As the human collective, and our media, catch on to NFTs, many of us might feel the emotional whiplash of this shift. It’s unchartered territory — there are no guardrails — and blockchain “firsts” are happening on a daily basis.
This is one of those moments to note: Artists in collaboration Connie Digital and Mighty33 release “Token Jukebox,” one of the very first programmable music pieces in the NFT space.
What Token Jukebox does is relieve us of our emotional whiplash — our ache for some footing in this unchartered territory. As Connie describes it: “What’s old is new again. Inspired by 20th century coin-operated jukeboxes, this piece reimagines what a jukebox could be in the 21st century.”
It harkens back to a time of simplicity, pre-streaming, pre-digitization of media, when the jukebox permitted an audience choice. A listener — anyone with a penny — was in control, even if just for 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
And this programmable piece does the same: allows for listener choosing. Unlike your traditional jukebox, though, that allows for song of choice, it invites the collector in to program its audible art, changing the song itself. (And, the cover art changes, too, dependent on the selected musical layer.) But, instead of using a coin, your leverage is a non-fungible token (NFT).
With 9 unique combinations total, there’s 1 Master and 2 Stem Layers: “Beats and Variations” (titled B1, B2, and B3, the “blockchain implementation of the 7-centuries-old musical structure”), and “Composable Vocals” (titled V1, V2, and V3, “guided by love and self-empowerment, and written for composability”).
Not only is this exciting for collectors, but it incentivizes a music lover to invest in multiple NFTs, as the more Layers they own, the more authority they have in curating the listening experience. Like the authority to choose a song with a jukebox, a collector can unveil the “new” version anytime they want. More than just powerful, it’s interactive and engaging, and allows for human connection even in a digital world.
A gorgeous juxtaposition of nostalgia and anticipation, Token Jukebox was birthed out of Connie’s love of retro-tech (cassettes! mixtapes! floppy disks!) and Mighty’s excitement about decentralized technology and artistic empowerment. There’s a compelling synergy between the collaborative duo; they explain that their first step was to define the piece’s overall vibe, which would then inform the story. An initial discussion to create a somber/melancholy sound inspired Mighty’s beat construction. He made 9 for them to choose from, and then Connie laid the lyrics on their chosen 3 beats and designed the visual assets, including 9 cover art images and marketing materials. These, too, point back to the traditional jukebox, inspired by their old-school aesthetic.
Their greatest challenge was creating harmonious Stem Layers (both Beat and Variations & Composable Vocals) that would work seamlessly with all others. Of the programmable project, Connie says: “Typically, you’re writing to a beat, but when you’re thinking about composability, that same take and delivery has to match every beat. You’re recording it in a way where it works on every iteration. And in delivering the lyrics, they have to fit the same on each beat.”
Both artists are clearly multi-faceted and talented creatives, their exceptional work shouting over their humility. Connie’s an “NFT OG,” having ventured into the crypto art scene in 2019, and was an artist contributor to Async’s genesis mint, First Supper, one of the first pieces of programmable visual art. (He still owns his Tape Snake Layer.)
Prior to NFTs, his artistic expression took form in both music and fashion, creating custom apparel for students and selling clothes out of the neighborhood barbershop, his house, and school. Originally from New Jersey, and influenced early by NY-based rapper Fabolous, he began writing and recording music at 12.
Eventually, he looks forward to flexing his fashion chops again by designing virtual wearables for Decentraland in the metaverse. Today, to be able to bring Token Jukebox to life and mint music, feels like a full circle completion, having originated at the creation of First Supper.
Mighty is Paris-based, where he was born and raised. His father owned a vinyl shop for 40 years, and his grandmother taught him piano as a child, informing him in classical music and music theory. He soon discovered the ability to create music with a computer, introducing him to the Parisian DJ scene. His foray into NFTs came from the realization that he wanted to produce and distribute music independently, especially after investigating the dark side of the music industry for years. This instilled in him a desire to effect change, thus co-creating geniuscorp, a music production incubator to experiment with new business practices.
After a few prior experimentations, Mighty released his first NFT masterwork in October of 2020 titled, “Others Die,” which has only gained traction and garnered more attention as the NFT space takes off. His passion lies in the music production’s history, and his vision is to solve the supply chain of music. NFTs, he sees, will allow him to do just that, by controlling the production and distribution of creative work in bypassing gatekeepers (though, the artists clarify: It’s not about gatekeeper erasure, but to create an even playing field for all and to alleviate the risks of high-level corruption, of which artists and audiences have always been the primary targets). “I won’t stop until I see this music economy more fair and transparent. It’s a life quest at this point.”
Today, though, is a day to celebrate, for history is soon to be made. “Everything in the piece resonates with everything that has already existed while championing this space,” Connie emphasizes. Token Jukebox illustrates the beauty — and the brilliance — of this creative renaissance. If the traditional jukebox of early-stage NFT has set the stage, Token Jukebox takes its center.