Under new ownership, LimeWire is reinventing itself as an music NFT marketplace. A deal with Universal Music, fiat payments, and innovative ways to engage means that LimeWire could become the NBA Top Shot of music.
LimeWire’s rebirth as an NFT marketplace has officially begun. Launching with a focus on music collectibles, the company has rolled out an exclusive selection of content from artists including Travis Barker, Brandy, Nicky Jam, and a host of other musicians.
But what’s more intriguing than the big-name artists launching with LimeWire is how the iconic music platform of the noughties is tackling the central question of web3’s nascent music sector – how to grow the listener and collector base from a small community of tech-savvy early adopters into a cultural category all of its own.
It starts with payment options. LimeWire has a stated focus on lowering the financial barrier of entry for fans, and to that end their NFT marketplace has been built on Algorand. The blockchain has been at the leading edge of interoperability with its co-chain architecture and state proofs, meaning that LimeWire will find it much easier to build multi-chain accessibility into their ecosystem from the start.
However, it doesn’t end there. LimeWire’s vision for NFT music collectibles is powered by fiat payments, including credit card and bank transfers. LimeWire’s Chief Communications Officer, Ivis Buric, told Culture3 that “current NFT marketplaces are too cumbersome, time consuming, and have too many barriers to entry.” In her view, forcing fans to use a wallet and purchase cryptocurrencies before they can connect with their favourite artist is a bottleneck that needs to be removed for the community to expand. “With LimeWire,” says Buric. “You can use any type of currency, crypto or fiat, to buy and sell NFTs.”
Then, of course, there’s the actual content that LimeWire is offering. Users of the original P2P platform will remember that it hosted all kinds of media, but this time around the platform is taking a different angle. Buric says that LimeWire’s decision to focus purely on music NFTs – and related artworks, IRL experiences, and physical content – taps into an already established culture around collecting memorabilia and exclusives, thus making it an ideal on-ramp to web3. “We think that NFTs are something that really resonates with music fans who are accustomed to collecting music and merch from the artist they love,” she adds.
Notwithstanding the many original and creative web3-native musicians already working in the space, we'll know that web3 is going mainstream when big label artists begin appearing on the scene. That’s why LimeWire’s deal to license content from the world’s largest music label, Universal Music Group, generated so much attention. Rather than supplant the old guard, LimeWire’s approach has been to augment them, helping guide web2’s industry giants into this new space.
Co-CEOs Paul and Julian Zehetmayr see a huge opportunity in music. “We see a huge demand in the entertainment space for platforms that recognise and appreciate artists for their talent and put them in the driver’s seat." The Austrian-born brothers argue that their high-profile deal with UMG represents “a true demonstration of the pace at which the music industry is embracing web3.”
With some of the planet’s most famous musicians under the UMG umbrella, LimeWire is well-positioned to leverage this relationship and bring established web2 fandoms into NFTs. The platform’s launch takes a step in this direction, focusing on diverse set of web2 musicians spanning rock, reggae, EDM, R&B, hip-hop, and world music. The content these artists are offering comes across as carefully curated, spanning digital art, exclusive music, in-studio or backstage footage, in-person experiences, and even physical objects (in the form of Travis Barker's actual drum kit).
This blend of digital and non-digital content is yet another piece of the onboarding puzzle – there are some collectors who will understand and appreciate the adventurousness of Brandy’s flower bouquet NFT and spoken word poetry, whilst others will come for the simple pleasures of an exclusive EP from Dillon Francis. Speaking to Culture3, Travis Barker said “LimeWire has created a platform that makes exciting content accessible to all of my fans – even ones who are unfamiliar with web3.”
In much the same way that NBA Top Shot brought legions of sporting fans to NFTs by harnessing the familiarity of trading cards, music can forge a similar path using a similar, accessible approach. As new and traditional buying habits become ever more entwined, we’re likely to reach a place where music fans are collecting merch and experiences just as they always have, perhaps even without the awareness that the item they purchased is technically an NFT. The platform's strategy to combine web3 with the best musicians in the world is clear from its list of investors, which includes deadmau5 and Crypto.com.
LimeWire is far from the only company foregrounding the familiar whilst innovating away much of web3’s gritty functionality. But in terms of strategy, LimeWire stands out for its clarity and breadth. The reborn platform is poised to have a significant impact: major label artists with web2-level name recognition, established memorabilia paradigms coupled with new and exciting options, and, crucially, financial entry points that feel frictionless and safe. This is the recipe for mainstream adoption.
“LimeWire has created a platform that makes exciting content accessible to all of my fans – even ones who are unfamiliar with web3.”
Travis Barker, drummer for Blink-182
Clovis is a New Zealand born writer, journalist, and educator working at the meeting point between music and technological innovation. He is also an active composer and sound artist, and his virtual reality and live-electronic works have been shown in over fifteen countries around the world.
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