Daisuke Iwase and Takehito Masui Talk NFTs in the Japanese Music Industry – Billboard
KLKTN was founded in March 2021 as an NFT platform for music, anime, J-culture and more. It was started by Daisuke Iwase, co-founder of Japanese fintech venture capital firm Lifenet Insurance Company, music producer and songwriter Jeff Miyahara, and Fabiano Soriani, former lead blockchain engineer at Dapper Labs.
Billboard Japan caught up with Takehito Masui and KLKTN CEO Daisuke Iwase to talk about the potential of NFTs in Japan and KLKTN’s latest NFT project with Gesu no Kiwami Otome.
Takehito Masui: To start, can you tell us a bit about your background?
Daisuke Iwase: I created Lifenet Insurance Company in 2006 and have been its president since 2013. After moving to Hong Kong last year, I decided to join Fabiano Soriani, who was involved in the development of CryptoKitties at Dapper Labs , and producer Jeff Miyahara, to create KLKTN. .
Masui: What was the impetus behind the creation of KLKTN?
I was : I felt the time had come for Web3, the kind of deep change that only happens once every two or three decades. That’s why at the end of 2020, I started studying blockchain technology and cryptocurrency. I have always had an interest in arts and culture. NFT is a unique business that combines my backgrounds in finance and technology with my interest in art and culture, so I thought this would be an area where I could leverage both. This is what led me to start KLKTN.
Masui: The tide of digitization is rising in the Japanese music scene, but CDs still sell well today. NFTs are digital but possessable, so I think they would be of great interest to Japanese listeners.
I was : Right. I think the majority of people who buy CDs don’t do so just to listen to music, but because they see commemorative value in them. These are what we call “collectibles”. In this sense, NFTs have a lot of value for listeners. In the past, we scanned album liner notes and artist lyric sheets, turning them into collectible NFTs for their fans. When we interviewed fans, they were just interested in the albums as physical objects, they wanted to own them as works of art. So they were thrilled to be able to own them in digital form.
Masui: What are the strengths of KLKTN?
I was : As I mentioned, Fabiano is our CTO. At any NFT seminar, it will inevitably start with a discussion of CryptoKitties, which Fabinao helped develop at Dapper Labs (formerly known as Axiom Zen). CryptoKitties is a game in which you breed cats. More importantly, it is a game that introduced the word “NFT” to many people. If CryptoKitties are what put NFTs on the map, NBA Top Shot is what pushed NFTs to mainstream popularity – (also by Dapper Labs). Having Fabiano, who is an integral part of NFT history, as a core member of KLKTN is one of our main strengths. Fabiano, Jeff Miyahara and I come from very varied backgrounds, and I think the way we combine our skills in technology, business and the music industry really works to our advantage.
In addition, we were able to rely on a wealth of advice and experience from our shareholders Dapper Labs and Animoca Brands. Animoca Brands invests in a wide range of areas and is one of the largest investors in the NFT space. If you search for NFTs, one of the first things you’ll see are images of monkeysThis is Bored Ape Yacht Club, considered a ‘blue-chip’ NFT and has sold for some of the highest prices of all the NFT.Animoca Brands plays a central role in BAYC and many others.
Masui: On July 1, 2022, Gesu no Kiwami Otome took a step closer to the future by starting selling NFTs with KLKTN. Web3 has the potential to transform the concepts and rules of the past. I was impressed by Kenta Kawatani’s deep understanding of Web 3, and his obvious optimism when talking about it. This project was started because the group decided to commemorate their 10th anniversary by changing their group name from ゲスの極み乙女。 to ゲスの極み乙女, “removing the “。” from their name.
I was : In fact, they didn’t change their name to sell it as NFT.
Masui: Right. The project was created based on the fact that they were changing their name. What this project showed me is that NFTs can be used effectively as an extension of artists’ activities. Instead of thinking “What can we do to sell NFTs”, NFTs were used to add value to their name change. Previously, an event like this would have been just an announcement.
I was : There are many areas that are vague or undecided when it comes to something as new as NFTs, but the essence of Gesu no Kiwami Otome is itself progressive, innovative, and playful. The artists have been a driving force behind the project, which is crucial for its success.
Masui: I agree. We will start selling Gesu no Kiwami Otome NFTs in North America in the future. The band doesn’t have many fans there yet. What kind of opportunities do you see?
I was : I went to Coachella for the first time recently, and during the car ride, young Americans said “turn on some music”. I played “Dopamine” from Gesu no Kiwami Otome for them. They were like, “What is this? This is good!” and started dancing to it. It was a moment that made me realize that Japanese artists could be very well received in America if given the chance.
Masui: The lyrics include “adrenaline, histamine, dopamine”, right? They don’t speak with a native English accent but with Japanese English, which I guess might have been of interest to them. One of the things we’ve realized is that we don’t have to aim for a “natural” English pronunciation, but the Japanese accent itself creates opportunities.
I was : In North America, we don’t focus so much on music fans as on getting NFT collectors and investors to learn about Japanese content and see its potential.
Masui: So, people interested in NFTs would get interested in Gesu no Kiwami Otome NFTs and find out that there is this really fascinating group. NFTs could serve as introductions to artists internationally.
I was : NFTs could become a new means of expression. Even for major artists, you can’t just take something that already exists and make it an NFT. It won’t sell well. When you use the NFT format to create something new, these NFTs sell well. That’s why we want to take on the challenge of using NFTs to create things fans will love.
Masui: What potential do you think NFTs have in the future?
I was : I am currently at NFT.NYC. It’s the largest annual NFT event in the world (this interview was done on June 22), and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people from Japan.
I have attended many seminars, but no one has all the answers. Considering how good the new NFTs are, it feels like we’re all learning as we go. NFT prices have dropped drastically, and there are many people who have lost a lot of money. Many projects have disappeared. Until a few months ago, people were spending hundreds of thousands or millions of yen on NFT. The whole industry was in a bubble. That’s why we’re taking a more grounded approach, thinking about what we need to do to establish a widespread, long-term NFT presence. There is still a lot of passion and excitement in the air. NFTs allow fans to take ownership of part of the creative process and its outcome. We hope to provide NFTs as a way to connect artists with their fans, beyond CDs and merchandise.
Masui: I look forward to taking on more of these challenges. Thanks for your time today.