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Mint Season 4 episode 16 welcomes Steve Aoki, the world-renowned DJ, entrepreneur, artist, fashionista, collector, culinary entrepreneur – there aren’t enough titles we can attribute to him.
I had the pleasure of chatting with him on all things music NFTs and his latest project titled the Aokiverse! What an epic conversation, there’s a lot to unpack.
- 03:10 – Intro
- 07:53 – Any Concerns Getting Into the NFT Space?
- 13:31 – Aokiverse
- 25:03 – Future of the Aokiverse
- 32:26 – How Do You Access the Aokiverse?
- 46:32 – Future Relationship Between a Record Label and an Artist
- 51:39 – Any Unexplored Areas Surrounding Music NFTs?
- 54:20 – Any Clear Advantages to Web3?
- 10:03 – Will NFTs Allow Us to Live Forever?
…and so much more.
I hope you enjoy our conversation.
Support Season 4’s NFT sponsors!
Mr. Steve Aoki welcome to MINT, my friend. How are you doing? Thank you for being on.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
You got it. Let’s dive right in. Okay. We got a lot to talk about, but I like to start with a quick intro.
Let’s talk about the drums you got behind you,
Dude, the DW drums. You like ’em I’ve had them since like eighth grade, I am a drummer since five years old.
It’s actually like the hardest cause I’ve been in so many bands. It’s so hard to find a decent drummer. It’s like gotta be. I feel like you you’ve like anyone that, that, that picks drumming as far as an instrument to pick up is, is all always gonna be like, I don’t know how many bands you were in, cause like everyone needs a really solid drummer.
Everyone needs a solid drummer. And I’ll tell you my thing. When I started playing the drums or when I tried getting into drums, my dad tried to get me onto piano, onto guitar, onto everything, but the drums because of the noise and it wasn’t until like, I actually got the drums where I felt like my [inaudible], but I’ve always had like ADHD growing up and playing the drums was the only thing that allowed me to focus cuz everything was moving. You know, everything in my body was moving. So just gravitated that towards that since five years old, but more importantly beyond that.
Why we’re here today. Crypto. The beauty of web three, the beauty of crypto. Okay. I’m curious, dude. How did you actually get into crypto initially? Like what’s your, what’s your intro story? Do you remember the first asset you purchased?
I was in China. Okay. I was in China and I was buying it was 2018. It was when Bitcoin was at 11.2 before it hit 19 and went down. Okay.
What year was that?
It was December 2018. And I bought I went in, I talked to my, my financial advisor, my business management team. I was like, okay, I’m ready. I’ve been hearing about it way too much. I’m late. I gotta pull the trigger. I was watching it’s tracking, you know, like I got bullet trigger, so I put 500 K put 300, 350 in Bitcoin, 150 in Ethereum. Ethereum was 450.
Have you sold since?
I’m a [inaudible] holder . That’s the problem with me Adam? It’s like with many things that I do, I’m like a long play guy. Like I did flip a few NFTs, but like I probably have thousands of portfolio now, but, and I only flip like maybe like, I don’t know, maybe a dozen.
All right. So Steve, I remember you got like me personally coming across you publicly in crypto was during clubhouse, the clubhouse era that, that spurred a lot of the activity. I remember you already had a drop that you’ve done. You have a lot more in the works through Aokiverse, which we’ll get into in just a minute. I’m curious though, when you first came across NFTs, did you see them as like a medium for building communities? And if so, why?
So when I first came across NFTs summer 2020 when I started thinking about how to utilize this NFT, cuz I was thinking about like how to layer my music catalog. What could I do to offer something different outside the box with my music. So BLAO introduced me to NFTs probably like late spring going into summer and I’m like, okay, I need to find a digital artist then I guess, and work with them. I know Blao’s working on his music, his album and turning that to NFTs. I’m like, okay, now I, feel like I could do that. But instead of doing my own music that I have out, I wanna make something different for the space and I was experimenting during COVID and I was just like having fun with music. And I was like, this is my unhinged Aoki sessions. Then I could be able to like, I didn’t even look at it like a collectible. I didn’t even look at it like something based in the community. I just looked at it as a different offering for me to be able to experiment with music, work with a designer. And I love like outside of music, I’m constantly collaborating in fashion, in art, in products, in different mediums. And so it’s exciting to develop like this character from one of my logos. So I was like, okay, we’re gonna build out this character, X we’re gonna do something cool. I’m gonna make some music around it, build a world around it. And it was just a fun experiment. And then later on, when it finally came out, February, 2021, cause it took like quite a long time to actually develop. Cause I didn’t really understand it. Then I understood community on that. During that drop. So during the drop, when I dropped Dream Capture the collection, I was on clubhouse and I think there was like 5,000 people in the chat. And as like the first time I got to meet Farouk and me Farouk are now like, just like BFFS, but yeah, I understood like how important the chat was. I haven’t even entered a discord yet. I didn’t even buy an NFT, I learned really fast, really passionately at a break deck speed in that little chat room. And at that drop, when that drop hit, like we, I mean we did 4.3 mill, remember?
And then I just started getting my feet wet and I also remember like in 2020, like, like late 2020, my friends were like, you gotta get in the crypto punks, you gotta get into this. I’m like, you know.
Why the hell am I about to spend so much money on a JPEG
Yeah. I mean, then it was like 20 grand was the floor, really different like timeframe.
Any Concerns Getting Into the NFT Space?
Let me ask you what was like the biggest question or concern you had getting into the NFT space? If any?
I guess it’s a question that you just said, like you’re spending so much money on a JPEG. You don’t understand the context. I mean, the way I see it, whenever I talk to someone, that I’m like introducing into this world, it’s, one is art, right. I explain the same thing, someone’s gonna spend 10 million on this piece by certain artists when the actual raw cost of it is just canvas and paint. Like really the raw cost of it’s like, like under 50 bucks and you understand that as someone that sees this [inaudible] sold for like 20 million, like we all understand that’s okay. We understand it’s fair. But when it comes to NFTs, they don’t get it because it’s not a medium that’s like socially accepted yet, but there’s enough of a marketplace for it to exist. That’s kind of how I ease into the first challenge of letting people understand.
During the clubhouse era, which funny enough, everyone’s on Twitter now, I don’t know who uses clubhouse anymore. During the clubhouse era, I feel like that platform was like pinnacle for bringing the tension and noise to NFTs. And I feel like a lot of the times, the aha moment for a lot of people came through clubhouse sessions. When you were getting more into NFTs, you got more of your questions answered. Do you remember like an aha moment coming across that medium and realizing, wow, we could actually do something really powerful with this. Do you remember that aha moment specifically?
For me, it’s like very similar to like my music career. Like that same question has hit me many times on that. Like what was the aha moment in my music career. There was never one big bang, it’s always like these little kind of like, oh, that’s very innovative. Right. It’s really interesting. Like, yeah. I mean, there’s certain artists that definitely make me think like PAC and artists that I saw them doing different things. Gary V is a perfect, perfect figure in the space that made me think on what, a community means. Pacs pages turning into poems. They’re always thinking one step ahead. It’s adding to the inspiration to what someone like me can do, the hundreds doing the [inaudible] Like it’s tied to their clothing line. So when I see that I’m like, that’s me too. I mean, like we I’ve been running DIMOC for 26 years as a label and a fashion line. And like, I love that time, the figital. And then there’s like 888, like, you know, allowing for his friends and families presales. Yeah. So basically all these are little aha moments of like, just being in the space, seeing what my friends are doing and seeing what people that I don’t know, pac but I love what they’re doing. And I just love seeing all of these little things happening and the most amazing part about this whole thing is that I can actually do it too. That’s what’s so exciting. It’s not like it’s not like eight year old, me watching Michael Jackson on stage going, like, there’s no chance eventually to be on stage to perform in front of thousands of people is like, is never gonna happen. So I’m not even gonna try. It’s more like me being on the floor with the same bands I used to see when I was 16. Right. And watching them perform me like, Hey, I could pick up a guitar. I could learn how to do that. The barrier of entry wide open for someone like me for many other people. And that’s what the Aokiverse became is that like the inspiration from PAC and from Gary V’s community and from 888 and from like learning about them, like from the hundreds and what they’re doing and just like on why not create the whole, whole thing, all of it, the membership with you know, pre-sales and to the friends and family of all these different incredible projects they’re doing right. Other ways to engage, interact with them. And then also have the figital aspect, like what does a wearable look like in the digital space, but also attach it with the physical.
So all these things that you’re talking about right now is what we talked about earlier. Like the Aokiverse. Okay. And now you’re getting a little bit more into it, but I wanna put a pause right there and actually formally introducing it. Right. Because you are getting, you’ve been in NFTs and this is like the next step. Like everybody’s creating, well, not everybody, but like a lot of artists, once they start doing their first few drops, they try to imagine, okay, what does community look like? How do I bring my collectors together, and your Aokiverse is very much like a take on that, right? Like you intend to build some type of community online, which I’d love to give you the microphone and kind of give us the rundown. So that’s kind of why I also wanted to have you here today is to talk more about the Aokiverse. So what is that, what are you really trying to do with that?
Aokiverse is exclusive community membership. When you think of, of course it’s based on me. Right. It’s based on the things I do. I’m a musician, I’m a DJ, I’m a performer, but I also am a fashion designer. I’m also collaborating with many other brands and projects and the network that I’ve built out, the friends and family that have come along the way. That’s what I consider the Aokiverse. And I really think that like the start of what it is right now as a membership platform is you jump in you get a passport. I think the, passport’s probably one of the most interesting things about the Aokiverse. You get this passport, that’s gonna link to all these different verses. Eventually it’s starting out as an evolution. Right. But eventually we’ll be a multiverse. It’ll be a multiverse, you connect with all these different projects and different partners. I kind of like to see it like this, kind of weird analogy, when you fly like American, it’s like you have a program where it’s like connected to this airline, that airline, this airline, that airline and you get points and like, you get to fly other airlines, you get to do other things, you know what I mean? It’s kinda like the goal and the vision was like, what does it look like? Like I’ve so many friends, so many amazing influential, groups of people that are doing incredible things in the real and in the meta. And I want to include as much of them as possible. And that’s what we’re doing. So the past, like eight months, we’re kind of like, as we’re moving forward, we’re saying, Hey, come along with us for this ride. And you still have your world, but I want to be able to connect that. And as you build your points, your credits inside Aokiverse into your passport and using like, you know, PACS model of like pages turning into poets, and then the poets can upgrade more pages, the passports, like basically very similar concept where you add in and you stamp in your, your popes, your participation, NFTs and, and, and very similar to what I also love, like, I’m a ticket holder. Like I’m a collector. I have like my Rage against machine ticket from 1996 that I went to go see when I was a kid. I have like [inaudible] like, I bought his, like ticket stub of what he hit his first home run. Cause I’m a big [inaudible] fan. I spent like three grand on like someone’s used ticket $3,000.
I gotta pull something up now. Hold on, hold on.
Here we go, here we go. Here we go.
All right. I’m exactly like you, okay. I’ll show this to the camera. I used to be a huge John scene fan. All right. That’s a ticket that I kept for going to the SmackDown, No way out on February 18th, 2007 had this belt, got this belt, like yourself collecting all this stuff. And these are like the elements that I wish could have been on chain. So what I’m understanding is like these Aoki credits these points, they’re very much, they work like mileage, right? Yes. So everybody has an account with Aoki right. And like in the mileage world, when you swipe your credit card, you actually get mileage points and you can spend those miles on better experience with like United for example, right? Yes. This is how I’m kind of understanding what you’re talking about in these collectibles that people will be purchasing and whatnot. Right. Give or take. Yeah.
Yeah, exactly. And just like with like that same system, a system we all understand, the more credits you have, you unlock different tiers that have different rewards and different access to whatever it might be in, in all these different worlds. Got it. And, and also it’s about being diverse too. It’s not just about music and everything. It deals with music and, and of course that’s a big, large part of it, but it’s gonna be, like I’m working with fitness groups, I’m working with eSports, I’m working in tech, I’m working in all these different worlds, right. I’ve known to be that kind of person already. I love being in a space. I’m comfortable with or challenged by and learn. The Aoki foundation my charity foundation, where we focus on the brain, I am literally just constantly sponging in so much information when we meet up with scientists and researchers and finding a way to include that into the verse. Like there’s so many different things that so many different kinds of offerings that I think people can learn from gain access to have experience with. The most part it’s ownership, like the things that you do. You own like the wearables from the physical, like the skins that we’re gonna be doing, obviously all the drops, the NFT drops that we’re gonna be doing, like only inside the membership.
As a Steve Aoki fan, the first thing that comes to mind that when I get this passport, let’s say for the Aokiverse. Okay. Like the first thing that comes to mind is watching you perform live. Right? Like, how does a passport get integrated to a live performance, for example?
Yeah. That’s definitely gonna be a big part of that. Like certain levels of membership will get certain access. Like, there’ll be like certain membership that like you basically come to every show you want. We’re updating it. And we’re all growing it. We’re adapting it. I don’t wanna say forever, but you get access as this thing develops and grows. I get too excited sometimes. I’m pretty passionate about this project. It’s like that feeling where you’re like, it’s Christmas time and you’ve been like, waiting to like, share the gifts with everyone. You like, know what you’re giving the person. It’s like almost Christmas time and I’m already kind of divulging. And we haven’t really given away too much information on the rewards because we wanna kind of like keep it steady, but there’s a pretty rich roadmap of what we’re gonna be doing and our partners and the people who work with are incredible. I mean, we, we did list there’s like 20 odd different partners that, are gonna be part of the pre-sale. Mm. So like anyone that owns any of their NFTs in their discords, they will have access to the pre-sale before public sale on the 15th. And whether it’s doodles or Jany, or Bomb Squad or Blao or whoever else
So when you’re thinking about like, constructing this metaverse, for example, the Aokiverse, okay. We talked about some of the experiences that you’ll kind of like reveal down the line as, as the Aokiverse grows and develops and create excitement around that. I’m curious though, like, when you are doing your other drops, the drops that first got you into the space, the collabs that you’ve done with other people, how did that kind of inspire what you’re doing right now? Right. And like, beyond that, for example, like, when you think about creating a digital experience for your fans, right? How can you kind of include the ones that already committed, right and already got some of your collectibles and those that have no idea what NFTs are and wanna get involved and love as Steve Aoki and your music. How do you kind of mix both worlds together?
Yeah. I mean, like that’s what everyone is doing now. I feel like we’re all stacking on top of each other projects that have worked, like, I was just talking about like following Gary V with his community uh his membership of like V con and everything. And just like luckily I was, I was close enough with him to like learn and be a student of him following like, these other friends and, and groups that are doing all these different things. Like I said, I’m just, it’s all about like, combining as much of that into one, because I, myself, I am a multifaceted person. I am not just a DJ. I am not just a producer. I dabble in so many worlds, whether it’s physical products cuz physical products in itself, I’m not just talking about fashion. I mean, you go across the space like I’m wearing right now, like my collaboration I did with Bulgari. Right. So like doing collaboration with Bulgari on a watch to collaborating on shoes, to collaborating on tech, like all these different things. Like whenever there’s something that really intrigues me, I’ve always gone to what I consider the top and down, start from the top and go down and see if there is a collaboration that makes sense. And for the most part for the past, like last 10 years, I’ve been able to find my way into these different industries and you know, obviously one learn and two bring forth some different level of service attitude, something else that they might be looking for and what I might be looking for. Yeah. And the best part is bring it all into the membership. That’s what the plan is moving forward, everything I’m doing, all these different partnerships, collaborations. Not everything might not go into the membership because it might not make sense, but I am doing whatever I can in every single meeting, I’m doing what I can to see how that looks in the membership, how the community can be of service from that, be entertained from that. Be part of that commerce. Yeah.
Future of the Aokiverse
I’m excited to see how this kind of strengthens your tie between the people who love everything that you do, all the art that you kind of produce from fashion to music to the list goes on and on to now bringing this online and introducing this digital native kind of like somewhat of an identity factor when following you and everything that happens in the Aokiverse. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this. We’re very early into this whole concept of metaverses of digital communities. Like we’ve been living online for years now. Right. But bringing in assets to tie it all together, right. Through ownership, through Providence, through all these other characteristics, it’s relatively new. Where do you imagine Aokiverse kind of like in five years.
Five years is so far.
I know.This is why I ask it too.
Five years is like too far for me to understand because it changes so rapidly. You know, everything moves at like I wake up and I see a project that’s doing something that I’m like, wow, and then you try to build off that. Right. So like two years ago, I mean a year ago, like, like two years ago, I’d be like, what, what does the metaverse look like? We would have no idea. Yeah. Kinda like the idea of singularity where, you know, Ray Kerswells version of singularity where there’ll be a point in time where technology and AI will surpass human knowledge and intelligence that we don’t understand what will happen at that point. Yeah. We don’t know, like you can imagine, we will be slaves to AI, or will become the AI. I’m more about becoming the AI more positive where we going. I love these kinds of these storytellings. Yeah. I love these kinds of books. So like that question is definitely intriguing to me. I think that whatever I say is definitely not gonna be where it’s gonna be. Yeah. I just know that whatever I plan on doing is very present. It’s like of service, within a timeframe that we could understand,
You know, it makes a lot of sense. And basically what you’re echoing and I think like taking a Hawks eye view for a second, you thinking of other creators. Cause a lot of what we try to do on Mint is to create like how-tos how can other creators kind of do something similar? It’s like you being present is very much building in public learning as you go experimenting, throwing at the fan, seeing what sticks, like, because it’s so new because we’re pulsing with all the updates, all the new features that you don’t like, people don’t know what they’re doing. Everyone’s just trying new things and seeing what sticks and experimenting and trying to think outside the box, which I really love. You’re very much approaching it like that.
Yeah. I approach it like this, like where it’s almost coming to me and be like, okay, I wanna do this. Every human being is of service to each other. I feel like that’s what we do. Like we’re of service of whatever it is. Whether you, you bake you blow glass or you’re a chef or you’re a musician, you’re an artist, a DJ, whatever you do that provides service, amplify that in this world. If you wanna learn another trait, if you wanna learn another trade or something else to be of service. Yeah. You could learn it, but like be of great service before you offer that. There’s so much service out there. So like, it’s clear if you’re providing great service, then you’ll be successful with what you do, period. That’s how it works. You have to provide great service before you gain success. And I think for everyone else, that’s why I always share that information. I think that this is the amplification of what that looks like in the meta verse,
Which by the way, very much brings you back to the Benny HANA days. When I used to go there for my birthday. It comes down to service and I only bring that up because it’s like a lot of your story, a lot of your upbringing, I remember in your book also, you talk a lot about your dad, right. And how he started Benny HANA and like hospitality equals service. Like you’re serving people, right? That type of DNA has trickled through you, through art, through fashion, NFTs through this metaverse the list goes on and on and on. It’s a core principle that you kind of live by. I’m curious though, will we ever see a collab between Benny HANA or Pete Aoki in the Aokiverse?
You know what? Adam, I did talk about tag products, fashion culinary, digitals, all this stuff I’m talking about. I did not even touch food. And it’s gonna be a component. It’s gonna be component. It’s actually something I’m building out. So I don’t wanna say too much yet. I won’t give way too many offering. Obviously I grew up under my father who founded Benny HANA. He was doing Benny HANA. And I was like, as a teenager, I’m like, I’m gonna pursue music. Yeah. And now I’m just getting like magnetically pulled, like that pull of like the family tied to get back, getting food definitely pulled me with like subconscious or what, I don’t know what it is, but now I’m an owner of like 10 different restaurant, IP, Pete Aoki we have 20 kitchens. I’ve built out a chicken tourist spot in resorts world called Kupa. Me and my brother have like some restaurants that we’re doing. We started Aoki Tapanaki which is Benny Hana 2.0, those restaurants. So like, there’s a lot in the restaurant world, it’s actually like a full time job in the itself. Luckily I have a team of people that handle that stuff. That’s gonna be also part of it, like pretty much everything I’m doing, which is a lot all tied together. So many facets. I think that’s why this Aokiverse membership community has a lot of offerings that I think a lot of people would be surprised about like, wow, there’s so much. Not just from my portfolio. For me, the future of Aokiverse is the multiverse. So it’s like just connecting with all of the different partners, and we have incredible partners that are doing incredible projects that are constantly thinking ahead. 1
How Do You Access the Aokiverse?
How do you access digitally the AKI verse? Is it through like some 3d type of gamified component? Is it through, walk me through that a little bit. I’ll walk you through it.
So you get a credit okay. Aokiverse credit, and the credit will unlock the first level of a passport. Okay. And then you get this passport, right. You open up and you can, you put all the different activations or different proof of the popes, like things that you do in there. Yeah. And as you do more in the space, you get more credits which unlock different level tier inside the membership. And it is clear that you’re like, level one, level two, level three, level four, level five. And um it’s something that you own. It’s something that you could sell, something that you could share. As we bring in more, more of our partners and friends whether they’re doing airdrops, whether we’re gonna do a cross board collaborations whether it’s physical and digital, like, if we work with a particular NFT project, and we do like a cool collab, cause like we’re already doing that now. I don’t wanna announce who we’re working with, but there’s some exciting projects that we’re gonna be doing collabs that the only the membership holders will have access to so,
So most important question about the Aokiverse. How do you plan to cake someone? What does that look like?
Adam, there’s definitely gonna be cake, you already know that you already know that. What does that look like? We need to build out that cake Def.
It’s a serious question. I feel like if you enter the Aokiverse like the first thing you should get is cake. Like if you’re, in a gaming setting, I feel like that makes so much sense.
Know, it’s, it’s crazy. I’ve caked probably over 25,000 people. I’ve been doing it for over 10 years, 11 years, and it never gets old. It’s literally like, I’m Tom Brady and I’m throwing that touchdown pass, to the receiver, which is the person that get’s kicked. And when they catch that ball, when they get caked in the face, the whole place erupts, and they’re just showing like, it’s me like turning around, showing everyone like, they want it on the whole show. It’s like that moment, like, yes, we did it,
Has anyone ever caked you?
Oh yeah. Yeah. On my birthday. Okay. Vin Diesel cake me pretty good at a show.
I’m talking about like a fan coming back for like revenge.
I’ve gotten caked like various times. I’ve seen some fans bring cakes to the show, but you know, we have very specific cakes that we use
I want to talk to you more about like the payday and like economics of performing and how that kind of ties into your thoughts on NFTs on crypto in general. You’re very vocal on like the economics between casinos, clubs and artists and how that kind of plays all together. And I remember watching in a previous interview, you were talking about how, if like you’re an up and coming DJ, you have less leverage on pay than if you’re more of an established DJ to which you bring the audience everywhere you go. And you have more leverage on everything kind of around that front. And I’m curious now that you’re like integrating an NFT metaverse play and people will have a form of ownership on your brand, in the metaverse, et cetera, and get creative with me here. You ever see like your fans kind of like coexisting and negotiating on your behalf when it comes to performances and kind of like dictating what the future of yourself looks like, what the future of Aoki looks like et cetera, et cetera. Like, to what extent do you see your fans getting involved in these assets and the power that kind of comes through that?
Think, I think the first is clear in music. Cause that’s like the product, right. Music is art. That’s how I see it. So it’s so exciting about this time now is that with music NFTs, there is a value on music that has been disregarded because of, how poor, the value of streaming really is how much money artists makes from streams. So like, first of all, that’s already happening thanks to Royal and what Blaos doing on that NAZ project, I think that was a great, like start of where fans could come in and participate in a catalog. As far as, shows that that’ll be a little bit deeper and I’m sure we will get there, I’m sure of it. I’m sure. The thing is that you could really go into any world. It is a service, you know? So like, what does that look like? I have yet to hear that conversation, I’ve heard a lot of conversation on the music side. I haven’t had a conversation on performances, cause that could be a festival where it’s like a fan control festival.
I think about this from the point of view that, okay, now we’re getting more. So we saw NFTs as collectibles. We saw NFTs as art, like you said, now we’re getting into the cycle of music NFTs and the gray area is still present of what ownership really is when you buy this music NFT. Whether it’s a one of one, an addition and I’m like thinking out loud here, like as NFTs become more of a thing as artists see the value of like, wait, I just made a hundred thousand dollars worth of streams in one minute, for example, from like a drop that otherwise would take me months to get on Spotify, let alone payout. Right. And I’m start thinking like, okay, so now all these artists are gonna have more assets of themselves on chain. They’re gonna build communities around these assets.Some will have levels of ownership to them. I wonder for like an up and coming DJ and up and coming artist, what role do the fans actually play? Right. So if the DJ brings the fans and you’re able to bring leverage based off that discussion to casinos to clubs, will artists have that same level of influence? Like, these guys not playing and we’re not coming if like you don’t pay ’em X, Y, and Z, because we also have a stake in that. You know what I mean? And they might be too far are fetched, but I’m thinking out loud here
That’s definitely in the future. Maybe it’s a five year game plan what you’re talking like what it looks like? Let’s take another, parallel. So radio. Before, radio is like, they only dictated like when you get playlisted, it’s only like probably like 13 songs at play, maybe last an hour. And they play that in rotation, you know, hard. It is like, 10,000 songs coming out a day. So it’s like, it’s only like 13 or 10 songs are played in a rotation period on every station. How do you get up there? It’s generally it’s like, it’s a very, bureaucratic, very like archaic system of how it gets in there. So like new artists can’t really make it in there unless they go through that system. And then TikTok came through and kind of changed that. So you have like artists, like what you know about rolling down with the deep, you have like songs like that, right. Mass Wolf that like actually are being played on there because this platform changed that game. And and these, the radio the way, the way, the way radio’s structured, would’ve never put that in there. Right. You know? So I think that, like what you’re saying, it definitely upends the system and the system always can be upended, you know? So you know, like to play it like Omnia, for example, right. The day Adam for the casino, what they, they care about numbers. Right. So if that up, up and coming DJ that has a huge crypto base, right. That that’s supporting them, that’s saying like we, or you have to book them, you know, we, you know, we’re gonna show up if they don’t show up, if they’re not part of that, it’s gonna be a big flop. Hmm. Cause the rest of the world, needs to also know, DJ, whatever, unknown, you know what I mean? So I think for smaller clubs, things like that, you could do that.
I imagine a world where Omnia has its own NFT fund and they’re buying into the NFTs of like up and coming DJs that they want to promote and shill the value of their bags kind of thing. I imagine this with like radio stations too, with record labels, et cetera, value accrues to these assets.
But you don’t wanna risk the main bag, if like you’re chilling your own DJs and then you’re putting ’em in the club and then no one cares or no one knows it. You’re business is gonna go like belly up. Just like with anything out there, if you’re constantly shilling your own thing, you, it’s not gonna work over time. Like you might have like some, some like quick flip gains, but long term, it’s not gonna work. Like, it’s all about diversity. It’s all about adding in talent. It’s all about adding like longevity, artists that aren’t even part of that. Of course it’s gonna happen. You’re gonna shill like your own personal project, but like you need like 90% up to be like what people really want. Yeah. You know, I think that goes, that goes with everything. It’s like, you need to give people what they want and then give people what they would never expect. And then introduce them. I’m like that in a DJ set. I think like the philosophy my DJ sets, I think about it like almost in the same way as business, like when I’m DJing they come to see Steve Aoki, so I’ll have to play Steve Aoki music. So I’m gonna give them like the Aoki hits what they expect. Right. But after what they expect, once they’re on that high, then I give them something that I want to give them a brand new song that they never heard of. That they might be like, yeah, cool. I’m down. But I’m in this high spirit that I want to hear about it. Cuz it’s your new song and I love your old songs. So like that’s the perfect time for me to offer that. And then I give them something that they expect and that they want. And then I give them something new and then I give them something, that they would never expect. It has nothing to do with me? They’re like, oh this is for my childhood. Oh my God. Like, yes. At the end of it, like all these different layers of feelings and emotions and this rollercoaster ride, m’m able to share things that I love, that I’m so excited to share that they might not even care to hear give ’em what they want, give ’em something surprising. And then they leave. Most importantly, they leave with the Steve Aoki experience, not a great experience, but a great Steve Aoki experience. That’s really important to me. That’s why I throw the cake. That’s why I was using the raft in the crowd. That’s why I was doing certain things that are like very consistent to a unique show that they will never forget like 10 years later. Maybe the person that got caked in 2012 and the person that was there would always remember my friend got caked. I got caked 10 years ago. I’ll never forget it. It was the best experience in my life. They’re not gonna remember the songs, right. So it’s always about like what I want to create a memory that’s unique. I wanna create like a outstanding, acceptable memory.
Hmm. I’m curious to see how that kind of translates into the Aokiverse. And as consumers, as us fans kind of dive deeper into what the metaverse even is for them as users.
That’s the question that my whole team, we’re like trying to figure out how to answer that so that we can give that kind of service, you know, and the best way for me to do is dynamic. It’s changing, it’s evolving, it’s growing, it’s, it’s adding in all these different layers and all these different kinds of offerings. I mean, of course it’s like, you know, we want give what they expect. We wanna give ’em the presales people want in on presales they want in, on the allow list on like new projects that that’s gonna be part of it too. So people want the exclusive drop. So they’re not waiting in line, you know, it’s wait in line for, at Supreme or, or whatever it is. You wait in line, like you want that exclusive thing, you get that access, you want like, those are the things that you have to bring to the table and then you wanna offer something new, you offer something new, you wanna offer something surprising, you know, same kind of thing. Yeah, yeah,
Future Relationship Between a Record Label and an Artist
Yeah. You’re constantly evolving and I really recognize that Steve, one thing I wanna also talk to you about is like, with the introduction of music NFTs with independent artists kind of using crypto and web three as a medium to kind of monetize themselves, build direct to fan relationships. Sharing the upside, sharing the ownership of what it is they’re trying to do, et cetera. How do you imagine like the future relationship between a record label and a music artist evolving thanks to crypto?
Yeah. I mean, it’s leveling the field for sure. It’s giving way more control, especially for independent artists, it allows them to be independent and have that control and labels will have to adjust and understand how that, they have to change period. The labels have to change and they’ll have to offer more. They’re gonna be, it’s almost like I almost see it like this. Like why does, an independent artist, they still need a manager? They still need a team. I mean, and some independent artists, don’t get me wrong, some independent artists, they manage themselves. And I think that’s awesome if they have the bandwidth and they have the network and they have the time, that’s where these other players that are part of that business have to take on that role, whether, you know, the manager and the label all kind of work in tandem. Like at the end of the day, the business isn’t growing that artist’s music catalog and music’s IP, so we could all share in the revenue. So it’s like, what labels will probably have to do in the future is offer more than just making sure they’re on playlists. Making sure that like, you know, certain things are financed because if it’s already being financed by crypto, then that was actually one of the major points of why a lot of independent artists signed to major labels because they’re like, sweet. We got that big paycheck that we would’ve never got, well, if you get that paycheck from crypto, then you need to offer something else. I don’t think that labels are gonna go away. Just like managers are not going away. Independent artists need a team. Everyone needs a team. No one can work alone. I’ve learned that. Anything I’ve done is not alone. I have an incredible team in different fields of all the different industries I’m in. I have different people that I trust and that we go into this business together and it’s gonna be more of a level playing field and more a designation of what the roles are to propel the business?
You know, it’s also interesting because we’re seeing artists who have record labels now trying to use crypto to crowdfund money, to buy back their catalog, from the record labels to try to create more that startupy like team that you kind of talk about, like people need their artists, right. People need someone to manage socials. Like a lot of creators just know how to focus on creating because that’s what they do best, but they need other pieces in their team to kind of do the rest. So I don’t know.
Another thing I wanna add to is like labels for me, it’s always meant like, I remember being a band and when I signed to a label, I didn’t even sign. It was like, not even a contract, I just put out a record, but I put out a record on this label. Like for me, it was more like, I just wanted to be part of that community. Yeah. Like I loved all the other bands on that label. So I’m like, oh my God, how cool is we’re on the label? Like our favorite bands are on this label. How cool is that? And then when they do a show or a festivals, like we’re all lined up together, like a team that’s like the same philosophy of what’s happening, obviously in NFT culture. We’re so excited to be part of these communities. And we meet other people that have the same like-minded passion and interest. And the bond is so much more powerful than just the JPEG, it’s like the community as we started in the first, I think one of the first things we talked about is how important the community is. That goes the same way with labels. At least for me, the way I think you sign to a label, cuz you love the other artists that the label put out. And that’s why, like, I always do like, like, pre COVID, I’m trying get ’em back going again, but pre COVID, we were always doing the Dimac parties. We had early days, we had Dimac parties every single week in LA. It was the coolest party in Los Angeles. I’m not kidding. And then wed throw like, Dimac stages at festivals at Tomorrow land or at different festivals, or we’d throw Dimac party with all artists come through and all hang out do dinners, chill, whatever, like the whole thing, do production camps, whatever work together as friends. That’s what it’s all about. And of course like then there’s a business side, making sure that the business is fair, but for me, like the philosophy of signing to a label, it’s about like that kind of community, it’s a big part of it.
Any Unexplored Areas Surrounding Music NFTs?
Are there any areas in music NFTs that you feel like have yet to be explored more beyond just buying and collecting songs, for example, and earning royalties.
Yeah. You know, the music NFT space is just a start, we have haven’t even really begun. That’s like the big conversation I’ve been having with other artists and musicians is that we haven’t even tapped into what it looks like, because it’s a bit complicated obviously, like the securities issues of like what that looks like. I mean, in theory it sounds great you, but is that possible? Like, can you do that with like, it’s like this wild west, like this decentralized frontier that we’re in, if we start mixing in things in the real world that have ties to, things that, that you can’t tie in. I don’t know. I don’t all the legalities there. Think that’s one of the reasons why it’s like mindfully taking small steps to seeing, when we have a clear idea of what it looks like, what we can actually do. I mean, we’re gonna go across the board just like we’re talking about even like live performances. Things like that.
And I bet the Aokiverse pass holders would be the first one to kind of reap that from how I understand that.
I’m putting my head in that space as much as I can and doing it safely. I don’t necessarily need to be the first one to pioneer in that space because like it’s terrain, I don’t know, don’t understand legally and all that stuff is happening. I just wanted to be so we’re not like jumping into something too excitedly, but yes, in the music NFT space, as it comes to Aokiverse there will be components that will start seeding there for sure. I mean there’s a lot that’s gonna happen, like I said, it’s an evolution we’re gonna adapt and grow.
Any Clear Advantages to Web3?
I wanna get a little personal with you because you did publish your book. I think in 2019, if I’m not mistaken or around, around that time, and you really did open up to your fans, to your audience, to the people reading and, despite all the people, energy fame, you know, the shows, you wrote in your book and I paraphrase this. It’s not a quote that you still feel low in that life still feels somewhat empty. Okay. And I’m curious if building digital communities online in web three, changes that at all for you? Can it unlock something for you that’s missing, for example, like in the physical world?
It does actually. It really does. It actually brings me back to when I was a kid whenever like, okay, it’s funny, cuz a lot of the things that we do in our lives, there is like an inner child in all of us. And like the inner child’s always there, no matter how old we get, it always has its issues, like whatever it’s going through and my inner child growing up was trying to fit in. I grew up in Newport beach and the way you, I don’t wanna go too deep into this, but you know, it is a bit of a introspective question. When I was growing up, like the way kids socializes, you enter sports. And like you make friends through that. I tried all the sports. I just was a like absolute failure. I remember I played like soccer and I score two goals, but on my own team,
Geez, come on Steve, what are you doing here?
Basketball? Same thing. I would like score the same hoop. I’ve been like one, I played one game of football, like one pass. I love sports. I just was not very good at it. Newport beach was 96% white. So you gotta think. A person of color or Asian or a minority of any sort there’s gonna be a level of just difficulties to fit in. When I found music, when I found particularly hardcore, it’s a subset of punk music. There were like these outcasts and they would just hang out and they’re like, we don’t care what you look like. All we care about is that you just like, love this music. But here’s a mix tape, tell me if you like it. It’s kind of like, almost like a religion. Like when someone like knocks on your door, it’s like.
Here’s a big statement. This guy made me a mix tape and I’m like, I can’t believe a guy actually spent all the time making me a mix tape. That’s so cool. Mix tape’s all screaming like, ah, you know, like, but it’s all like strangely enough, like it sounds angry, but it’s all very positive music. Like, oh, we’re gonna get through this. It’s like, almost like wag me. I swear to God. It’s like wag me, we’re gonna make it. We’ll do it together. I swear. It’s so crazy. Oh my God, it’s literally wag me, it’s called, you know what, it’s called PMA, positive mental attitude. And it’s like, all the lyrics are about this kind of same approach of life. Like together we’re gonna do it. We know we don’t fit in with the rest of the world, but we’re get together. When I found that, I found this kind of bond with these few kids, then I was like, this is my community. I’ll do whatever I can to bolster it, like that’s when I learned how to play guitar and bass and sing and record my first demo, because you had to make music to actually get it out there. That was your way of contributing. And like, just going back, totally digressed there, but going to the discord groups, like whatever it might be. I have a bunch of different groups as well, I’ll talk with my friends on, it’s like, that’s the first thing I look at, it’s the first thing I like connect with. I’m like, guys, I just got this!
Like, I love that feeling of finding like-minded passionate individuals that are excited and like hungry and we’re all in it together. And wag me’s a real thing. It sounds like a joke, but it’s an absolute real thing
Your story really resonates with me. Obviously we talked about the drums in the back. When I was in high school, I was like hella fat, like 230 pounds fat. Like I was a blueberry legit. And I remember I never really fit in with the cool kids. Never really fit in with the girls, but drumming was always my thing since like five years old. And I remember I came across the jazz band and I was like, wow, this is super cool. It’s a bunch of other weirdos that are just like talented, and this is my circle. And then shortly enrolled and then like, yea, I hear you. And like, that same. Like I don’t wanna call it imposter-ness, but that same level of connection, that same level of identity I found very similarly in crypto as well.
I think all of us have that kind of like sense of belonging, we always want that. Now it doesn’t matter if we’re six, 15 to 25, 35, 45, 55, whatever it is. We wanna have like something that we all like, like believe in. And I think it’s actually cooler when it’s not like a social norm. Yeah.
Like, you’re the cool kid. Like everybody wants to know what, you know.
And like when people come in, they’re like, I would hear about this. Like, it’s like the same thing when I was doing shows in LA, we threw parties in LA and we’d have, like Lady Gaga’s first show there. I remember like her manager called me and be like, Hey Lady Gaga wants to perform like, this was her first show. So no one knew who she was. She’s a new artist. We’d love to have her play for free at your shows. Like the two shows I had in LA, like yeah, yeah, sure. Come through. And then like, you know, six months later, she’s like the biggest thing on the planet, but it’s so cool that like, when you have some thing that’s small and it’s cool. And like, everyone wants to be there. It’s like exciting, I always find myself in those circles. I always do. This is where I feel the passion and the energy right now, and I want to keep growing that and building it and I’m gonna give you another parallel. So like with punk and hardcore. Yeah. When I found that world, once you’re in, you’re like, yes, we made it, like, we’re doing our thing. Like was very exclusive. It’s very like no one else can get in, just for us, like, fuck everybody else. Like that kind of like anger. And then it transformed into EDM as a DJ, it came the complete opposite where it’s like, I want everyone in. As long as you have that same energy, please come bring it. Like, if you feel the same energy, join us because that’s all it’s about. Like, if you think about art, music books that we read, movies, that we watch, all these different things, we are looking for, things that will make us feel a way that, that inspires us. It gives us tingles down our arms and makes us get up off our seat and do something with our lives that we didn’t do before that. That’s why I spend so much money on a bank seat in my house. That’s why I stare at a piece of art for like 30 minutes, feeling a certain way. That’s why when I watch a movie and I cry, like, I wanna share it with everyone or book I write to the author and I wanna meet them. It’s like, we’re always looking for those kinds of experiences. Life is all these kinds of experiences. You wanna make them the best that we can.
Will NFTs Allow Us to Live Forever?
Yeah. I hear you. I wanna wrap it up with one final question. I came across this interview by the wall street journal. It was taking place on 2019. Okay. The journalists ask you, where do you imagine the Aoki brand 20 to 30 years from now to which you were like, what that’s so far away similar to like the five year question that I ask you and you replied, we are at this precipice, this point of existence in technology that will either make us the last generation to die, or the first generation of people to live forever. My question to you are NFTs the technology that allow us to live forever?
It’ll allow our legacy to live forever. Okay. But for us, I do believe, and this is a long one, Adam, but I believe that we will find technology. I’m very optimistic on certain things. And I always say this, I live between science fiction and science fact, that’s where I like to live. I like to live right here and whatever’s happening crossing the line of science fact. Whoever is crossing that line, I wanna jump into their boat and learn and then share that and actually help speed the process. Speeding up the process is where the foundation comes in. That’s where like you have to raise money. We raise over a million dollars and funding all these different research. But I want it to happen in our lifetime. My insurance policy is that when I die, I’ll be frozen in Kelvin degree temperature. So that way, they’ll be able to tinker with my brain and bring me back to life
Accessible through the Aokiverse too.
But hopefully we could do it. Like I’m 44 now. So technically I only have 40 more years left of if I live by my average life expectancy. I’m very healthy, so it’s probably later. Like literally I think I only have 40 years left. It’s not much time, man. I literally, I feel like I’ve learned 2% of what I can learn in all the growth. I mean, in 44 years, I’m at 2%. That’s what I feel like. I feel there’s so much more and I only have 40 years left, it’s sad. I’m really thinking about allocating my time into finding ways to push. Living forever is a scary concept. The easier way for me to explain is just living, living longer and more optimal. We can all agree on that and we can agree on that, more, when you think about your parents, your grandparents, people that you love with all your heart and you want them to live a healthy, happy, long life, filled with energy enthusiasm and like smiles and joy and laughing. You want them to be living their best life at 97. You know what I mean? Cause you love them. You think about them, you will do whatever you can to find ways for them to live longer. I really want to share this kind of feeling with people. So like if we all go in and try to like help out and, and want this kind of research to happen, then essentially we could, we go from 80 to 90, to a hundred, 110, 120 and beyond.
I love it. I think that’s a perfect place to end off. Steve Aoki. Thank you so much for being on hope to have you on again soon.
Definitely man. Thanks. Appreciate you. Got it. See ya.