“Prelude” is an orchestral piece that has a cinematic quality to it, evoking a journey. According to its composer, Cristina Spinei, that was intentional. “I even titled it ‘Prelude,’ because I see it as the beginning of something new,” she said.
Spinei composed “Prelude” for release as a non-fungible token, or NFT — a digital asset that lives online and can be purchased with cryptocurrency. NFTs present a new way for artists to control and make money from the distribution of their work.
The five-minute audio file, a video recording with the Gateway Chamber Orchestra in Clarksville, Tennesee, and the score are available for sale on the platform OpenSea. Spinei said there are a lot of benefits to releasing music this way.
“Artists receive royalties on the secondary sale market of their work,” she said. “You have complete control over what you release, when you release it, how you release it.”
“Prelude” will be sold to about 20 buyers. If those buyers want to sell the piece to others, Spinei will get money from the sale.
“There’s no label taking a percentage of the profit,” Spinei said. “It’s just you and then whatever you decide to split up with the musicians, too.”
Orchestras are usually paid to play on a session but don’t get royalties from the final product. With the NFT, musicians who played on “Prelude” will receive royalties from the initial sale, plus any secondary sales of the piece.
Gateway Chamber Orchestra’s director Gregory Wolynec said he felt he owed it to the musicians after they were hit hard by the pandemic.
“What have we got to lose?” Wolynec said. “ If this is something that is going to be able to provide a very new model for composers and performers, and we don’t try to take advantage of it, particularly at this time in the history of our planet, I think that would be a mistake.”