The web3 music ecosystem made leaps and bounds in 2022, but there is still a major pain point for artists and a deterrent to mainstream adoption: the barrier to entry. ASTRO is striving to change that.
"People always reach out to me or Pauline (TWERL’s partner and frequent collaborator) about how to enter the space, and there is never an easy answer," says TWERL, an artist, DJ, producer, and founding member of ASTRO. "It is essentially a gatekept industry at the moment. Unless we have easier ways to onboard people, we will not achieve mainstream adoption.” TWERL is candid about his own journey in web3 and the current need for outside support to help an artist get started. "I had a bit of trouble at the beginning. You really do need help," says TWERL. "There is a lot of work that goes into it that people don't really understand, and luck is also involved."
After achieving success in the web3 space, TWERL wanted to find a way to both build the space and pay it forward to other artists who wanted to get involved. While brainstorming with a member of NOISE in April, TWERL decided to host a writing camp that would also serve as a web3 onboarding ramp. This became the first ASTRO experiment, in which web3 innovators TWERL, Daniel Allan, Reo Cragun, Pauline Herr, Mark Johns, and Camoufly joined three artists new to the space—Tisoki, helloworld, and Lost Boy—for a week-long writing camp in Malibu last June.
"I had always been really curious about the web3 community," says producer and vocalist helloworld. "I saw that friends of mine were able to make a living from web3 by independently releasing music and getting the support they needed. It was very intriguing to see a system that allowed artists to release music when they wanted to, be compensated, and continue funding their art. That made me very interested, but I didn't have a good way to get into it.”
The ASTRO camp provided a solution. “We want to take out the headache that comes with trying to join web3 as a musician,” the ASTRO collective writes in their Mirror announcement. “Just show up, write dope music with some cool people in a carefree environment, learn more about web3 from artists with experience and have fun. We’ll take care of the hard stuff.”
“When TWERL invited me to the camp and told me about ASTRO it really inspired me,” says helloworld. “And it kind of helped breathe life into the music.” Excited by the prospect, the group dove into the creative process after choosing a couple of sample packs to work from for the week. “That provided a little creative limitation and allowed us to get some stuff done versus being overwhelmed by all the possibilities,” says helloworld. “We picked a pack with sounds that were inspiring, and made a bunch of different tracks. It was great.”
Free to create what felt natural, the group thrived. “That’s the beauty, in this space–anything goes.” says TWERL. “We can write anything and be as creative as we want. I feel like that’s the key to camps moving forward. Make whatever comes.”
The outcome surpassed their expectations. They had planned to leave the camp with four or five tracks, but ended up with 13—an album's worth of dance music materializing as a cohesive and compelling body of work. The music anchored the motivation to make ASTRO’s genesis drop not only an entry point for the new artists, but a groundbreaking drop for everyone involved.
TWERL, a dev team, and visual artists Cerdin and Little Snake got to work building what would become the infrastructure for the inaugural project as well as a home for future releases. It wasn’t an easy process, but one TWERL says was well worth the time and attention. “That’s one thing that scares people off–the amount of work that it involves,” says TWERL. “And it did take a long time, but now it feels good to see it come to life. I’ve never worked on an album before so seeing this all come to life was really rewarding in the end.”
Building the ASTRO site with Bonfire, they prepared for their January drop–a 444 edition collection featuring 13 unique audiovisual NFTs. Employing a retro, 90s gaming aesthetic designed by visual artists Cerdin and Little Snake–who also made their web3 debut with ASTRO–the collection boasts a compelling visual layer incorporating mythological animations like a key in a crown of thorns and the Greek goddess Themis. The collection includes genesis tokens for artists Tisoki, helloworld, and Lost Boy and involves a custom collect, burn and create feature–the first of its kind built using the Sound protocol. Collectors can choose to burn 4 NFTs to unlock a secret ‘ASTRO Meteor’ token that features a snapshot of the entire collection as well as video footage from the camp.
“The time we spent outside of making music just getting to know everyone on a personal level was really great,” says TWERL, about his experience at the camp. “Being able to work with people like helloworld and Tisoki–I’ve been a fan of his for like 8 years, so getting to produce something with him was insane…same with Reo.”
“Same,” helloworld chimes in. “I made a lot of friends. That was a really good week.”
Listenable on Spinamp and a token-gated site where collectors can hear the entire collection, the 13 tracks reflect the synergy of the group. The music is potent, energized, and inspired. Utilizing their technical strengths while channeling their unique styles, each artist shines while the collection as a whole blends effortlessly. It’s EDM that swims into pop and hip hop at points while maintaining dance roots front-and-center throughout. Heavy bass drops, tropical beats, chopped vocals, wavy instrumentals, and experimental surprises around every corner–each song asserts a confident claim for its rightful place on the album.
ASTRO’s riveting debut lays the groundwork for the project’s next intention–establishing itself as web3’s first dance music collective. “It's the year of the collective,” says TWERL. “That’s what’s missing in the next step of progression. I feel like last year all the bases were covered, the next step is collectives and groups.” TWERL notes LNRZ as their blueprint, taking it a point further to hone genre-based collectives as a next step forward. “We need these niche collectives for adoption,” says TWERL. “And I hope more collectives pop up as well.”
Providing a curatorial resource for dance music fans, the collective provides an avenue to attract new collectors and spotlight new artists. “You figure out where you sit, genre-wise, and that’s where collectives can kind of come into play. Things like OWSLA and Sable Valley are the trusted sources in web2 for anything dance music, and if we can kind of be that in web3 focusing on dance music, I think it would be great for the space and for artists and fans as well,” says TWERL.
The ASTRO collective also functions to create a natural callback to the project’s impetus–onboarding new artists and helping them build momentum in the space. The goal is to get each new artist onboarded to Sound while also utilizing an ASTRO Sound page for joint drops between camps. These drops will also help fund future ASTRO camps and projects. “It’s a lot more sustainable than having to seek funds from elsewhere or taking a cut from the camp drops,” says TWERL. “And it keeps things from getting stale.”
ASTRO plans to host camps every three to four months–each time in a new city or country. “Obviously this is a smaller scale at the moment, the writing camps can only be so big. But it’s a start. And if we can scale this and grow, it will bring more awareness,” says TWERL. “If we’re bringing in more people like helloworld or Tisoki or whoever, they might have 50 out of their fans that want to join the space. So it’s a sort of snowball effect, and that’s what I think can happen with this.”
With multiple avenues for growth, co-signs and collaboration among top innovators in the space, and a genuine desire to build sustainably for artists and for fans, ASTRO is wedging open the gate to cross pollinate web2 and web3 by easing adoption for everyone. “We want to be one of those projects that can build momentum and build in size. Where people really want to be a part of it,” says TWERL.
Selling out during pre-sale in less than 24-hours, it’s safe to say they are well on their way.
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