lil nas x

Lil Nas X “Montero”: A Music Marketing Masterclass

Lil Nas X has dominated the music news cycle this past week thanks to the controversy surrounding the new music video for his song “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name).” The song, whose title is a nod to both the “Old Town Road” singer’s real name (Montero Lamar Hill) and the famous gay love story Call Me By Your Name, tells the story of a closeted man that Lil Nas X fell in love with last summer, and has been called a “ceberation of queer sexuality.” Its video, however, which follows Lil Nas X through a world of biblical imagery and ends with the 21 year-old star giving Satan a lap dance, has received less than positive feedback from conservative audiences.

The fantastical, “unabashedly queer” music video begins in the land of Montero, where Lil Nas X walks around the Garden of Eden and proclaims that he is in a place where he does not have to hide who he is anymore. He then ventures throughout the setting, meets an erotic snake (representing the villain of Genesis), faces judgement from dozens of mystical representations of himself, and is ultimately killed and sent to heaven. Once in heaven, Lil Nas X descends to hell on a stripper pole, where he “harnesses his sexuality to seduce the devil,” gives Satan a lap dance, and then kills him and takes his crown for himself. 

The video’s mix of sacred, sexual, and queer imagery has upset many prominent conservatives across the nation including Candace Owens, who said that Lil Nas X is “keeping black America behind,” and former US Marine Matthew Betley, who described the video as “sick and depraved and an attempt to destroy our society.” Fox News unsurprisingly joined the conversation, instigating the homophobic discourse that Lil Nas X was corrupting children and destroying the country. 

The conservative backlash only increased with the announcement of Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes.” The sneakers, which are custom Nike Air Max 97s, have “Luke 10:18” printed on the side (the biblical passage discussing Satan’s descent from Heaven) and claim to contain a drop of human blood in the midsoles. Priced at $1,018 each, all 666 pairs of these exclusive shoes sold out in less than a minute. Although Nike has sued the MSCHF Product Studio due to trademark infringement, every pair was sold and believed to be shipped before Nike could prevent it. 

lil nas x

Conservatives saw these shoes as further evidence that Lil Nas X is seeking to manipulate children with his “satanic behavior.” Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted about the sneakers, saying “Our kids are being told that this kind of product is, not only okay, it’s ‘exclusive.’ But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.” Tennessee pastor Greg Locke also joined in, calling the shoes “a bunch of demonism, devilism, and psychotic wickedness,” and many other American Christians have claimed they are in “a fight for the soul of the nation” against people like Lil Nas X. 

While this intense Christian moral panic is aggressive, it was not unexpected. On March 26, the release date of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” Lil Nas X tweeted a letter to his 14 year old self discussing his new song, saying that the release is “very scary for [him]” and that he knows “people will be angry.” Clearly prepared for this negative backlash, the singer took to Twitter after the song’s release to fire back at critics. He responded to governor Kristi Noem’s complaints, saying “ur a whole governor and u on here tweeting about some damn shoes. do ur job!” and shot back at rapper Joyner Lucas’ comments that the Montero video is not child appropriate by tweeting “I literally sing about adultery in old town road. u decided to let your child listen. blame yourself.” He also posted a fake apology Youtube video, which cut to the music video’s lap dancing clip, and released a “censored” music video, which showed a public toilet with the caption “Montero but ur in the bathroom of hell while lil nas is giving satan a lap dance in the other room.” 

In addition to sharing these amusing clap-backs, Lil Nas X has also been using social media to seriously discuss the importance of “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” and its implications on the music industry and queer culture. Upon its release, the singer said he intended for this song to push the idea that people should “stay the fuck out of other people’s lives and stop dictating who they should be,” and on Twitter last week, he said to his conservative critics: I spent my entire teenage years hating myself because of the [things] y’all preached would happen to me because i was gay. So i hope u are mad, stay mad, feel the same anger you teach us to have towards ourselves. 

While the backlash sparked by his new song was not pretty, it was a key part of Lil Nas X’s brilliant marketing strategy. He knew that his music and video would generate controversy, so he took advantage of the negative responses as a way to place his music in the spotlight and maintain relevance. Once the backlash peaked, he further fanned the flames by tweeting at his critics, releasing the “Satan Shoes,” sharing memes, and retweeting videos from his TikTok dance challenge (#PoleDanceToHell). Thanks to attention drawn to “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” by the widespread conservative outrage, the song debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and received almost 47 million US streams within its release week. It was even featured on a recent SNL sketch, in which an actor portraying Lil Nas X gave God a lap dance. 

Upon its release, Lil Nas X said that he hoped “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name) would “open doors for many other queer people to simply exist,” and since then, he has undeniably succeeded in moving the discourse surrounding religious and sexual identities in a more progressive direction. The only question is: what will he release next? 


NOLA Legend, Tipitina’s Reopens with Sold Out Shows

After a year in lockdown, live music is beginning to show signs of life. Venues across the country are reopening but many questions remain. Are music fans just as excited to go back to live shows as venues and artists are?

Two weeks ago, famed NOLA Jazz venue, Tipitina’s reopened to the public with two sold-out shows from jazz pianist, Ivan Neville. This was the first time in a year that the club was open to the public, although capacity for the club was capped at 75 guests. The evening before, Co-owner of Tipitina’s, Stanton Moore and his jazz trio played a live streamed show with limited invited guests in attendance as a trial run for the following nights.

Ticket buyers were met with temperature checks before entering the club and reserved seating once inside. Masks were mandatory, walk-up bar service was replaced with table service and dancing was strictly prohibited.

But to those in attendance, the inconveniences didn’t matter much.

Ivan Neville @ Tipitina’s

Like many businesses during the pandemic, Tipitina’s took the opportunity to upgrade and renovate their space as well as to grow their presence on social media with live streams. “Tipitina’s TV” and “The Alright, Alright Broadcast” are popular shows on the Tipitina’s YouTube channel where local musicians and other people connected to the industry are featured.

A year in the pandemic has left many venues struggling to pay their employees, rent and many more expenses. Albeit with many health and safety precautions taken, reopening like this will be a much needed boost for these businesses as well as for music fans themselves.

Everything you need to know about NFTs


Everything you need to know about NFTs

NFTs are all anyone can seem to talk about these past few weeks. But what are they, how are they impacting the music industry, and what do they mean for artists? 


NFTs (“non-fungible tokens”) are a form of crypto-art that were first created in 2014. They are made using blockchain technology, which records information in a way that is transferable, but not alterable or erasable (you may recognize blockchain technology as the tool used to make virtual money, also known as Bitcoin). Pertaining to NFTs, this technology is being used to create original, limited edition digital art that has been virtually “signed” by an artist. Fundamentally, owning an NFT is like owning a virtual version of an autographed, limited edition CD. 

NFTs place the artists in control of the creation and distribution of their products. They decide how many NFTs are created of each piece, then sell or auction their work using an online NFT marketplace like Artists often choose to place NFTs on sale for a very limited time in order to raise their value and increase publicity. 

The iconic Nyan Cat meme was made into an NFT and sold at auction for nearly $600,000

The sky truly is the limit on what can be transferred as a non-fungible token. This means that musicians can sell almost anything, including limited edition digital albums, in-person experiences, physical and digital art collections, 3D images, unreleased songs, exclusive videos, physical albums, and more. 

After purchasing an NFT, the owner can transfer or sell it (with on average 10-15% of the resale price going to the original artist!), but can never copy it, making NFT art truly one of a kind. This is a significant development in technology, marking one of the first times that a digital product has been created in such a way that it is not copyable. Unsurprisingly, this characteristic is very attractive to the music industry, which has been plagued with issues of piracy since the invention of Napster in the early 2000s. However, the “rarity” of the NFT is fundamentally artificial, as the token itself is one of a kind and uncopyable (due to an authenticity certificate), but the artwork attached can still technically be shared, re-released, or re-created. 


NFTs possess a significant potential to help musicians make more money, more directly. It’s no secret that making a livable wage is challenging for artists, largely due to the rise of online music platforms where streams are valued at less than a cent. A recent study posted by Loud & Clear, Spotify’s new transparency platform, reported that only 13,400 of the millions of artists on the platform made over $50,000 on their catalogue last year, with only 7,800 artists making $100,000. In addition, the top 1% of streaming artists account for 90% of all streaming income. Furthermore, most of the money made through streaming doesn’t even go to musicians, with middlemen like record labels intercepting 88% of profits on average. Because of these disheartening statistics, many artists rely on concerts and festivals to procure their livelihood. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, live performances have not been possible, leaving many artists with practically no income. 

In the context of this financial crisis, NFTs seem to be an attractive solution, offering a way for artists to make more money for their work by avoiding middlemen that function to seize large chunks of their profits. Some people even hope that NFTs could lead to a future where crypto art could cut out the need for intermediaries like streaming services and record labels, or at least change the power dynamics of the industry and incentivize corporations to better compensate musicians. There are many new companies leading the way in this digital revolution, such as Bluebox, which is using NFT technology to “prepare creators for the music industry of tomorrow, [by] enabling them to reclaim missed monetization opportunities such as fictionalized copyrights, capitalization options, and sales of future royalties.” 


Many prominent artists have jumped on the NFT bandwagon in the past couple of months, with some making astoundingly large sums of money. 

Grimes NFT artwork
Grimes’ NFT artwork

At the end of February, electro-pop star Grimes made $6 million in NFT sales. She sold ten products, raging in price and number of copies, including original artwork and short videos set to her music. In addition, 3LAU recently broke many records by making $11.7 million in NFT sales as part of the three year anniversary of his album Ultraviolet. The popular DJ sold 33 NFTs that varied in value and content, with the most expensive token offering a custom song, access to new, unheard music, a personalized piece of art, access to new versions of Ultraviolet’s songs, and a vinyl record of the album.  

On March 5, Kings of Leon dropped When You See Yourself, one of the first major albums to be released in NFT form. Each token included an exclusive piece of album artwork and a limited edition vinyl, and the band made over $2 million in their limited, two week long sale. At the end of the two weeks, all unsold NFTs were “burned,” meaning they disappeared forever, with the promise that no new pieces would be produced. 

DJ Steve Aoki made $4.25 million through the one-day sale of his ‘Dream Catcher’ NFT art collection. He sold 11 pieces, each comprised of a unique soundscape and a digital animation created in partnership with designer Antoni Tudisco. Pop sensation Shawn Mendes also ventured into NFT sales last month, making $600,000 selling digital outfits for his fans’ avatars. These are examples of some of the biggest names and most lucrative sales, but many artists have been taking advantage of NFT technology as an additional source of income. 


NFTs can clearly be an extremely lucrative and beneficial business for musicians, but what is in it for the buyers? As it turns out, not very much. Beyond owning a piece of digital art and supporting an artist, the buyers don’t receive much more than bragging rights and a possibly lucrative exchange rate in the NFT resale market. As venture capitalist Ben Horwowitz told the New York Times, “You’re buying a feeling.” 

The thing is, it’s hard for the average person to even imagine paying millions of dollars for a “feeling.” In reality, NFTs are a luxury purchase for the uber wealthy, with these recent high-value sales creating a largely inaccessible digital marketplace. This fact has led many people to raise questions about whether NFTs are really a viable way for more artists to directly make money for their music, or if the tokens have just created another forum where famous musicians like Halsey and Quavo will continue to make millions while smaller artists are still left behind. As Pitchfork said last week, “does it really mean anything to the average struggling artist that Grimes is now $6 million richer?” 

In addition to posing questions pertaining to NFTs’ ability to help artists, many people are also cynical about the value of NFTs, raising concerns that financial worth is being placed on a “digital certificate of authenticity,” rather than the artwork itself. 


Remarkably, February saw $179.4 million in NFT transactions – more than double the amount of money made by all NFT sales in 2020. But how long are these extreme profits going to last? In reality, the high NFT prices are indicative of the current hype, and probably not an accurate representation of the level of income that these tokens can make for musicians. Just like how Bitcoin values and stocks fluctuate, these astoundingly high-value sales are likely another example of market volatility and investors being influenced by current trends. It’s impossible to predict how long the NFT hype will last, but it’s no surprise that prices are already dropping. 

As of right now, despite their potential, NFTs have failed to significantly level the playing field and make wealth accessible to most musicians, challenging people’s hopes that NFTs are the new face of the industry. However, regardless of the financial future of NFTs in music, these recent sales have started many valuable conversations pertaining to the pitfalls in how we compensate artists, and they represent a significant shift in the way our culture values music. Many musicians and industry professionals are optimistic that this new technology can help us build a future industry that is designed to reward artists for their creativity and hard work and compensate them in a productive and fair way.