M. Shadows couldn't be more excited about non-fungible tokens

Avenged Sevenfold’s recently launched Deathbats Club is set to revolutionize what a band’s fan community is capable of being. The NFT-based enterprise, set to take flight in November, will unite a 10-000-strong community through the power of blockchain technology, with fans who hold pieces of exclusive artwork — priced in the region of $150 — also standing to enjoy the chance of incredible perks.

Read more: What exactly are NFTs? Understanding the world of non-fungible tokens

These include gig tickets for life, meet-and-greet experiences, signature guitar giveaways and money-can’t-buy events, including golf days with Shadows. This is, as the frontman attests, “your ticket to the club” — and everyone is invited, whoever and wherever you are.

While many artists have begun to move into the NFT space, none so far have taken the concept as far as what Avenged Sevenfold are doing. As with any enterprise as innovative as this, there are a lot of new, big ideas involved to wrap one’s head around, and there are few people better to help with that than Shadows himself.

Read more: How to make NFTs—a guide to creating your own unique artworks

Having detailed the fundamentals of the fan club in October, the frontman takes Alternative Press deeper into the project and discusses how the space is set to change the game completely.

Who was the driving force behind this venture — was it the whole band or one person’s idea?

Back in 2015 or 2016, I got heavily into crypto. Bitcoin came out, Ethereum came out and I got the guys to buy some — Syn [Gates, A7X guitarist] bought a bunch. So we were very crypto-forward. When I learned about NFTs and I started learning about [pioneering NFT collection] CryptoPunks, it really intrigued me.

The idea that you could hold on to digital assets on the internet had been taken away from us at a point — the internet was this open world, and you couldn’t really own anything. It was just right-click and save, and everything was a free for all. The whole band are familiar with it all now, but really it’s been me driving this thing and explaining to them, “This is what we can bring to the audience. This is how we’re going to do it, and we should do it through NFTs.”

As an early adopter, did you think crypto was going to change the world, or did it seem like a fun thing to throw a few bucks at on the off-chance? 

I was trying to put as much money as possible into it, which was really hard at the time — people think [cryptocurrency exchange platform] Coinbase now is a hassle, but Coinbase back in 2015 was a total nightmare.

There were business managers who thought I was throwing money away. I wasn’t caught up on the white papers. I wasn’t caught up on much — I just heard “digital money,” and that seemed like a no-brainer. Then as soon as I learned about the blockchain and the problems it had solved by eliminating third parties and humans fudging it, it all made sense to me. I realized this is where it’s gonna go. At no point in human history have we had a technology that’s better than the current technology and just ignored it. 

From vinyl to live shows, the world of rock has always favored the tangible. Has there been any pushback from fans?

The pushback in the beginning was so extreme that now I’ve just completely blocked it out. I’m so deep in this space that I understand this is the future. In 10 years, people will be using NFTs, and they probably won’t know they’re using NFTs. That’ll just be the underlying technology. At some point, it will get wrapped up with a nice little bow without the long wallet addresses and 12-word seed phrases that scare people off.

Nobody questions how Venmo connects to their bank account — it uses a technology called FinTech, and if you had to learn about it and set it up individually, your mind would explode. But you use Venmo. My mom doesn’t want an iPhone because it’s too confusing. We all know that an iPhone is not too confusing, and she could learn how to use it in a day, but she’d rather have a flip phone. But if she gave the flip phone to her mother, she would think that was too confusing.

So one thing for us is just imploring people to want to learn because it’s not too much once you get in there. NFT is like a trigger word for some people because they hear about all sorts of things on the news, so we’ve tried to warm them up — “Guys, you’re getting so many real-world things out of this that you don’t even have to worry about the words. Just think of it as a badge you show to get into a concert.” There are some people that just don’t want to hear it, and that’s fine. That happens with every record you put out. You have people that simply want the record you did before and have a lot to say about it. 

Is there a point that’s come before this that you would compare it to, in terms of how much of a game-changer you can see blockchain and NFT technology being? 

I think for the consumer, the rise of streaming was very exciting. I feel like the rise of blockchain is going to be exciting for the consumer and for the artists because of the level playing ground, the communication and the ability to have this one-on-one relationship with no barriers. You can be as involved, or not, as you want.

There are things we’ve always wanted to do where we have to call a lawyer and management and the label and do all these things, and then it becomes this watered-down idea. That’s all gone. Now, if we want to collaborate with an artist and drop it to all our owners, or release free tickets, or open up a VIP lounge for token holders, we can. Or we can go, “Hey guys, 15% of the royalties are gonna go back to a community wallet — you guys go buy some land in the metaverse and build it out.” These are things that these NFT communities are doing, and it’s amazing.

Do you feel a sense of responsibility as flag-bearers moving into this space?

I think the people in the crypto community really respect what we’re doing because we’re representing a whole subset of people that are very deep into this space. They know it’s the future. These are not just Dogecoin kids trying to pump and dump things.

Now that we know the game plan, we have to execute it properly because we are the first that are doing this sort of community based around something that already had a lot of goodwill — the band-fan relationship — and we don’t want to ruin that. We also don’t want to misrepresent what the blockchain can do for artists and celebrities, and just about anybody who wants to start a community.

Will this just be how bands operate from now on?

Well, I think the youth create the culture. I was once with a bunch of finance people at a Lakers game. These are very wealthy guys that have been in finance their whole life, and they were talking to me about crypto and about NFTs, and they didn’t understand it. But their kids were also at the game.

Their kids are in college and high school, and when they heard us talking about [NFT collection] CryptoPunks, they were like, “Whoa, you have CryptoPunks?,” grabbing my phone and passing it around. The adults didn’t understand it, but the kids did, and these are the kids that are gonna be starting bands. These are the kids that are going to be DJs. Marshmello, the DJ, is into NFTs and crypto, and we’re one of his favorite groups. Look, I don’t expect Judas Priest to do this.

But as this thing gets built out with the new generation, it’s going to be the thing that drives the culture. We’re probably on the older end, but I feel like we have enough knowledge in this space that we will be able to bring it forward. But I think younger bands are going to bring it, times 10. Do I think that every band’s going to add the value that we’re going to add? I can’t speak for them. They might be laissez-faire about it, but I know how we’re gonna be about it.

For us, we know we’re first, and we know we’re setting an example. When you get our NFT, we are going to make sure that whatever you paid for that thing, we are going to overdeliver to set a good example of what this thing can be.

This interview appeared in issue 400, available here.