NFT & Blockchain in the Music, Book Publishing & TV Industries | NYU Tandon School of Engineering

NFT & Blockchain in the Music, Book Publishing & TV Industries

NYC Media Lab & Bertelsmann


NYC Media Lab and Bertelsmann are working together to launch an NFT and blockchain exploratory program for select university and startup teams. This project is an open-ended exploration of the future of NFTs and blockchain in the music, book publishing, and TV industries.

For nearly two centuries, Bertelsmann has maintained a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship, taking market-leading positions in mature sectors while simultaneously building new business frontiers enabled by technology. One of those frontiers is blockchain, which Bertelsmann has been an “early mover” for by testing and experimenting with use cases that touch its core media, services, and education businesses. For example, the music group BMG launched one of the first tests of how blockchain might unlock value in music copyright management. The services unit Arvato experimented with how blockchain can support supply chain provenance in the food distribution sector. Meanwhile, our funds at Bertelsmann Investments, such as BDMI, have backed cutting-edge startups building new business models on blockchain-based technologies. Lately, divisions have again innovated with Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) with groups such as Fremantle offering NFTs related to television shows, BMG artists exploring creative music applications, and Arvato creating NFT marketplaces. 

This NYC Media Lab NFT and Blockchain Challenge carries the same creative, entrepreneurial spirit and seeks breakthrough opportunities unlocked by blockchain and NFTs to boost Bertelsmann’s business in the years, decades, and centuries ahead. 

About the Project

NFTs are one-of-a-kind assets in the digital world that can be bought and sold, but have no tangible form of their own. NFTs are “tokenized” to create a digital certificate of ownership, which is then recorded on the shared ledger that is blockchain. This system effectively tracks ownership of a digital asset that may be easily duplicated or used elsewhere. It provides the actual owner a way to publicly document their ownership of a specific asset. NFTs can also contain contracts in which, for example, artists can retain a cut of future sales for the NFT. Examples of assets that could be bought or sold as an NFT include art, music, and short video clips.

The blockchain is the record-keeping technology behind the Bitcoin network. It stores information about transactions within its database in blocks — or groups — of information. Once a block has filled its storage capacity, it is chained to the previous block and a timestamp is created. 

In partnership with Bertelsmann’s Fremantle, the content producing branch of RTL Group; Penguin Random House, the renowned international book publisher; and Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), the innovative global music company; this challenge will explore new ways to create digital assets and interactive content to reach new audiences. Teams can, for example, explore applications of NFTs, digital assets, and currencies that exist in the metaverse for novels, music artists, and TV shows. Projects and selected demonstrations will explore emerging applications that reflect the above parameters that reimagine the future of engaging digital content, and demonstrate a creative approach to connecting with new audiences and emerging marketplaces. 

Project Scope & Objectives

This challenge asks participants to explore new ways to create digital assets and interactive content to reach new audiences in the music, book publishing, and TV industries. The final output should include a digital asset or assets, alongside a presentation, to explain how the project is a compelling use case amongst one or more of the above listed industries.

Project Structure & Timeline

Spring 2022 Semester

April - June 2022

Participating teams will meet weekly with NYC Media Lab and Bertelsmann to present progress and receive feedback in a cohort-based setting. The feedback will focus on rapid prototyping, as well as experiments in product-market fit. 

The program will conclude with a final presentation and demo day for Bertelsmann leadership and select members of the NYCML community.


NFT/Blockchain Use Cases

As the below examples demonstrate, NFTs reflect a world of untapped applicability to several markets within Bertelsmann’s groups.

In March 2021, Forbes reported the largest NFT sale ever that came from 3lau, a DJ who sold 33 NFTs of his album Ultraviolet. The most expensive NFT in the sale included a custom song, never-before-heard music, and custom art, amongst other things. Overall, the 33 NFTs went for $11.7 million. Furthermore, Yellowheart — the company that helped Kings of Leon create their album NFT — is a company “that wants to use blockchain technology to bring value back to music and better direct-to-fan relationships.” It is presenting Dreamverse this November in an attempt to bring NFTs from the abstract to the physical world. Dreamverse is calling itself the first-ever NFT-focused music, art, and technology festival. In addition, OneOf is a green NFT platform working with the tezos blockchain. It focuses on the music industry, connecting fans with artists. Doja Cat is one of the many artists who has partnered with OneOf to sell NFTs. 

Fox TV has put $100 million behind the NFT project, “Krapopolis,” which it claims is the first-ever animated series on the blockchain. This project is slated to premiere sometime in 2022. Fox, alongside Bento Box, launched Blockchain Creative Labs, a “business and creative unit to provide content creators, IP owners, and advertising partners end-to-end blockchain computer ecosystem solutions to build, launch, manage, and sell Non-Fungible Token content and experiences, and fungible tokens, as well as digital goods and assets.”  

In July and August 2021, there were two short animated shows sold as NFTs, although in different ways. Stoner Cat is a show in which a person needs to buy an NFT to unlock each episode as they are released. Purchasers also receive artwork of a randomly selected character from the show. Steve Aoki, a DJ, is piloting an NFT TV show titled Dominion X, an episodic stop-motion animated series. The first NFT of Dominion X, an animated short, was launched on August 2, 2021. 500 NFTs of Dominion X were sold in 30 seconds.   

Sator is a company that uses the blockchain and the metaverse to engage consumers in their favorite TV series through an interactive app. You can play head-to-head trivia, chat with other fans, and show off your NFTs, amongst other things. You can also collect NFTs related to TV shows, many of which are embedded with rights, aka “utility,” in the content being watched. In May 2021, Sator announced the upcoming release of the app.

Hold On For Dear Life, a series produced by Rob Weiss, was set to be the first TV show to use the Sator app. Season 1 of the series’ NFT is being minted. According to Variety, “these NFTs will be based upon original art, proprietary content, and IP from the show such as characters, storylines, outtakes, scores, and original art.” 

About Bertelsmann

Bertelsmann is a media, services, and education company that operates in about 50 countries around the world. The company has 126,000 employees and generated revenues of €18.0 billion in the 2019 financial year. Bertelsmann stands for creativity and entrepreneurship. This combination promotes first-class media content and innovative service solutions that inspire customers around the world.