On January 16, Jonathan Chua (or simply known as Jon Chua) changed his Twitter display picture to a pixel art of a bull wearing a cap, nose ring, and sunglasses.
Among a host of Singaporean influencers, Chua — who is the CEO of music agency Zendyll and a member of renowned local band The Sam Willows — has embraced the NFT trend over the past year.
Chua was first introduced to the scene by fellow musician and rapper, Yung Raja.
“He was the one who inspired me to explore and research about it,” says Chua. “I bought a couple of NFTs of my own, learnt some lessons the hard way — meaning I got scammed — and realised that education in this space is very important.”
More than a speculative investment
While some are looking to cash out quickly on what some might dub as a “passing fad”, Chua’s intentions couldn’t be further from it.
He views NFTs as a disruptive force which will forever change creative industries. “In my opinion, NFTs are reshaping the economics of art and culture,” he says.
Take Bull Empire, the collection responsible for Chua’s Twitter avatar, as an example. Each NFT in the collection was designed to showcase the diverse cultural traits found across East Asia. Renowned artists from across the region — including Flizzow, Jessica Jung, and Chua himself — have since stepped up to become ambassadors of the project.
With almost 40,000 members in its Discord group, Bull Empire has become a thriving community of creatives. All of them were brought together by this collection and the values in which it stands for.
“Being on a decentralised platform, factors like race, religion, ethnicity, politics and socio-economic status are less emphasised and communities are built with the intention to grow,” explains Chua. “The community become stakeholders and creators have a new way to grow their art.”
Chua is drawn by the potential that NFTs possess to bring people together. “I don’t buy NFTs just to flip them for money. One of the collections that I’m fond of is Barkclub on the Solana Blockchain. It’s made up of a community of dog lovers. Another is Lil’ Heroes by Edgar Plan. The art is just cute and I love it.”
Are music NFTs the next wave?
Within the NFT space, there has been a number of notable trends.
It started with the record-breaking US$69 million sale of Beeple’s artwork early in 2021. That was a time when NFTs were largely associated with memes and with this one auction, they stumbled across a newfound legitimacy.
From rare digital art NFTs, the focus shifted to blockchain gaming. The play-to-earn model saw a meteoric rise and games such as Axie Infinity and DeFi Kingdoms emerged.
Even further down the line, using NFTs as an entry point for decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs) has become all the rage. But what comes next?
Chua believes that music NFTs are the upcoming wave. “There are so many musicians that are exploring this space in some way — (like) Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, and DJ Khaled, to name a few,” he says. “With collections like Bull Empire, you also find a strong community of leading musicians in Asia.”
Perhaps, this could be a way for the industry to evolve. “We’ve gone from vinyls to cassettes to CDs to streaming platforms. I believe NFTs will change the way artists release their music, engage with their fans and disseminate information. Fan clubs will be more organised, and fans will have a stake in the artist’s content.”
The future of Zendyll Music
With this in mind, Chua intends for his music agency, Zendyll, to be at the forefront of the movement. The company is currently exploring ways to integrate blockchain technology into its operations.
Zendyll is currently working on several upcoming projects that will utilise contracts on the blockchain, growing artists’ followings through NFT releases, and community building and management through Discord. We also plan to help educate interested students and partners in this realm.– Jon Chua, founder of Zendyll
In the future, Chua envisions that more and more artists will be willing to accept payments in cryptocurrency.
However, he’s also aware that there’s work to be done in order to get there. “I think at this stage, our systems are not ready to transact exclusively on the blockchain. Slow and steady integrations will be our strategy for now.”
Speaking about the next decade for Zendyll, Chua believes that “community building in parallel to blockchain usage” will be key to the company’s growth.
Singapore’s crypto regulations will not hinder its growth
Of course, Chua’s plans also hinge on Singapore maintaining its stance on blockchain innovation. Companies need the freedom to innovate and explore this technology.
Speaking on the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s recent guidelines which ban crypto exchanges from advertising to the public, Chua says, “I can understand why MAS has issued these guidelines. There is a common thought that investing in crypto can be similar to going to a casino to gamble. Gambling advertisements are not encouraged in Singapore either.”
Despite the regulations, Chua believes that the country’s crypto scene could still be headed in the right direction.
“I don’t think regulations will slow down the growth of this technology. I believe that the crypto scene will continue to grow if there’s open and transparent communication among the different sectors which choose to be involved in this space.”
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Featured Image Credit: Jon Chua JX