaction throughput. He also chastised competitor chains: Solana experienced extended downtime in September. In addition, Ethereum sidechain scaling solution Polygon recently suffered rising costs due to a now-defunct play-to-earn game called Sunflower Farmers.

On DappRadar’s list of the most popular decentralized applications (dapps) by user count, WAX offers several play-to-earn games and other applications. While increased demand can put WAX to the test, Quigley says the blockchain platform has stayed online and functional.

“We’ve made it through, although it’s been quite difficult at times. WAX is still standing, “he stated. “You’ve got chains like Solana and Polygon whose entire raison d’être is their ability to scale. And [Polygon] couldn’t even handle one of the most popular learn-to-play games. There isn’t one. And there are many of them.”

WAX plans ahead

According to Quigley, WAX’s growing reputation as a destination for brands—which includes Reebok, Mattel, Capcom, and Atari—is partly due to the platform’s scalability and inexpensive pricing. But it’s also because of his team’s experience working with brands, including his previous role as Chief Financial Officer of Disney’s licensing division.

“When we communicate to brands about intellectual property management, we speak their language,” Quigley said. “We can safeguard their brands, and a lot of it boils down to trust.”

He expects interest in WAX’s “vIRL” NFT format, which stands for “Virtual in Real Life,” to rise in the future. It’s essentially an NFT digital twin that can be redeemed for a physical version of the product, and companies like Funko and Mattel have already used it in projects.

It’s excellent for high-demand products like shoes and streetwear, according to Quigley, because it eliminates some of the expenses and environmental effects of shipping things through many parties before they reach the end-user.

He also anticipates increased crypto gaming activity on WAX, especially as the nascent play-to-earn genre matures and expands into more affluent, more appealing game experiences. He understands why AAA game companies have been chastised for launching in-game NFT products and believes that such items have yet to add value to games.

“A lot of gamers dislike NFTs because they see them as money grabs,” he stated. “When it comes to AAA titles, I’d say that’s not far off.”

In the end, he believes that conventional, big video game publishers will lose out in the play-to-earn market. Instead, indie developers will create games with NFTs at their core, considering how the technology benefits users and experiences.

He anticipates rapid and significant evolution, much as he did with mobile and browser-based games.

“Indie game creators who embrace this technology will start building games that progress from primitive–almost like DeFi mechanics rather than games—to full-fledged video games,” Quigley added. “It’s very much a work-to-earn situation right now—there isn’t a lot of playing. Finally, however, we will be able to play-to-earn.”

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ART & COLLECTABLES

Mercedes-Benz Collaborates with NFT Artists to Commemorate the G-Class Series

Mercedes-Benz has enlisted the help of five NFT artists to create their unique interpretations of the G-Class.

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#nft #nfthours #gclass #mercedesbenz

According to a tweet from Mercedes, the luxury automaker has teamed up with Art2People to produce a unique Mercedes-Benz NFT collection based on its G-Class car line.

Five NFT artists were commissioned to create G-Class-inspired works in various media, each unique design.

Music, fashion, graphic design, architecture, creative marketing, luxury design, and real estate are participating artists. Charlotte Taylor, Anthony Authie, Roger Kilimanjaro, Baugasm, and Antoni Tudisco from Germany are among the artists. The NFTs will be launched on Sunday by Nifty Gateway and Mercedes.

Mercedes isn’t the first major manufacturer to experiment with NFTs. McLaren announced its aim to use NFTs to produce virtual copies of its renowned F1 cars in June 2021. In addition, Coca-Cola created a one-of-a-kind NFT campaign to collect money for Special Olympics International in July 2021.

Mercedes-Benz isn’t the first company to experiment with blockchain technology. The automaker has launched a trial with blockchain company Circulor to ensure that cobalt emissions are traced throughout the supply chain.

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ART & COLLECTABLES

Participants in the NFT Market in the United States may Face Harsh Tax Penalties

As the NFT market grew in 2021, so did the tax questions for the next tax season.

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#nft #nfthours #taxes #irs

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants a piece of the NFT loot. There is uncertainty over how NFT holders should be taxed, although tax experts estimate that taxes could be as high as 37%. According to James Creech, a tax attorney in San Francisco, “you don’t get to report earnings or losses because the IRS has failed to provide guidance that satisfies your expectations.”

According to Chainalysis, the NFT business would see $44 billion in transactions in 2021. Some artists made large profits, with one American artist selling an NFT for $69 million-plus royalties. This raises some concerns about how they ought to be taxed. Although the taxation of NFTs is not apparent at the moment, that does not mean they should not be declared on your tax return.

Those who failed to declare quarterly earnings from NFTs may be in for a rude awakening when penalties are imposed the next tax season. NFT owners can sell their NFTs on NFT marketplaces like Opensea or Rarible, and they may be liable to income tax of up to 37 percent when they do so. In addition, if NFTs use another cryptocurrency to purchase the NFT, they will owe capital gains taxes to the IRS.

Experts on taxation weigh in

NFT taxes are estimated to be worth billions of dollars, according to Arthur Teller, CEO of TokenTax. However, aside from the 37 percent income tax, the tax requirements are murky. For example, should they be taxed at the same rate as capital gains on art collectibles, currently 28 percent? Moreover, in light of Joe Biden’s proposed tax infrastructure package, the Treasury Department provides no detailed guidance on how NFTs will be taxed. According to Jarod Koopman, a director of the criminal investigation at the IRS, as a result, tax evasion may become a distinct possibility.

The IRS has issued general crypto tax guidelines

Notice 2014-21, 2014-16IRB938, Rev. Rul 2019-24, 2019-44 IRB1004, and ILM 20214020; the IRS explains how bitcoins are taxed. It should be noted that none of these include any mention of NFT. Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) may necessitate the inclusion of creator income on the revenues of NFT sales and royalties. In contrast, Section 197 may allow amortization to buyers who use the NFT for business purposes. Buyers from other countries will be subject to local taxes. At the same time, if the copyright owners are citizens of the United States, they may be required to pay state and federal taxes on any royalties received.

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