Also this week, how exchanges are reacting to the invasion of Ukraine... and is Joe Biden's executive order on crypto a good thing?
If you're in your late 20s or early 30s, LimeWire was probably a mainstay of your teenage years.
At a time when your only options for getting new music were spending $20 on a CD — or getting a 30-second snippet of a song from iTunes — being able to download albums for free was a revelation.
Of course, it was nothing short of calamitous for the music industry. Tens of millions of people worldwide were using the peer-to-peer file-sharing software at its peak — starving record labels and artists of billions of dollars in revenue.
And inevitably, LimeWire came to a sticky end in 2010 when it was shut down by an American judge who said that it had caused "irreparable harm" for the music business.
Fast forward to 2022, and one of the most controversial brands from the early days of the internet is making a comeback — releasing a high-octane promotional video that riffed on its legally questionable past. Later this year, LimeWire is going to be reborn as an NFT marketplace — hoping to attract misty-eyed, nostalgic millennials who remember downloading the hottest new singles in their bedrooms.
But why is LimeWire's brand being used for this new venture? Paul and Julian Zehetmayr are the new co-CEOs of the business after snapping up its intellectual property last year. They told the CoinMarketRecap podcast:
"We really think there couldn't be a better name to take NFTs mainstream. LimeWire has got such amazing brand equity and such a great following. Our intention is to use that to our advantage, and try to take [NFTs] to a wider audience."
Paul and Julian reject the notion that people might think LimeWire has been reborn to allow people to download free NFTs illegally — and the entrepreneurs plan to charge for all of the content that appears on their reborn platform. (Incidentally, a developer made headlines by reimagining popular torrenting site The Pirate Bay as The NFT Bay… allowing skeptics to right-click and acquire JPEGs of cartoon monkeys to their heart's content.)
But here's a bigger issue. Given the devastating financial blow that LimeWire inflicted on the music industry — with the coronavirus pandemic having a similar effect after live performances were canceled for well over a year during lockdown — won't artists with long memories refuse to work with the site out of principle?
"There will always be some skepticism … We haven't really seen too much skepticism, even from the music industry. And we've been talking to artists and labels for the last three months. And the overall feedback we're getting is extremely positive. Most artists that are popular right now used the platform themselves in their teenage years. They kinda have a nice relationship with the brand in general."
What Will Make It Different?
Paul and Julian say that LimeWire is vying to stand out from the increasingly crowded NFT market by focusing on curation — and being a little more selective when it comes to the collections that appear on their platform. They claim that partnerships have been established with 10 "really big mainstream artists already," and some of them will be releasing music exclusively for LimeWire users.
Others will offer digital art in combination with exclusive backstage content, the co-CEOs explained, as well as unseen footage — "pretty much anything that fans would appreciate."
"It's really all about unreleased content. It's about exclusively produced content — about content that the typical super fan would really appreciate and would be willing to also pay money for. So that's the idea: to really produce something special that's limited as well."
Curation won't mean that smaller artists are shut out of the platform either, they stressed.
Speaking of money, LimeWire is also planning to price their non-fungible tokens in dollars — and Julian was quoted by CNBC as saying: "The issue with the NFT market is that most platforms are decentralized."
But wait a minute: aren't decentralization and crypto transactions two crucial principles for NFT platforms?
"We're huge fans of decentralization in general, but at the same time, we believe it hasn't really arrived in the mainstream because of the usability factor … we will definitely go more decentralized as the mainstream gets more ready for it. Right now we're trying to get the best of both worlds."
Paul and Julian confirmed that NFTs will be minted on the blockchain — and while LimeWire will offer custody for digital collectibles, users will be able to store them in their own wallet if they wish. They also suggested that this is to appease artists who worry that many of their fans won't have crypto wallets at this point. Popular creators want to offer content that will reach their whole audience, not just the 5% who have already embraced digital assets.
Taking on OpenSea and Coinbase
So: what will make LimeWire different from the likes of Coinbase, which also plans to offer credit and debit cards as a payment method for the NFTs that it lists?
Well, it plans to make non-fungible tokens more affordable — a concerted push away from the eye-watering prices that are all too often charged for digital creations. They also plan to double down on the community aspect of NFTs by allowing artists to drop collections that only fans can access.
"That gives musicians a way to really engage with their most loyal fans — give them specific content, announcements ahead of time, maybe even reduced concert tickets."
For Paul and Julian, this is their first crypto-focused venture — but they believe their Web2 background could offer benefits when it comes to usability. A LimeWire token is going to be launched that will likely reduce commission fees and offer weekly rewards to holders. Funds are also set to be used to support small artists — and owners will be able to vote on matters affecting the platform's future direction. Commission fees are set to be comparable to the likes of OpenSea and Rarible.
Looking ahead, a launch is likely to come at the end of May, when LimeWire will start revealing which artists are its launch partners. Further collaborations could be revealed on a weekly basis — delivering a steady stream of musicians who are joining the platform. Towards the end of the year, the platform also had its sights on the film industry.
It's a bit like Vine being relaunched as a social network for documentaries, or Blockbuster being reincarnated as a bookstore, but LimeWire is back.