Curation at Catalog

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The artists who deserve more in web2 are winning in web3.

Since opening up artist submissions at Catalog, our core team has listened to thousands of music makers from all over the world. We made it policy to ignore vanity metrics and focus on what we heard when we pressed play. Now, over a year later, we continue to see no correlation between an artist's monthly listeners, social following, and their success on Catalog. What’s powering this trend?

  1. Gifted artists releasing standout music in web3

  2. Avid collectors proving the inherent value of music & music discovery

  3. Gradual, curated onboarding, ensuring a welcoming setting when artists arrive on Catalog

We value curation as a tool all of us can use to guide each other’s ears to the good stuff: music that offers a unique perspective, pushes sonic boundaries, does something familiar incredibly well, or has a meaningful cultural impact. We also recognize how important it is to share more about how we think about curation at Catalog.

Curation at Catalog

Every week, we typically onboard 5 to 10 artists between inbound submissions and outreach efforts. Our intent is to move at a pace that doesn’t overwhelm a budding music NFT market, giving every artist a better chance of making a sale. So far, 75% of artists on Catalog have sold at least one record, collectively earning over $3M with no strings attached. We’re grateful for the amazing talents we’ve crossed paths with so far, and look forward to welcoming more artists aboard. That said, curation is a public good, and we have no interest in remaining the sole stewards forever.

Beyond our core team’s curation, we've tested other forms of onboarding that distribute curatorial voice through artist referrals and third-party curators. Our aim: expand the breadth of sounds and perspectives on Catalog by trusting others' ears. This goal hasn’t changed, but there’s room to improve our approach, even with valuable contributions from both groups. Referrals, while well-intentioned, were often prone to similarity bias, making them ineffective in broadening the range of artists on Catalog. Over time, our initial attempt at third-party curation jeopardized the attention benefit that our gradual onboarding rate created, since curators could onboard artists indefinitely. Eventually we hit an inflection point, risking entrenchment of early curators at the expense of welcoming new voices, and found it challenging to focus attention in support of particular music scenes because onboarding felt scattered.

With all of this in mind, we’re excited to introduce a next step in widening the lens of curation at Catalog: curation cycles.

Curation Cycles

Curation cycles will supplement artist submissions onboarded by the core team, empowering community champions to curate from their own scenes while ensuring space is regularly made for new curatorial voices.

How artists are onboarded to Catalog
How artists are onboarded to Catalog

Starting Monday, August 29th, we’ll feature up to ten contributing curators to onboard artists to Catalog. Each curator will have four weeks to onboard up to four artists each, after which curators will rotate, making room for new viewpoints. Curation cycles will expand the range of artists on Catalog while providing a natural format to present and contextualize releases.

Submissions for the first curation cycle are open now. For full details on how it works, what we look for in submissions, and important dates, click here. If you’re ready to apply, click here.

Closing Thoughts

We believe it’s important to onboard gifted artists historically excluded from the traditional music industry. This might mean, to name a few examples, a non-binary Colombian alt-pop star in the making who can’t tour internationally because of visa restrictions; a mesmerizing drill collective from Ramallah; an Angolan batida producer buzzing in the streets of Lisbon; or an experimental jazz trio from the coast of the Philippines. This is our north star. We recognize we have a ways to go until Catalog fully embodies this vision — beautiful music of all shapes and sizes, preserved in the ether — and it’s going to take new forms of collaboration to bring it to life.

Curation is subjective, as it should be. An art world dictated by an 'objective' good-bad binary isn't a world we believe in. What's needed is space for more voices to shine. We’ll continue to expand that space as we further prove the inherent value of music and its discovery.

Hear you soon 💽

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