When Will of the People, the ninth studio album by the British rock band Muse, comes out on August 26, the NFT (non-fungible token) edition will be the first of its kind to make the charts in the UK and Australia. It’s the first new format to be added to the charts since album streams in 2015.

It will be sold through the “green” NFT platform Serenade, which in February sold official Brit awards NFTs for £10 each.

Max Shand, who started Serenade, calls the Muse release “the black T-shirt of NFTs.” This means that it is a simple digital format that is easy to buy. He says, “What a fan wants is something simple and easy to understand that makes them feel close to an artist and recognized by other fans.”

In contrast to many NFTs, buyers won’t need a crypto wallet to buy these. After the purchase is made on Serenade’s website, a digital wallet is made and the NFT is sent to that wallet. Users can use a crypto wallet they already have, like one for Bitcoin or Ethereum.

The UK’s Official Charts Company (OCC) made NFT albums eligible for the charts a few months ago, but this is the first release where the vendor, in this case Serenade, is approved as a chart-return digital retailer.

Martin Talbot, the head of the OCC, says that there has been a lot of talk about how NFTs are the future of music, entertainment, and ownership. “It’s great that this is going to happen.”

The UK indie rock band the Amazons released a limited-edition digital box set called NFT in April. It came with pre-orders of their upcoming September album How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me? That wasn’t sold by itself. Instead, it was part of a package.

Serenade had been talking with Warner Records, where Muse is signed, for a few months about putting out an NFT album. Muse was the obvious first choice because they had worked with the blockchain platform CryptoKitties in 2020 to make digital collectibles.

“In their creativity and art, the band has always been on the cutting edge of new technology,” says Sebastian Simone, vice president of audience and strategy at Warner Records in the UK.

The Muse NFT album will cost £20 and will only be available in 1,000 copies around the world. Since it is both an NFT and a limited-edition format, it doesn’t have a lot to offer. Buyers will be able to download the album as high-resolution FLAC files with a different cover. The members of Muse will digitally sign it, and the names of the first 1,000 buyers will be added to a linked list of buyers.

Simone says, “We wanted it to be more about the product than about the other stuff.”

The number of copies is limited, and not all of them will be sold in the UK. This means that the release won’t have a big effect on how Will of the People is expected to do on the charts.

Simone says that NFTs have the potential to increase first-week sales by a lot. “If you want to make an impact on the chart, there are ways to do that,” she says. “In the case of Muse, it’s not necessary because they already have tens of thousands of pre-orders. We think it will be easy to see who is No. 1 that week.”

As with other NFTs, the original buyer can resell it, and 15% of the new price will go back to the band and the owners of the rights: Warner Music for the sound recording rights and Universal Music Publishing for the composition rights.

The OCC said that reselling the album will not be considered a “new” sale.

“There are no plans at all to change the basic rules of the charts, which say that we count the sale of a brand-new item when it is bought for the first time,” says Talbot. “The sales to the second buyer are not counted.”

As the campaign around the album goes on, extras and rewards for fans could be added to future releases. The OCC will make sure that when the game comes out, the extras are not so long that they break the rules for the charts. “You’re always looking for something so valuable or desirable that it overshadows the music itself,” says Talbot. “People don’t buy it for the music; they buy it for the extras.”

Simone says that Warner is already planning similar releases for other acts, so this might not just be a gimmick. “More people will start to use it,” he says. “This is the first sign that the door is going to open.”

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