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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

The Ethereum Metaverse’s NFT Real Estate Sells for a Record $913K

For Ethereum-based open world crypto metaverse game Decentraland, Republic Realm establishes a new all-time high-value LAND sale.

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In the open-world metaverse game Decentraland, a virtual plot of land sold as an NFT for a record amount: more than $913,000, based on the price of the game’s Ethereum-based MANA money at the time.

For 1,295,000 MANA, the estate NFT, also known as a LAND token in the game, was sold. According to NonFungible’s data, this is the highest-valued LAND sale to date in terms of money. However, sales for greater MANA have occurred in the past when the currency was significantly less valuable. In November 2018, the record was set with 2,772,000 MANA, which was valued little under $211,000 at the time.

Republic Realm, a firm that invests in virtual real estate in crypto games, has claimed the new record purchase. Republic Realm is a division of Republic, an online investment platform that itself has notable investors, including AngelList, Binance, and Galaxy Interactive. Republic Realm has not yet disclosed how it plans to utilize the Decentraland estate, which is located in the game’s Dragon Kingdom district.

The business tweeted, “We can’t wait to disclose our enormous plans for this estate.” “We are more committed than ever to constructing and expanding the metaverse.”

Decentraland is an Ethereum-based online metaverse where players can freely explore the realm, engage with other players, and play games. The 3D game resembles a hybrid of virtual world pioneer Second Life and blocky sensation Minecraft, but with a blockchain-based twist of actual item ownership and a player-driven economy.

Decentraland isn’t the only blockchain-based game that revolves around digital land plots marketed as NFTs. Other Ethereum-based games that have made millions of dollars selling virtual real estate include The Sandbox and Axie Infinity.

In this example, Decentraland shattered an estate sale record set only a few weeks prior. Boson, a blockchain protocol, said earlier this month that it had purchased a Decentraland estate in the game’s valuable Vegas City sector for roughly $704,000, with ambitions to develop a virtual shop to market its decentralized infrastructure products.

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ART & COLLECTABLES

Tezos Joins McLaren Racing as a Blockchain and NFT Partner

McLaren Racing has announced a multi-year technical agreement to develop the NFT fan experience platform on Tezos, an energy-efficient blockchain network.

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Tezos has been named as McLaren Racing’s Official Blockchain Partner in a new multi-year technological cooperation spanning Formula 1, INDYCAR, and esports, according to a press release.

McLaren will establish a non-fungible token platform with a focus on the fan experience, using the energy-efficient and upgradeable Tezos network.

Tezos NFTs

Tezos is an open-source asset and application blockchain that is constantly expanding and upgrading itself through efficient on-chain governance.

McLaren will create a specialized platform that will bring together its illustrious racing history and famous driver lineups across all of its teams to provide an unsurpassed NFT fan experience.

Tezos and McLaren believe that innovation is the key to long-term success. By embracing clean NFTs and energy-efficient networks, the impact of this new medium for sharing creative expression will not be diluted by excessive energy usage.

Tezos’ pioneering Proof of Stake mechanism is a substantially more energy-efficient technique to securing its network than typical Proof of Work blockchains, consuming two million times less energy than Proof of Work networks like Bitcoin and Ethereum.

This enables Tezos to run in an environmentally friendly manner, with little energy use and a low carbon impact.

Teams With Tezos Branding

Tezos will be represented across the McLaren Formula 1 and Arrow McLaren SP teams as part of the agreement, including on the race suits of McLaren F1 drivers Lando Norris and Daniel Riccardo, as well as AMSP drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.

“Tezos and McLaren Racing joining forces to build a unique fan-focused NFT platform is an exciting and quickly evolving industry,” said Lindsey Eckhouse, McLaren Racing’s Director of Licensing, eCommerce, and esports.

She went on to say that the new relationship allows McLaren to enter a market where fans can own essential components of the team, and that the firm is excited to launch the platform with Tezos to create bespoke NFTs with our Formula 1, INDYCAR, and esports teams.

In the meantime, Hubertus Thonhauser, Chair of the Tezos Foundation, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that McLaren Racing has opted to extend their NFT fan interaction platform to the Tezos blockchain, as it has one of the longest and most prestigious legacies in Formula One racing.”

“Blockchain as a concept is changing, getting faster, more secure, and more efficient,” he continued. This necessitates a blockchain capable of keeping up with the current rate of innovation. Tezos, the first and fastest-evolving blockchain, stays at the vanguard of innovation, providing real-world solutions in a robust and fast-growing ecosystem as brands explore for new ways to engage with their fans.”

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The Original Code of the World Wide Web Will Be Auctioned as an NFT by Sotheby’s

The luxury auction house Sotheby’s announced on Tuesday that it will auction off a non-fungible token containing the original source code for the World Wide Web next month.

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Digital files such as music, video, and artifacts are represented by NFTs, which are one-of-a-kind collectibles. On June 23, the NFT for the code, which was created by British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, will go on sale, with bids starting at $1,000. Berners-Lee has signed this NFT, which includes his original time-stamped files.

“What is the purpose of an NFT? It’s a natural thing to do when you’re a computer scientist and you’ve been writing code for a long time.” He went on to say, “It feels natural to digitally sign my autograph on a purely digital item.”

The NFT also includes an animated visualization of the code, a letter written by Berners-Lee about the code and his process of creating it, and a digital “poster” of the entire code generated from the original files using Python, which includes a graphic of his physical signature and is all digitally signed.

The NFT files comprise around 9,555 lines of code, which incorporate components of the three languages and one protocol established by Berners-Lee: HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), and URLs (Uniform Resource Locators) (Uniform Resource Identifiers).

Berners-Lee said in a statement, “Three decades ago, I built something that, with the subsequent cooperation of a great number of partners around the world, has been a significant weapon for humankind. NFTs, whether they are artworks or digital artefacts like this, are the most recent playful creations in this area, as well as the most acceptable method of ownership. They’re the perfect method to package the origins of the internet.”

The entire sale earnings will go to causes that Berners-Lee and his wife support.

The auction is Sotheby’s third featuring NFTs. In April, the auction house sold its first NFT by unknown digital artist Pak, and only last week, it sold its second NFT, a rare CryptoPunk, for nearly $12 million.

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