Dan Haggis: “I definitely don’t see our NFTs as an investment…”

In this Q&A, Dan Haggis, aka Dan The Man from English indie rock band The Wombats, lets us in on the band’s upcoming concert in the metaverse.

Music acts have been performing in virtual gaming platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox, reaping the rewards of performing without leaving home during the pandemic. In 2020, American Rapper Travis Scott pulled in $20 million for his performance on Fortnite while Ariana Grande performed to an audience of 78 million in October 2021 on the same platform. Ed Sheeran took the stage of Pokemon Go in November and Swedish singer Zara Larsson held a concert in Roblox, earning seven figures for the sales of in-game items.

The rise of NFTs over the last year has also paved the way for artists to perform on decentralised gaming virtual worlds. Recently, Warner Music Group (WMG) announced that it has partnered with The Sandbox to create a music-themed world in the metaverse. According to the statement, the space will be a “ combination of a musical theme park and concert venue” and will feature performances from WMG’s roster of artists. 

While pop artists may have an easier entry to the metaverse with strategic partnerships via their record labels, indie bands aren’t lagging behind. One such example is English indie rock band, The Wombats. Collaborating with Web 3 agency Kollectiff, the band will be holding a carbon-neutral metaverse stadium concert in The Sandbox, accessible via the purchase of the band’s NFT collection launched shortly after the release of The Wombats fifth studio album.

In the metaverse, the band will be performing on Kollectiff’s meta-stadium inspired by the famous Brixton Academy in the UK. While details of the virtual concert are still being finalised, we speak to The Wombats’ drummer Dan Haggis about what he imagines the concert to be like and how the band can interact with fans in the metaverse.

Please tell us about yourself and the story behind The Wombats.
Myself, Murph, and Tord met at Paul McCartney’s music school in Liverpool in 2003 and started the band. We needed a name to put on the poster for our first gig, and somehow the name, The Wombats, popped out of my mouth…and here we are, nearly 19 years later, with Wombats avatars in the Metaverse. Life is pretty surreal.

How, when and why did you get into NFTs? Where did you hear about it in the first place?Our manager brought the idea to us. We had several meetings with Kollectiff and fleshed out what our NFT would look like. It’s such a mind-boggling new world, and we felt excited with the chance to play in the Metaverse, to be able to airdrop a song directly into a fan’s wallet and to gamify the experience of the Wombats slightly. 

One of the main issues for us was the environmental impact of minting, which Kollectiff was very open about from the start. We were all hoping ETH2 would’ve been ready to go, as this will reduce emissions by 99%. Still, since it wasn’t, we wanted to enter the Metaverse as sustainably as possible, so we partnered with MOSS on our first NFT Drop to offset the carbon emissions 20 times over.

Why do you think NFTs and the metaverse are the way forward when it comes to connecting with your fans?
I don’t think it’s ‘the way forward.’ It’s just a new world and a different way to connect with fans. It’s all so new to us all, but it feels like the technology behind NFTs could potentially make the connection between fans and bands more direct. That’s not to say that this will ever replace live shows and traditional ways of connecting with fans, but it seems like there are some interesting possibilities. 

We love playing live shows and touring, so this felt like an extension of that, there are lots of places we never manage to reach on tour, and fans who can’t travel to see us, so we felt that this could be a way to bring a new unique version of our live show to those people. Our 90-minute performance in The Sandbox will be live, and we’ll be able to interact with fans in a new and fun way. I’ve always wanted to fart fireballs and fly, so maybe this will be my moment in the Metaverse.

What kind of concert experience can fans get from your concert in the metaverse? How will it compare to a live concert in real life?
We are still finalizing the details and our avatars in The Sandbox, but I imagine it will feel like being a computer game character at a Wombats show. The audio will be a live performance which will go through a process to make it sound like the listener is actually in the Brixton Academy in London! Visually we will be avatars, so probably a lot less sweaty and bedraggled by the end of the show! The main difference will be the crowd experience, not traveling to the show, not being in a physical mosh pit, etc. Instead, people will watch it from their own homes. For us, at least, this will never replace live shows in real life but rather just add a different dimension and experience for the music lover.

How will NFTs and the metaverse disrupt the music industry?
We are still early in the Metaverse and NFT industry, so who knows where it will end up. The possibilities are certainly endless. Artists could end up releasing music directly to fans using the NFT as a digital key to unlock access to their albums and songs. Literally sending fans demos, sketches of songs, and fully finished albums direct to the fans’ wallets on their phones.

There are many uses for NFTs, including contracts, master recordings, monitoring song plays on DSPs, and paying labels/artists as each play happens through the blockchain from wallet to wallet, etc. It will be interesting to see how this industry evolves. I think once ETH2 comes out and the vast amounts of electricity currently used to mint are no longer needed, then the environmental concerns people have over NFTs will disappear, so it will probably accelerate uptake and use.

How has getting into NFTs and the metaverse affected your band?
There is a bit of misunderstanding around NFTs, which is normal for any new technology, and each NFT drop is so different it’s hard to generalize, but being honest, it has been our first brush with negativity on social media with some fans being really excited by it and others not so sure. We know there is always a bit of risk associated with stepping into the unknown, but we are immersing ourselves in what’s possible with NFTs. 

We’re excited to be the first band ever to perform in Kollectiff’s meta-stadium in The Sandbox- inspired by the famous Brixton Academy in the UK, a venue we absolutely love. We also said we wouldn’t do the drop if the carbon footprint wasn’t offset so Kollectiff went one step further and offset 20 times the amount. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s sending much-needed funds to Moss’s projects protecting the Amazon.

Where do you think we could see NFTs in the near future for music industry?
Digital Signal Processors could possibly use blockchain to pay artists on a pay per play basis so delays to payments would stop, and there would be so much less data to trawl through as the blockchain would have the payment instructions written into it, it could be really useful for collecting societies like PRS and PPL too. I’m only guessing though, as my technical knowledge is pretty limited!

Any other NFT-related industry issue you would like to talk about?
My thoughts are that NFTs should be an overall experience, and it’s a chance for graphic designers and coders to use their skills and artistry to elevate the music listening experience by combining insane graphics and virtual worlds with songs. I thought Damien Hirst’s NFT was interesting, making people think about the line between art as a currency/investment or as an object you interact with. 

I definitely don’t see our NFTs as an investment or a way for people to make money. It’s all about the music and computer game-esque experience we’ve hopefully created with Kollectiff. It’s kind of cool to think about someone in the future wandering around the Metaverse as their Wombat avatar bumping into another Wombat avatar and beginning a conversation with someone from another part of the real world… kind of like an old online chat room on steroids.

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