Muse’s New Album Is Coming Out in NFT Form, but Will Those Sales Count Toward the Charts?

The answer is different, it turns out, in the U.S. and U.K.

Muse NFT edition album will of the people
Rich Fury / Forum Photos

There hasn’t been any shortage of musicians getting involved in the growing NFT (non-fungible token) arena. But Muse’s “Will of the People” album, coming out this Friday, still looks to be a first of sorts, as far as adding a fairly straightforward, reasonably priced NFT edition of the release, day-and-date with the standard CD, vinyl and digital download editions of the release. In the U.K., Muse’s NFT version of the album has even been judged as “chart-compliant.”

So how will the “Will of the People” sales in the NFT format count toward the band’s chart totals?

Well, in the U.S., they won’t. America’s chart arbiters, Luminate and Billboard, are not as ready as their European counterparts to add NFTs into the cocktail of sales and streaming that add up to unit figures, so whatever number might be sold in the U.S. won’t be part of Muse’s opening number, domestically.

Said Luminate in a statement to Variety: “Billboard and Luminate are currently not including NFT sales as part of our chart calculations, as we are observing the growth and variations of this new platform and how it might eventually fit in our current charts or contribute to new charts in which NFT sales activity would be more applicable.”

That’s in contrast to the U.K.’s Official Charts Company, which oversees the album charts in both the U.K. and Australia, which earlier declared that “Will of the People” would be the first NFT-bundled album to count toward a release’s overall tally. The eligibility is a result of the vendor that is selling the Muse NFTs, Serenade, having been approved as an official digital retailer for album releases by Official Charts.

In the end, this is mostly theoretical, anyway, and including the format or not including it wouldn’t have much practical impact of Muse’s chart position here or overseas. Because only 1,000 of the Muse NFTs are being made available, worldwide, so even that modest amount will be split between the U.S., the U.K. and other territories.

Even though only 1,000 NFTs are being made available for the Muse album, they are being sold at an unusually populist price point, in comparison to the popular perception of NFTs being the kind of rare collectibles that are only sold at auction for thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. The cost for a “Will of the People” NFT, for anyone who’s able to get one, is a reasonable £20, or about $24 — less than the cost of a deluxe vinyl edition. If those were put on the market in far greater bulk, then chart impact would not be so negligible.

Of course, at a roughly $24 price point, this edition doesn’t come with many of the bells and whistles associated with pricier NFTs. Serenade founder Max Shand has described the NFT albums his company intends to put out as editions that “provide full-length audio and unique artwork, paired with unlockable rewards and a list of first owners that publicly tie fans to the artists and releases they love. … It’s premium vinyl for the web.” The Muse release is not particularly bonus-laden, as NFTs go. It’s described as including the NFT token and a high-resolution download with digital signatures from the band members. Purchasers will have their names listed on a linked roster of buyers in perpetuity.

Variety spoke with Muse frontman Matt Bellamy in a recent interview about the idea of albums coming in NFT form, and he seemed most excited about it for artists who don’t have the high tour grossing potential that Muse does.

“It’s interesting,” said Bellamy. “I mean, it’s not a big deal to us personally, in terms of” this week’s impending release, “but I do support what I think that technology could be. It’s a potential way that you can create the concept of originality on something that can’t be duplicated in a digital format. If people embrace it and believe in it, then it could be something that could be good — I think more so for, let’s say, smaller artists that don’t really have any other way to make a living, and for digital artists especially. It’s kind of still a bit of a novelty at this point, but I think the technology has a potential to be really good for smaller acts.”

As for unit tallies and chart figures, what remains unexplored at this point is whether NFT sales would always be counted as a single unit — in the U.K., where the medium is now being allowed to factor in, and in America, where it could be in the future. What Billboard and Luminate could be weighing for the future, if they do allow NFTs to become part of the formula, is whether any adjustments should come into play if these are being sold in some sort of bulk but price points soar to hundreds or thousands of dollars beyond the modest amount the Muse NFT is being offered for.

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