Urban Alternative station prepares to release audio NFTs in collaboration with emerging artists

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Rocky Mountain Public Media’s Urban Alternative station, The Drop, is collaborating with local independent musicians to release an audio NFT playlist that will provide exposure for hip-hop and R&B artists. 

Music by participating artists will be featured as part of the project, and the musicians will be eligible for a revenue split if the playlist generates revenue, said Nikki Swarn, The Drop’s GM and PD. Artists who have already completed the process of submitting their work for airplay on The Drop are eligible to create audio NFTs for the playlist. 

Non-fungible tokens are specific units of authenticated digital content that can be sold and traded through blockchain, a data structure that creates a digital record of data that’s difficult to change or hack. NFTs are certificates of ownership of specific digital files.

Buying an NFT gives the owner the exclusive rights to a digital file. The purchaser owns a specific digital print of the NFT that’s stored on the blockchain; they don’t own the content of the musical work itself. Multiple people can own copies of an audio NFT, and each owner can do whatever they want with their unique digital print. 

Swarn expects to launch the NFT playlist, which will initially feature five artists, later this month. She described the project as one of the first of its kind for public media. 

“We look at this as the ultimate playground,” Swarn said. “We have an opportunity to be able to share knowledge and information, and this just happens to be a place where we are really exploring what it means to be a public media station in this space.” 


Swarn sees the NFT playlist as an innovation project with an educational focus and revenue-model potential. The Drop will use the NFT to educate historically marginalized audiences about cryptocurrency and crypto-philanthropy while experimenting with new strategies for audience outreach and membership. She also intends to develop direct and alternative music-licensing options for independent artists. 

Once artists give The Drop permission to feature their music in the NFT playlist, their work will be registered as a part of the project. Any royalties generated by the playlist will be split evenly among all of the artists, Swarn said. The station will not take a cut or share of revenues. 

The Drop has partnered with the ReMix team at the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit that supports the Ethereum blockchain, on the NFT playlist. The foundation has provided technical support and assisted with engagement efforts encouraging artists from communities of color to participate.  

Empowering the artist 

The Drop specializes in presenting music by new and emerging artists who are looking for exposure while learning the music business, said Maleman Dotson, an on-air talent for The Drop who goes by the on-air moniker Maleman. Creating an audio NFT opens a path for eliminating music-industry middlemen between the artist and their fans, empowering the artist, he said.

The Drop may be among the first stations in public radio to get into the NFT space, but mainstream artists have already begun to explore its potential. A year ago, Kings of Leon became the first band to release an album as an NFT. The release generated more than $2 million in gross revenues within a week, according to Rolling Stone

Making the technology accessible to independent and emerging artists is a key goal of The Drop’s project, Swarn said. She hopes to demonstrate that the NFT world isn’t just for mainstream artists. By working with artists to create and distribute NFTs, she intends to help reinforce and reimagine what the music landscape can look like. 

“Our idea is that we bring the technology forward” to local artists, Swarn said, so they can try it out and learn that it’s accessible and useful to them, too. “I think that equalization is super important because it’s no different than somebody saying, ‘I’d really like a Ferrari, but I really can’t buy one, but wow, I could maybe print one off my 3D printer, or I could get a little Matchbox car or whatever it is.’” 

The Drop is also developing plans to educate listeners on NFTs and cryptocurrency. Maleman is creating a podcast that will explain the technology and cover developments within the NFT space. 

Swarn and Maleman said they see great potential for this medium and how it can be applied to public media’s mission. 

“It’s allowing more people to be seen and heard, which is right on brand with our mission with Rocky Mountain Public Media’s mission and vision for Colorado,” Swarn said.

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