How to Build an Exclusive Fan Experience According to Kaien Cruz
"Music NFTs are not only changing the value of music but also building a more exclusive experience with the people who truly support you."
Editor’s Note: NFT digital collectibles are a new way for fans to support the artists they love. In this series, I talk to artists who have ventured into this new space to share their experiences.
There is a new generation of artists entirely committed to making Web3 their primary space to release music and connect with fans. South African R&B artist Kaien Cruz is one of those forward-focused creators who is making music available on their own terms in exciting new ways.
Cruz’s partnership with graphic artist Somehoodlum is a great example of that. Together they partnered with Soundmint.xyz to release the Back In Time NFT that combines Cruz’s music with Somehoodlum’s visuals. Cruz made 100 music stems available to create a unique audio experience for every NFT sold along with access to shows and exclusive merchandise. The concept is pretty darn cool and executed to perfection.
It’s not the first time Cruz made moves in the Web3 space. Following an NFT crowdfunding project last year, the artist successfully released the track “Kiss Me Like I’m Drowning” as a music NFT on sound.xyz earlier this year. (The song will finally be made available on traditional streaming platforms on June 14.)
Written by Cruz and produced by Tre Wright, “Kiss Me Like I’m Drowning” is a tastefully crafted pop R&B gem that showcases Cuz's innate ability to create emotionally honest balladry that feels both timeless and very now.
Cruz's talent was first noticed when the singer started uploading acoustic covers to Instagram that were discovered by South African music producer Sketchy Bongo. He invited Cruz to add vocals to tracks like “Love Me In The Dark” (2017), which hit the top of the local charts and earned Cruz a South African Music Award nomination. Cruz’s career took flight when they were invited to open for Justin Bieber on the South African leg of his Purpose tour in 2017.
Following the releases of tracks like “Dangerous,” “XNO,” and the Demos For Ransom EP, Cruz decided to explore new ways of releasing music to “retain control” of their art and build a community of fans. It was a move that was very intuitive to Cruz. “Growing up queer in a small town meant it was always easier to talk to people online that I could relate to,” they write on sound.xyz. “Platforms like Tumblr played a big role in cultivating space and community, where I could connect with like-minded people. I have found this same sense of connectivity and community in Web3.”
One of Cruz’s first Web3 endeavors was the launch of a crowdfunding campaign to build a community of fans to support their music by providing supporters with exclusive content, fan merchandise, access to headlining shows, and more. Cruz writes, “I want to encourage others to stop fighting for a seat at a table that was never built for them and instead create their own table, specially curated to their needs, interests, and passions.”
I shared a few questions with Cruz via email to get their take on pioneering the Web3 space and understand how they value music NFT collectibles as a way to fund their artistic endeavors and build a deeper connection with fans.
Arjan: Making songs available as NFT is a great way to establish a deeper connection with fans. What was your experience doing the drop via Sound.xyz?
Kaien: Music NFTs are not only changing the value of music but also building a more exclusive experience with the people who truly support you. Dropping on sound.xyz was the smoothest experience for me in my music career so far.
How has the response from fans been on the first drop? Did that inspire doing another drop?
The connection with the music NFT community is only growing, so many big things happening and it definitely has catapulted me into my next drop with SoundMint x Somehoodlum on May 26th.
How do you think NFTs will support creators, including yourself?
Financially, NFTs are a way bigger income flow than most independent artists get off of streaming numbers.
Are there other NTF advocates in the space you look up to?
I have been blessed to have people like Oshi, TK, Zach Katz, Cooper, Somehoodlum, and the Soundmint team around me, I learn a lot from these amazing minds.
What do you recommend to other artists who want to get into the space? What's a good way to start?
I'd say the best way to start is with learning the basics of Web3/blockchain technology/smart contracts and cryptocurrency, then start finding people in the community to connect with that can put you on to a lot of amazing tools you can utilize in the Web3 space.
Follow Kaien Cruz on Instagram.