Andre Benz: Runescape, Curation, and Generative Music NFTs

Andre Benz shares lessons learned from gaining over 50 million YouTube subscribers to selling out seven-figure drops on Soundmint.xyz.

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Background

Mint Season 5 episode 1 welcomes Andre Benz, founder of the widely successfully EDM YouTube channel The Nations and CEO of Soundmint.xyz, a go-to platform for curated audiovisual NFTs. 

I wanted to have him on to share his unique perspective on growth hacking one of the largest curated music EDM brands on YouTube, and how that translates into his newest curated venture.

In this episode, we discuss: 

  • 01:30 – Intro 
  • 01:38 – How Runescape influenced his understanding of crypto and web3
  • 01:58 – Growth hacking one of the most popular EDM YouTube channel
  • 17:49 – Biggest lessons learned about the music industry while building The Nations
  • 23:15 – The inspiration behind starting Soundmint.xyz
  • 27:43 – NFT skepticism around drop culture
  • 31:47 – The process of creating a collection
  • 41:30 – What does the average collector look like on Soundmint.xyz?
  • 44:45 – How do you scale curation?
  • 47:24 – Outro

…and so much more. 

I hope you enjoy our conversation. 


Let’s go. Andre. Welcome to mint. What is going on my friend? Thanks for being on.

Andre Benz: Thanks for having me, man. Appreciate it. Not much, man, just enjoying the during the day.

Intro

I’m excited to have you guys on. I’ve been watching you guys for a minute now, I think we got connected when one of your buddies that’s working with you at sound mint reached out was like, yo, you gotta check out what we’re doing that sound mint, it’s the sickest thing in the world, blah, blah. And here we are today, part of season five. And I wanted to have you on we’re celebrating three things, okay, music, obviously you have a big background in music, also doing video and CCO licensing, which I know sound mint has a cross between CCO to an extent and the music side of things as well. So, before we get into sound mint what you guys are doing, I always like to start with an intro. So, Andre, who are you? What does the world need to know about you? And how did you get your start into crypto more specifically?

Andre Benz: That’s good question. My name is Andre, obviously, I come from music primarily, crypto is pretty new to me in some ways, I think like most people, I got started in like 2017 and I got burned really bad. I just lost a lot of money. And that was like a, I guess it was a good way to start and also a bad way I learned a lot obviously, because beaming but also moving into you know, I found all these projects that I thought were super cool, but I didn’t really touch crypto for a while since 2017. And then, you know, Paris and Brian, my two colleagues that I founded Simon with Kane came to me with this idea while I was still running trap nation which I started when I was 15. And they went into this long, lengthy conversation about how you know, NFTs are taking over, and I saw these people for the music industry, you know, eventually kind of transitioned to NFTs and I thought wow, I should be you know, paying attention to this. This looks really interesting. I made a Twitter start following a lot of people and then I kind of took the plunge from, you know, the whole trap nation thing to into segments. And at first it was more kind of just like me consulting, kind of advising a little bit seeing where I could find my fit and then eventually now fully transitioned into like a CEO position at the company, and one of the co-founders as well.

So, what was it like starting trap nation or the nation in general, it’s one of the biggest platforms, I remember when I was in high school 2018, 2019, one of my homies Gavin from King Cavaliers, he got hired on the nations, on trap nation. And that’s around the first time I kind of came across the brand, but what was it like kind of like building out that platform? Building out millions of subscribers and kind of defining your own corner in the music industry?

Andre Benz: Yeah, it’s good question. And honestly, I never thought I would work in music ever, or grow a brand or be on social media at all. It just kind of happened by a miracle almost. But I was never, I started when I was 15. So, before I was 15, though, before I even got into YouTube, I was still like, I was a really big video gamer. I played a lot of games with my friends. And we, I played RuneScape primarily for a game, but I was in clans a little time. And you know, clans are basically just like the communities in games that you go do stuff with, quests or whatever it is kill monsters. And we always share music in these clans. And at the time, like Spotify wasn’t really big, I think in the US, yet SoundCloud was still coming up. And YouTube wasn’t really like a music streaming service per se, but it was a place where you could discover music subsequently. So, what I would do is I found electronic music through Twitch, I was watching like Spark Mac or something like that I heard Skrillex I was like, oh my god is insane. And I looked up on YouTube. And I found all these channels like Dubstep and Ultra Music like all these curators, I didn’t know what they were at the time. And I just thought wow, this is like, easy way to share music, I’m gonna do the same. So, I started a channel called alternation. And all I did was just a couple music that I listened to on the side that showed my friends. And that was just the easiest way to share it at the time. But I started to realize I was like, oh, I should start like a brand around it. So, I started a brand around it. And I just kept running it as kind of like a side hobby, primarily because I just wanted to do something other than, you know, do homework or study or whatever it is, it was just another side hobby to develop. It was a lot of fun at the time.

And then, you know, time went on and eventually just kept growing incrementally everyday staircase almost. And at one point, I think I uploaded like a remix of Miley Cyrus breaking wrecking ball. I think it’s called like, whenever like big singles back then. And it blew up this is when vine was really, really big on social media platform and vine was a massive like it was like that first social media app that really catapulted or changed trajectory in terms of marketing for the music industry, because nobody really looked at social media apps is full marketing like methods for their singles. And vine was really that first like thing that took it to that level. And I didn’t realize that at the time, but when I helped with the Miley Cyrus thing, it blew up in Vine, and then all those people from Vine fall over to my channel. And then from there, I was, like, you know, I feel like probably one of my biggest skills sets or like attributes is, I’m not a super smart guy, or like very clever guy. It’s just when I get good opportunities, I know when to fully go on and, like, take advantage of them, I guess. And I just saw this as like, the only golden opportunity, I’m probably gonna have my life to change everything from there. So, I just looked at I was like, alright, this worked. So, let’s do it again. So, I just got another remix of another Miley Cyrus song and did it again, and it blew up again. And from there, it was just kind of all history because it was just, I started learning like, basic pattern base, like business approaches to everything. It’s like building systems and scaling. And I realized I need more people on my team, even at like 15 or 16, that could do what I was doing, but for other genres as well, other than just rap music. So, I brought on some friends, that curate other channels, and then yeah, just kept at it. And eventually, last year of high school, I graduated, took a year off, didn’t go to college, and then moved down to Los Angeles and like hired my first like formal employee, and then started a record label a publishing company. And yeah, recently, within the last three months, sold a majority stake to create music group, which is an independency music distribution company.

How Runescape influenced his understanding of crypto and web3

So, let’s talk about two things for a sec. Okay, your time playing RuneScape because I was a huge RuneScape head, okay. And I always meet more and more people that started like their childhood, remember a core piece of the childhood at RuneScape, and now they’re in crypto for whatever reason, okay. And two, I want to talk to you about growth strategies and like hacking views and hacking subscribers, and if you use any tactics, but for RuneScape Okay, number one RuneScape. How do you think playing RuneScape has translated into you kind of understanding the world of web three, and the world of crypto, is there any similarities? Or are there any similarities?

Andre Benz: Yeah, it’s a really good question. It’s pretty funny, because I feel like every time, I’ve talked to people, and this is not the first-time people have spoken about, like similarities between RuneScape and I guess, is a bunch of similarities. I mean, I think like, at end of the day, it was a time period and a lot of people’s lives looking back even my own time period, but now being able to reflect that period of the internet was so like, magical, but also scary, because there were so many new innovations happening. This is when like, blockchain was super big still and like, right, it was going crazy and like, blowing people like musicians up and just topics up, and it was kind of sparking, like independent, I guess, like, discovery, like information discovery or something like that. But in terms of RuneScape, it was in this period where there weren’t like a lot of advanced video games out. So, and it was very, like economic base. So, it’s like, I’m sure everybody remembers, if you played RuneScape. You remember the Grand Exchange and the Grand Exchange just like you know, it’s you know, you go and sell yeah, iconic, you sell you learn to trade, you get scammed, you learn humiliation, embarrassment, responsibility, how to look out for scammers, hackers, fishers, whatever it may be. And it’s just like, it just throws you in that world, I think that you can’t get in other video games per se, maybe I guess, like World of Warcraft. And the other one you could say is pretty similar in that in that sense, but I think web three is very, like Do It Yourself independent. And you need a lot of responsibility, humiliation sometimes based on whether you fail whether you make out well, but I think it’s the same thing with RuneScape like it’s just you get dived into this fucking massive game and everybody’s trading things and obviously, with gold in the game and all these items like it’s basically the NFT market now, just without the verification part without the blockchain back then.

Growth hacking one of the most popular EDM YouTube channel

You know, one of my fondest memories is doing a lot of these quests for like, what’s it called? Just like the day-to-day quest of advancing yourself and getting more XP and boosting up your 99 score and all that stuff. And that’s very reminiscent of for me at least of what’s happening in crypto of getting involved with all these projects and trying different things and leveling up like your, oh genius for your wallet address, you know, and yeah, being able to tap into different projects, protocols, defi pools, all these different things. Another thing site damages the amount of times I’ve tried to get a fire cape and I’ve actually fucking failed at doing that and yeah, it’s crazy. Also getting a party hats and all the firecrackers and all the unique like one of ones or one of one hundreds that they’ve released prior to the game going like mainstream because when you saw some of the party hat you knew they were OG you know, so when you see someone with a crypto punk or you see someone with a board ape, you know, either they’ve been OG and they collected it on the mint day or they just have a lot of money, you know, in sets of status in in the in the real world, I guess very reminiscent of RuneScape. Okay, so that’s a RuneScape Okay, what about growth strategies and growth hacking trap nation or the nation’s and getting millions of subscribers. I know you built it a different time than where we’re at today, with YouTube and the algorithms and how people get paid and, and all that stuff. But how did you growth hack millions and millions of subscribers? The way you put it; you just post a link online. And just like that, you get views, and you get virality. Maybe it was like for the first time, you know, but as you progress, I’m sure you kind of picked up different tactics, different strategies connected with other YouTubers that share different insight. I’d assume I mean, correct me if I’m wrong. But how do you go into growth hacking a channel on a brand like that on online?

Andre Benz: Yeah, it’s good question. I say it’s a little bit different for trap nation, like I’m sure if anybody’s familiar with like, the YouTube landscape, like you’re familiar with Mr. Beast, or like PewDiePie and stuff like that. And those channels, I think, when it comes to like actual vlogging, or personality driven like content, that’s in the front, everything is oriented around growth hacking. So, if you ever watch a good interview with Mr. Beast, he can go on for 10 hours, just how he follows all these different systems to make sure his videos do well. For trap nation is a little different. Because I follow a routine or the channel, the brand company now follows a routine where every day basically at the same time, almost the same time, back then at least I would wake up and upload a remix of a song or just like an electronic song in general. And I was delivering content based on people’s routines. So, I saw that like, views on the channel would skyrocket every day from Monday to Friday, right before school starts or right during school starts in the morning, and then right after, which is like that makes sense. Because if you’re going to school or going to work or the office, you’re gonna be listening to this channel from like, 7am to 9am. And then after, when you get home 3pm to like 6pm or 7pm. Saturday, Sundays always went down, but I play it to my advantage. So, I would make sure I was uploading always when people would get notification going to work and going to school or something like that, and I’d always follow consistent sounds. And I knew that the biggest kind of like it back then at least driving factor for YouTube recommending your videos was just audience retention. And then how many people of your subscribers are going back to your videos over and over and over again, I guess like audience retention at that point as well.

So, I just played that to my advantage. Then over time, I started to learn that like thumbnails were a huge player driver, visuals were a huge driver, as much things that I could do, or different opportunities that I could implement in the channel to keep people in the channel but also get new people, new eyes into the channel that helps YouTube’s algorithm push your content even more. But I didn’t have the luxury of doing things like Mr. Beast where he makes these really eye-popping thumbnails with red text circles, you know, the face and stuff like that. I just had to play to the trap nation logo, and the colors that I use to my visualizer that I think were a massive help in blowing up the channel to full popularity. But after that, it was just, I just kept it really consistent. It’s just routine, honestly, you know, making sure I was tagging the right tags, like EDM, electronic music, etc. But honestly, there’s not like a huge secret to growth hacking in YouTube. The biggest, I guess, like tip that I’ll give anybody, it’s just audience retention, the longer you can keep people on your videos, the more YouTube will recommend your video to people because naturally YouTube is a for profit business. So, they want people on their website longer than any other website possible. The longer that those people are on YouTube’s website, the more they’re going to benefit the creators who are getting those people on the website. And you can do that in many different ways. Just for us, that was our method for Mr. Beast has his own. I’m sure if you’re like a podcast or a YouTuber that does blogs, you’ll have their specific methods to those individuals as well as creators.

Yeah, I haven’t really cracked the code just yet on YouTube. I feel like I’m getting more like a bigger audience on Spotify and Apple Music and on audio. It’s actually my biggest platform and my biggest reach, and still trying to figure out how to growth hack YouTube. And as a creator, when you’re very much like a one man show for the most part that’s doing this full time. You have so much responsibility and so much duty to kind of master each platform that you publish on to it to reach its peak. virality. Right. So, with time, so shout out to all my YouTube viewers. I love you guys. Okay, so I want to talk to you about more of your time in high school for me and were you the coolest kid in high school?

Andre Benz: No.

You were not as quiet despite, did people know what you were doing in high school?

Andre Benz: Not really.

Why not?

Andre Benz: Not until I graduated basically or the year of graduation? Yeah, that was that was right, but also just full transparently, the first school that I went to in high school is very small, like it was like maybe 60 or 70 kids per class, and it was sixth grade. No, sorry. It was 7th grade to 12 off grid in one school, so it’s very tiny. And then last year of high school for my senior year, I moved from New Jersey to like Menlo Park and California. And then that school was 1000 kids per grade was 9 to 12. So, I was in this might like a very like a social person. So, when I moved, it was like, I only had a few friends in that high school and to me high schools was like, more of this, I think I was making like 100 grand a year at that point when I was 17, or 18, moving to this new school. So, at that point, I was like, oh, this is totally going to be my future, I really need to, like, pursue it. And then my mindset is like, if I do something, I become obsessive about it. And I can’t let anything else get me out of that, like tunnel vision that I get, which is also a huge Pro, but it’s also a huge con. So, when I went to the new high school, I was just like, I’m not making any friends, I’m gonna be miserable, I’m gonna cut all my classes as much as possible just to get my bare minimum credits. And then that is what really helped me like grow the channel, because I was just on this like, again, like this really obsessive routine clock where I’d wake up at like, 4:30am, or from 4:30, to like, nine, go to school, get back at 2: 30, and then just work my ass off and just continue that for a year straight. And that’s, that was like that. So that didn’t help like my social life.

I can imagine that character in high school, I can genuinely imagine that person. Oh my god.

Andre Benz: It’s a kid that you never notice, honestly, like, yeah, just walk the halls and like nobody would ever notice me because I’m the new kid. And like, I don’t really talk to anybody. But I had a few friends that just wasn’t like, you know, I didn’t make effort whatsoever pass that.

I feel like you could have thrown the sickest high school parties. And you just chose not to, from all the connections.

Andre Benz: And all the network that you built for yourself.

Biggest lessons learned about the music industry while building The Nations

Yeah, you could have definitely become that kid, that kid that everybody knew in high school, but I also understand the idea of being focused and keeping your head down and staying in your lane and all that. Yeah. You know, I would imagine like, so okay, a couple of things. I very much relate to that to an extent. When I was in college, I did well in community college. So, I did two years in Community College before transferring into like, upper grad like the major university. And when I was in community college, I was doing well, I was working a few jobs, studying getting straight A’s, blah, blah. But when I hit USC, I was sucking I was absolutely miserable. And you’re actually the opposite. Like you were just trying to like pass by school just to focus on what made you happy. For me, it was very much I sucked my first semester in college, I ate shit, I failed all my exams, and I realized I was putting so much energy locking myself in these rooms and studying that none of it is paying off. And if I want to put that energy into something else, I would have done exceptionally better. So, I said fuck it, I’m just gonna pass, get the bare minimum and focus on all the extracurricular stuff and ended up getting into crypto through that as well started in crypto club, etc., etc., etc. You know, so I really relate to that mentality. I really relate to that mindset, obviously, in different contexts is, I wasn’t bringing in six figures at the time, I was maybe spending six, spending six figures at the time. But yeah, I digress. Okay, I want to backtrack more and transition into music and web three. Okay. So obviously building the nation’s, building out one of the most successful YouTube channels, EDM channels on YouTube. Definitely taught you things about the music industry, right? As someone maybe you didn’t intentionally try to learn about it, but definitely taught you about how things work, right. And I’m curious to get your point of view, because a lot of what the ethos behind web three music is removing the middleman, right? Removing the scummy deals of artists getting themselves into of doing like 8020, rev shares, and getting these pays. I know, from what I understand doing research, you guys didn’t have the upfront to give people more. So, you were able to pay them periodically, more frequently than the record labels were able to. But backtrack even more. What are some of the biggest lessons you learned on the music industry? Right, what are the biggest takeaways that have kind of shaped your understanding of how to approach sound mint, for example, because I’m sure there’s a lot of relatability and cross lessons you can kind of like, go back and forth on.

Andre Benz: Yeah. There’s a lot for sure. I mean, I see the sound and stuff. It’s really great because I made like, there’s this weird, like, I guess like mental effects of like being thrown into something so challenging at a younger age, because I think you’re just you have such a faster way to learn and improve at least I did. I feel like I did for sure. And I use like all those mistakes that I’ve made then to my advantage now at the sound mint, but with the music industry like people. It’s such a weird, it’s weird. It’s a weird industry, because people romanticize it. And they flaunt it as like this perfect or ideal or idealistic thing that everybody wants to be a part of. It’s very cool. It’s very mysterious. Nobody really understands it. And it’s all kind of on purpose, to be honest. And it’s all run by major corporations and companies like most industries, it’s slowly becoming more independent based on the creators that are part of it and contributing to his growth. But what I’ve learned from it is So there’s a lot of successful people in the industry that shouldn’t be successful. I think that, you know, just ended up getting in there because they were they were friends with the right person who were an artist, they signed the right artists. And that’s like what catapulted the career. And then since then they haven’t done anything, and then just like riding a wave or something of that. And it just made me realize, it’s like, I always thought when I first got into the music industry, when I was much younger, like 17, or 18, I thought that I was always like, the dumbest kid in the room kind of thing. It was like, everybody would look at you, like, you’re this young kid, you got super lucky. And they’re gonna try and take advantage of you.

And then, you know, over time, they started to realize we’re like, oh, fuck, like that it worked out for us, like, this guy is actually, you know, continually growing and like scaling, building your own company. And I just realized this, like, just put your head down and just get your shit done, and do what you think works best for you, that was me talking myself in that scenario. And I’m just using that in web three as well. Like, I feel like web three is very, obviously, there’s a lot of bad media coverage about it. But I think from an outsider’s view, everybody looks at it as just like a bunch of digital JPEGs getting traded, digital JPEG getting paid for half a million dollars, and people are on Twitter, just for 24 hours a day, never sleeping kind of thing. And it just doesn’t have a good perspective. And I think for me, and even inside, like web three, I think a lot of people on Twitter, it can be very toxic sometimes. And I think people get sucked up into this, this vacuum of like information and they can’t get out of it. So, for me, I’m just in this kind of like, barrier where I’m just like, alright, head down, I’m going to continue to build this product. I don’t care what anybody has to say, I don’t care what the community says about the floor. I don’t care about, you know, the fact that we didn’t make somebody you know, $100,000 in a month, based on buying FTS, I just put my head down and just get to work. And just continue to push through and I think that’s what I’ve learned the most from the music industry. Although I wouldn’t even say it’s music related. It’s just growing a business in it. For the most part.

The inspiration behind starting Soundmint.xyz

If you’re familiar with the nations and trap nations audiovisuals, it’s very unique. They’re very distinct the sound waves and how they kind of pulsate, and the color choices. I feel like it’s almost like the perfect medium to transfer into web three. And sound mint focuses on audiovisual, a curated audio, audiovisuals, with really curated artists having exclusive artists doing unique drops. And is that what was going through your mind like, we’re already doing this on YouTube, it only makes sense to bring it into web three, like what was your thought process and kind of building sound mint? Because from the surface, it looks very reminiscent to what happened with trap nations and the audio visuals created to what’s happening now on sound mint.

Andre Benz: It is I mean, to be honest, like I said, I just use what I know from trap nation, I’m using it for sound mint, and I think that’s my advantage. And that’s why Paris and Brian brought me on as a co-founder to really build this out for them. I think the general idea like sometimes I have difficulty understanding like NFTs at its core beyond just like the psychological effect of being in communities and winning together and making a lot of money. Sometimes it’s very difficult for me to justify, like, oh, why are we making these like collections and selling them? But other times, it’s like, well, you know, it’s extremely cool art, like we’re building a brand like, my whole goal of sound mint is, or I guess my whole goal sound mint based off trappings and successes, I built Trap nation to be a curation brand. I’m going to do the same with sound, but I’m going to do it way better and much more curated and have much more taste associated with it, I think with trap nation at work, because it was so much volume, like we had eight channels, doing an upload a day and he uploads every single day. You know, it was a lot of music, and we built the record label off that I think will flip three for us like I want to do the same what I did was trap nation whereas build a really reputable music brand that people can trust that will put out high quality product or high quality content in this case, but do it in a way that’s almost like the supreme I wouldn’t say even the supreme of music NFTs but like, I just want to create a brand that people look at it and like that is the dopest brand in web three NFTs for music related product. Whether it’s NFTs or not it’s just that’s what I want to do, and it just happened to be that it worked out to be sound mint and it is NFTs.

So, what are some of the lessons learned from curation web two and curating a YouTube channel and curating like a brand music brand to now curating artists and drops in web three around NFTs and crypto etc.

Andre Benz: Yeah, I think with trap nation stuff the most that I’ve learned from in terms of curating on that channel is YouTube, your integrity is everything on YouTube, for your community, and YouTube’s entirely community based. So, if you let down your community, like your core listener base, your viewer are your views are coming from your community whereas you know tried most products and most services in web two, don’t rely on community more or less, I think. But YouTube primarily does, I’m taking it to my advantage with sound mint as well based on learning how to deliver product and keep consistent results for the community. I think for sound mint thing stuff though, the patience is not as I think, people don’t have as much patience, I think it went through, but also, they’re investing their time and money into what you’re selling. With trap nation nobody’s buying anything like, it was always a $0 exchange interaction where people would trust me to deliver music, they would like, you know, for their daily routines, whatever it may be. And that existed for a long time. Whereas with sound mint, because there is financials involved, we don’t have the luxury of being able to put out 100 uploads, and only two or three succeed, every single, in this case, uploads mean, NFTs. So, in this case, we can’t do that many uploads. So, every single one has to succeed, every single one has to be a homerun, basically, for sound mint. So, the margin for error is much, much, much smaller on sound mint, which makes the pressure and the stakes a lot higher. But it also makes the importance of actual true curation, and prioritizing the product, the quality of the product that we’re putting out that much more important. And I think that’s really the difference between the trap nation stuff with web two and the sound mint stuff with web three, and kind of like what I’ve been able to take and contrast so far.

NFT skepticism around drop culture

You know, earlier in the conversation, you brought up an interesting point of sometimes you question the drops, and I’m gonna paraphrase. I don’t want to say a word for what you said. So, correct me, if I’m say something, I’m paraphrasing here. So, you said something like, you have sometimes confusion, understanding why are we dropping certain things? Why are some collections doing really well? Except like, what is the value over here? And I’d love for you to kind of elaborate more on that. Because I think you’re very right to feel like that. I think many of us tend to feel like that at times, like why is this collection selling out 70 million and they disappear, and they bring no value, they only take value, there’s no value to come back into the community. And I’d love to hear your point of view. And to elaborate on that more in the context of music and what does that mean for starting a successful music NFT, web three kind of brand?

Andre Benz: Yeah, it’s good. Yeah. I mean, honestly, it’s a challenging question. It’s not, it’s something I still struggle with. Because for me, like, from coming from trap nation, like I was so used to, again, like a $0 transaction, artists wouldn’t pay us, we wouldn’t get paid from the artists, we would make only money from Google AdWords revenue, paying us on ads being placed on the YouTube videos, and the customer or the consumer, or the community would never pay us either. So, it was always like nobody who ever had expectations, because there with financials attached to it. And now that we are moving into a curation based model with financials to it, we have to prioritize much more on what we’re able to deliver to the community, not just as a product, but also as a brand, like we have to do live events, we have to list the best merchandise, we have to make sure everything we do is near perfect, because if you let down even a tiny bit, the community looks at that as a failure in most regards. And it’s just not, it’s just, it’s not great for us, and I’m very perfect about everything I want to do, and which is also a pro and con. But I think for NFTs like when I first got into it. Again, this is most people still have this, I think idea. It’s like, why? Why do you know, projects have to sell mints for you know, two or three Eth? You know, what does a company like? pixel Mon need like a $7 million fundraising rounds from the community from their customers to build this product. You know, that’s not how building businesses work. So, for us.

Example, I was thinking about it too, by the way.

Andre Benz: Yeah, it just blew my mind. Like, honestly, like you don’t need that much money to kick start a business. I think if you truly know what you’re building, your core product is and what you need to do to scale. You can do it with a few $1,000, sometimes 10s of 1000s of dollars. That really depends like how you can sell the vision to other people. For us, uckily, Brian and our team was able to fundraise or basically raising funds by himself through his own personal life and his trade. He does a lot of like defi trades and NFT trades. And he used all that money to kind of kickstart the company. And it was not nearly you know, even close like a million dollars, I think was like 100 or $200,000. It cost us like get it off the ground. But for us, like for music NFTS it’s interesting because we’re in the weird world right now. It sounds like we’re hitting NFT like DJing collectors or we’re also hitting like art collectors and also music NFT collectors. Typically like I would say the music NFT community is not like DJing NFT collectors, but it’s also not fine art collectors either. It’s like this small little micro community very, very tiny. And for that community, I think people are very interested in buying music NFT to support the creators, were for us, we want to support the creators obviously and we do but we want to make sure the product that people are buying, the reason they’re buying it isn’t just to support the creators, they’re buying it because it’s really fucking dope. It’s actually a unique piece of music they can own from one of their favorite artists, if they choose to buy from their one of their favorite artists on our platform. And they also get access to the ecosystem of sound mint, which is like live events, merchandise, brand, partnerships, collaborations and the list goes on. So, you’re kind of getting this, like, we’re trying to make it the best of three worlds, and not sacrifice anything in that exchange, which is why it takes so long for us to do our collections, we spent so much time building them.

 The process of creating a collection

So, can you walk me more through the process of building a collection? What does it look like?

Andre Benz: Yeah, so from like, start, it’s basically from start to finish, I’ll simplify it as much as possible. without sacrificing details, we curate impair talented visual artists with talented musicians. Let’s just say we take X musician and pair them with Y visual artist, they have to make like generic visuals, you have to make hundreds of different layers and make sure they can get layered on top of each other with the algorithm that’s combining them. It’s that same system, but with music as well. So, the musician has to go into a studio. And instead of making stems for a song or an album, or EP, per se, they have to make stem in the same kbpm. And instead of making you know 10 or 20, they’re making hundreds mostly, and they make them in categories. So, for instance, like if you if you were to do a drop of sound, and you’re a EDM producer, and you want to do a drop with us, you would make like 25 vocal stems, 25 stems of Arizer 25 stems of baseline chords, drums, you know, whatever it is. And then you combine those categories with visual traits. So, say you want to combine, you want to make the vocal category of 25 stems paired with the color of a square or something like that, or the texture of a square. And then you would go to like the baseline and you’d pair the baseline category with the background color or something like that, you know, the list goes on, you could do really whatever you want, it’s trying to simplify as much as possible. So, it’s more digestible.

And then you would feed all that all those files to a server or to a computer. And then you’d give it metadata basically, to tell it what to do. So that’s where you tell the, you know, the algorithm basically to combine, you know, visual trait one with music stem, category three or something like that. And then you can debate the rarity. And then you have all these unique generated, generated audio-visual collectibles that normally without the music, most projects are already doing that. That’s how board games are generated cool, cats, etc. But when you combine it with music, and you also make it reactive on audio visual sense, is really fucking interesting because you can, as it was a collector you can own a one out of 2500 collectible from, let’s say, your favorite artist is Karanda. You can own a Karanda music art collectible that is never been heard before. Nobody else has anything like it. It may sound similar to other people in the collection, but nobody’s truly what you have. And you can have rarity attached to it. So, say maybe Karanda wanted to have like three vocals in there that are super, super rare and you get one like, then you could also have a rare visual trade attached to it as well.

I’ve developed a new love for collecting these autos generated pieces. I gotta be fully honest, I haven’t collected one on sound mint yet, I’ve been collecting, I collected a few on beat foundry. Because I came across sound mint after beat foundry and I’m really looking forward to the upcoming drop. I’m really stoked for that which we can talk about as well. But I gotta tell you, I wrote this in my recap blog post of season four that I published on mirror, I dedicated a specific section to auto generative music, I think I’m so incredibly bullish on that medium and on that concept, and it takes a certain ear while maybe the tracks don’t sound as like pleasing as let’s say a top 40 or a top 10 on Billboard. There’s a new level of appreciation that I’ve kind of developed to that because it’s a mix of code. It’s a mix of art. It’s a mix of music, it’s a mix of creativity, it has all these different like potions mixed and combined just to create a single track. And in fact, it genuinely fascinates me, it genuinely fascinates me. And it’s really, it’s like doing injustice to describe in a verbal way. You really just have to listen to what these compositions sound like what they feel like, and kind of go from there. And I’ll link a few in the show notes. Do you imagine there being like a Grammy nominated hit or a top 40 on the near horizon?

Andre Benz: For like a generated.

From a generator? Yeah.

Andre Benz: yeah, I’m honestly, I’m not gonna lie like, I think, yeah, I don’t know if, I don’t know, yes or no, I think there is a chance though. And for us, that sounds like I think we’re trying to prove to people or it’s like generative music isn’t just like bleeps and bloops. It’s actually real music. It can be really advanced and sound like an actual song and I think we’re gonna prove that with our next drop, I think first drop that we do with Cloud, he’s an electronic, there is no vocals or anything really. It’s very electronic and techno driven. With our next drop kind crews, the vocalist or the singer, an artist. It’s taken so long to develop the drop primarily because we’re taking fundamentals principles on the general music bass on electronic music and trying to apply it to an artist. And he can’t be applied the same way because there’s different fundamentals to how that music’s created compared to EDM. But we went through some of the collection, or we did test exports of the collection like two weeks ago. And I can confidently say, at each one’s a minute long, I’ve listened to probably over like 100. So far, every single one sounds vastly different. Every single one sounds like a song you’d hear in Spotify from this artist, like a stream able song. And every single one, it’s extremely good. It’s we have this own; we have an algorithm that makes it, masters it based on reference files that we send to it. So, we can take like a Drake song and say, hey, we want this to be mixed and mastered like this Drake song, send us an algorithm, and it’ll export it like a Drake mixing master. And we’ve been testing out with different songs. And I think people will hear it, and they’ll know for themselves when they listen to it. But I can confidently say that, that’s our second collection. I think once we get to a larger artists like Drake, per se, and we’re on like our 10th collection, and we have a bunch of different protocols and systems in place, and different modes of software that we’ve developed, that can actually continue to evolve and progress and really accelerate the sound, the quality of the sound that we’re able to put out through sound collections, I think you could easily see one of these generative exports, like be able to be heard on the radio or be streamed on Spotify, hundreds of millions of times.

So, when I collect this NFT, okay, and I get a unique version of it, what do I get with it? Because this is a common, this is a common conversation that people have in the space and like, the music is a utility. Do you need anything else like collecting the art for the sake of collecting the art? And I know on sound mint, you get certain rights and access to different things. So, can you walk me through more of that?

Andre Benz: Yeah, so, you get, the way I like to explain it is, you get access to three verticals. So, and each vertical is dependent on who’s participating in the drop. So, the first vertical sound mint ecosystem, sound mint ecosystem is basically you’re buying into you’re buying a sound mint NFT, and you get access to the sound mint brand, similar to if you were to buy in a Zucchi NFT or board A, you know, NFT you get access to the board A brand, to the Zucchi brand. When you buy a music NFT you’re buying to support the artists and you’re getting access to the artist career, but the artist is not a brand. The artist is there a crater they’re creating NFTs for art, they’re not creating NFTs necessarily to build a brand like Zucchi or board A, which are, they are a company that hire people. So, for sound mint, we want to take that same approach where people, NFT collectors buy as NFT is because they believe in the team and the brand. They get access to sound mint as a brand, as a music brand. So, we do, we’re going to be doing live events. We’re going to do merchandise collaborations with artists that we bring on, we’re going to be doing brand partnerships with other Live in companies like sound mint, we’re not doing a partnership with sound mint, these are all just examples. But that’s the plan in my head is I want to build sound, a brand where people can collect these music activities because they actually love the art, but also, they get access to all these extra features and benefits through the brand assessment.

The second vertical is the music artist. So, the music artists can give whatever perks and benefits they want. They don’t have to; we encourage them to do perks and benefits. But I would never put an artist in a scenario or a creator in a scenario where they’re creating art because they’re a creator and an artist. And they feel pressured to give all these benefits and perks because of the system that we put them in. So, we always tell them, hey, look, we recommend doing perks and benefits, but don’t do them. If you can’t deliver on them. It’s worst always to over promise and under deliver than under promise and over deliver. So, we just tell them, whatever perks and benefits you can give, give them so that’s the second vertical you get access to that.

Third vertical is a visual artist. So, for example, for example, the next stop we’re doing with cayenne Cruz Somudome, Someudom already has their own NFT collection called udoms out on trade exchange, it’s already sold out. And he has a bunch of utility and benefits. And I know utility is a hot word but like benefits and accesses to like clubs and shows and events and stuff like that for his own holders. So that now gets transferred over to people that buy this collection as well. Because this is his second NFT collection per se I guess quote unquote, it’s actually his first on Ethereum which is super cool. And that’s the third vertical so when you buy sound mint NFT, specifically sound mint NFT. You get access to the sound and brands, you get access to the music artist, and you also get access to the visual artists and the way I kind of like to explain this is, imagine if we did a drop with people. We did a drop with people as the visual artist, the music artists was Karanda. And it’s through sound mint as a brand. I mean, that’s pretty fucking cool you can get access to whatever the artist decides to give you, whatever people wants to give you through his ecosystem, and then whatever sound mint is developing through our ecosystem. 

What does the average collector look like on Soundmint.xyz?

Okay, got it. When people collect a generative piece, what does the average collector look like? Like who are they, because it takes a certain individual to appreciate this, this medium, because it’s one thing to collect a music NFT right, and to support an artist for the sake of a song, but there’s so much more. I mean, you could argue differently, I was gonna say, there’s so much more, I feel like thought process and creativity and work that goes into not only generating the song, right, but piecing it all together, finding in overlapping the right loops in the right beats in the right sense. And all these different stems together. And I’m a collector, so you’re looking at one of them here. But I’m trying to find other people that really appreciate this medium, because a lot of it is also like the general art trading and flipping side of things, right? The NFTs kind of bring into crypto and the speculative nature of these files. But there’s also the level of appreciation. Like I don’t know, if I’m gonna sell my beat foundry one. I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. Like, maybe I’d consider selling other music NFTs that I’ve collected, because I just appreciate it. I really, I really, really appreciate it. When you have drops being sold out, I’m sure you talk to the collectors who purchased these things? Who are they? Why are they buying into it? What do they appreciate from this mix from this collection? What does that really look like?

Andre Benz: Yeah, that’s something we’re still figuring out. Honestly, I think we’re still in a weird period or phase where the first job we did was, I think very, like, you know, like and retweet for whitelist, kind of like, collector driven. So, we got a lot of, we learned, unfortunately from his state, but we got a lot of people who are buying it just for like a quick flip. I think that’s not our target demographic at all, I think we do want to approach people that actually enjoy and find value in holding one of these NFTs for the long-term benefits and also supporting the artists collecting because they actually want to not because they’re going to make profit. I think it’s a mix between music NFT collectors that exists in the tiny community that are already, you know, is valid, is there. And I think it’s also a mix of fine art collectors or people who want to buy something truly, because they just love the art of it, not just the music, but also the visual side of it as well. I think we’re really targeting those two demographics. I don’t think our primary demographic, or community member is somebody who is a part of a lot of other larger NFT projects, per se and is active in those communities. I would never say that our target demographic is somebody who owns music and abort it. Because I think those communities are, they have precedents and ideology, ideologies on how NFT should operate based on the success of those products that they bought. And I don’t think we can mimic or replicate that success in the same exact way. And I don’t think we’d be able to deliver a positive experience if they bought our NFT is because it is a different ecosystem. So, we’re trying to kind of separate those two and make sure we’re targeting the right people to collect from us.

How do you scale curation?

The last question I want to ask you, Andre, is how do you scale curation? So, what do I mean by that? Okay, for those who don’t know, there’s a lot of platforms out there that just allow anybody to come on board, mint their stuff and try to sell it and find a collector. But there’s other platforms where collectors look to the platforms to kind of curate the right drops that bring not only like musical value and like appreciation to the NFT in question. But also, there may or may not be upside in it as well, right? So, there’s a level of curation that kind of like has its strengths, but one of the weakest points of curation is scalability. And versus having an open platform where anybody can go on curation, you really, really take time to really think critically about who are you going to let on next, where are we going to work with etcetera? But how have you kind of come across some different eras, if any, to be able to scale curation? And what does that look like?

Andre Benz: Yeah, I think it’s, it’s slow. I mean, obviously, like the nuance of curation is, you’re playing a mental game based on like human psychology for the most part. You always want everything that you put out to feel extremely exclusive. But you also, when you do that, you also are putting on the pressure that the product that you’re going to be delivering based on expectations they have to been met. It has to be leagues above everybody else. So that obviously quite a lot of time and we’re learning that as a curation platform. We thought we were going to be able to do a drop a month. That’s not the case. We’re looking at media drop every four months at this point because It takes that much more time to develop these drops. I think scalability comes when you can build, when you start building confidence as a company. But also, you build really good systems in place and systems in place to grow and ensure you can bring on higher volume without sacrificing that quality. I think for us, really, scalability, I think comes down to, we’ll never sacrifice the quality of the drops we’re putting out. And I don’t think we’ll ever change the volume that we’re putting them out either, I think we’re always going to keep them exclusive and make sure we’re doing drops with the top artists and the top visual artists, and the product is just absolutely stunning, every single time, I think we’ll never gonna sacrifice that. And that’s going to scale with the size of the artists and the caliber of the artists that we bring on.

I think to scale the company overall, though, as a curation company, we just have to deliver or introduce more products over time. That I would say product number one is, are these generative, curated audio-visual collections. I think product number two could be something where we’re building our own in-house visual team, and we’re making like sound mint original collections, where we bring in the music producers in house, the visual team in house and we’re creating fully like, full commercial licensable like music NFTS that anybody can buy. You can use them in your commercials, you can use them in your production, you can use in remixes, you can do where the fuck you want with them, you own them. I think that could be another product. You know, we have conversations every day internally about oh, what does this look like in two years? What does it look like in a year and I think there’s value in seeing a long term vision, something like seeing the end goal of it. But for us, I just tell the team it’s like, you know, quick daydreaming, just figure out what we need to deliver the next three months, let’s absolutely crush it. And then once we’re there, and the next few months, we can figure out the next few months from there. And we can figure out the next few months after those three months and just keep building and building and building because I think sometimes building a company, I’ve realized that when you have too many visionaries on board, everybody likes to think of oh my god, what if we get to you know, what if we do this question with Drake, and you know, Ariana Grande or some like that, we’re gonna be worth a billion dollars. And like, none of that happens if we don’t make the next three months work for this company. So, I just say like, stop focusing on that. Let’s just make sure we bring in the right artists. And we’ll figure out scalability over time.

Outro

Too many visionaries in one room is not a good thing. Depending on which context and I know that firsthand. Andre, this was grand before I let you go, where can we find you? Where can we find sound mint? I also want you to quickly plug the next project as well, for a minute and when that’s coming out, and then kind of wrap up.

Yeah, yeah, so I’m active mostly on Twitter, at Benz speaks, Benz as my last name and then speaks like I’m speaking. And then on Twitter, we’re at sound mint XYZ. For our next collection. It’s called back in time by Cayenne Cruz and Cayenne Cruz is the music artists, r&b kind of like hip hop artists from South Africa and now lives in Los Angeles. And we paired them with visual artists, some of them who’s done our work for savage, little NAS. Drake, they have a show on Amazon Prime video called Fairfax, that they do all the animation and illustration for and that comes out. Actually, we don’t know the exact date, but it will probably be the next two, three weeks around middle of May.

Cool. Andre, thank you so much. We got to do this again soon. I appreciate you being a part of the season.

Andre Benz: Of course, dude, I appreciate you having me. It was awesome

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