Steve Aoki has built an empire as one of the world’s top DJ producers, music label owners and entrepreneurs. The 44-year-old Aoki, who has over 15 million Spotify listeners and plays about 300 shows a year globally, knows how to put on a show and push the boundaries of creativity.
Aoki has also been an early pioneer of the NFT space and the metaverse, a medium that fits his imaginatively iconoclastic personality. He was among the first artists to launch NFT collections and perform his DJ sets in metaverse worlds such as Decentraland.
His interest in the medium underscores the massive potential that artists see in its ability to reach people in more meaningful ways than they could previously. Aoki is one of the most vocal leaders of the metaverse movement.
What Is The Metaverse?
The metaverse, the new digital domain, has allowed artists to offer new experiences and engage with their fans more powerfully. Although the metaverse is still in its formative stage, the early iterations of these virtual worlds are providing a glimpse of how communities can interact, and have experiences through shared interests.
Aoki, who has performed in 41 countries, has approached the space similar to a sociologist studying the culture of a new civilization. “The reason humans proliferated across the globe is because we want to explore new things with other people who are not necessarily close to us,” Aoki said. “We want to be around and connect with strangers who are passionate about the same things.”
In a recent paper, JP Morgan predicted that the metaverse will be generating $1 trillion annually in a few years. The report noted that consumers are already spending $54 billion on virtual goods, roughly double the amount for purchasing music.
And these sums may only be touching the metaverse’s potential. As we spend more time in virtual spaces, digital goods and experiences will become more valuable, and more people will use them.
NFTs, valuable digital goods that can be used within and transferred between digital worlds, are foundational building blocks of the metaverse. Users of the metaverse possess digital property rights for land, collectibles, gaming items, experiential access passes and more. As long as they retain ownership of their private keys, their digital goods do not depend on the solvency of any particular metaverse developer. Users can seamlessly port their NFTs to other metaverse environments.
NFTs serve as totems for digital identity and indicate membership to specific online crypto communities. They are playing an increasingly large role in stewarding our culture by providing new, broad avenues of expression for visual artists, musicians, actors, designers and animators.
They offer the opportunity for consumers to possess something rare in a more immersive environment and for creators to connect more directly with the people who are passionate about their work. The latter has fostered creativity in ways that were not previously possible. The metaverse is creating profoundly new experiences.
Whether it is through access to private online chatrooms to converse with fellow die hard fans, the ability to claim tickets to live musical events hosted in secret locations, or the ability to roam NFT-gated virtual spaces within metaverse worlds, artists are tinkering with the technology to offer new ways to engage with their fans.
Enter The A0K1VERSE
In February, Aoki launched the A0K1VERSE, offering his own vision for the metaverse. The A0K1VERSE is an NFT-enabled membership club that offers access to both on-chain and physical experiences.
Membership benefits include pre-sale access to future Aoki NFT drops, metaverse performances and free tickets to Aoki’s shows. He is working on partnerships with a number of brands for future NFT drops and merchandise and hopes to create what he calls “a multiverse” of different communities.
Fans can join the club and access the A0K1VERSE by purchasing or earning A0K1 credits. A0K1 credits have a total supply cap of 50,000 and credit holders must then redeem or burn their credits for a personal passport. The passport is an NFT that is the ticket for all the features and experiences the A0K1VERSE offers.
Aoki is working on partnering and collaborating with brands and intellectual property for future NFT drops and merchandise. He identified the anime show Attack On Titan and media franchise My Little Pony as two of the initial partners.
“A0K1VERSE passports will be a revolution,” Aoki said with his typical bombastic flair. “We are building more than a metaverse, it will be a multiverse. We are connecting many different communities, and we hope they will all grow alongside us and be successful.”
Aoki draws a parallel for how NFT and metaverse communities are forming to the audiences attending his live shows. “My fans may not know anyone else at a show and have not spoken a word to one another, but they all feel connected to each other. We all need community, it is how we exist as human beings.”
The relationship between a musician and fan base has always been a one-way street. In collaboration with record labels, publishers, distributors, and producers, musical artists have created albums and released them to their audiences, with little immediate or direct visibility on what listeners think about their work.
“NFTs enable a two-way conversation between artist and fan,” Aoki said. “Previously it was always a one-way conversation. The artist produces something, and the fan either buys the product or not, but there is no conversation. With NFTs, there is a constant conversation.”
Reflecting on how content creators can use NFTs to bring value to their communities, Aoki said, “If Kendrick Lamar had an NFT drop connected to his album that is scarce and affected people on an emotional level, it is a work of art. Music is art and an album or song can make us feel a certain way. It touches our heart and makes us feel something we haven’t felt before. A piece of canvas with some paint can be worth $10 million because of the cultural imprint it has on people’s lives, and NFTs can do the same.”
Although Aoki’s focus may have shifted to the opportunities provided by NFTs, web 3, and the metaverse, he is committed to always doing what he loves best: having fun on stage and delivering engaging musical experiences to his fans. Whether in the digital world or the physical, Aoki will always be a true showman.