In December, Avenged Sevenfold launched their Deathbats Club, an NFT-based enterprise to unite a 10,000-strong community through the power of blockchain technology. In short, it’s a fan club with the unique NFT acting as your membership card, as well as offering digital and physical perks — everything from ticket presales to custom guitars from Synyster Gates.

Read more: What are NFTs actually used for? A guide, from art and music to gaming and movies

 The token can be resold whenever the user wants — but the band are looking to create something that their fans want to stay involved with, by constantly adding value. See, unlike a lot of NFTs, the Deathbats Club isn’t about buying low and reselling for a profit.

 One month after the public sale, and with over 90% of the tokens minted, Alternative Press spoke to M. Shadows about what comes next.

 How do you feel about the launch of the Deathbats Club?

From what I’ve seen, everybody that’s in the club is a fan of the band, and most are first-time [NFT] buyers. It hasn’t become this hot item that people are going to flip, which creates this unhealthy ecosystem of worrying about the resale value of the token. We wanted to fight that narrative because Deathbats Club isn’t about that. This is about being part of a community.

I hate using words like “educate” or “enlighten” because it sounds like I’m talking down to people, and I’m not. But we’re trying to get people used to this idea that the Deathbats aren’t just a piece of art on a URL: It’s a membership token into a club. We’re trying to create something that brings value throughout the rest of our career.

 And what’s the reaction been like, generally?

It’s been divided. Many people don’t like the idea of NFTs, but I’ve yet to hear a really good argument that can’t be easily discussed. There is an interesting conversation to be had about the few companies that are authenticating blockchains, which is making it more centralized at the top, but I’m down here in the weeds, dealing with arguments about, “This is stupid,” “This is a scam” and “Why aren’t you just doing this on Patreon?,” which gets a little boring.

But the fans that have bought a Deathbat, they’re starting to see the same things I saw when I bought my first CryptoPunk [a pioneering NFT collection]. They had no utility, but it felt like I owned a piece of the new internet history. I could use it as a profile picture, and it felt like a flex. The people who now own Deathbats, they’re starting to realize there’s some coolness to it. They know there are giveaways, like being airdropped free Pop Wonder-designed tickets to A7X shows, but they are also discovering a community of like-minded people, and that has a much bigger impact on their lives.

 Did it feel like an experiment?

I’ve been in the crypto space since 2016, and we’ve all done our research in exploring and learning about what NFTs are, and what they could be. I totally understand that a lot of these things are pulled out of thin air and see their owners saying, “Please don’t let me be the last person holding the bag of this cute little thing that I own,” but I also understand that if you have an audience, then you can really provide for them. Really, this is a no-brainer for the next iteration of communities involved with artists. 

So, people can call it an experiment all day long. I know I’ve used that term, but honestly, I see it as being as rock-solid as possible. I only see more development happening in this space. The Deathbats are only ever going to be as good as we make it, and the more that we put into it, the better the club’s going to be. To me, the only experiment is getting people to come check it out. 

Will you be using NFTs to release music?

Before the Deathbats Club, we launched 101 free Into The Ether NFTs, which had a little bit of music on there, as well as cool artwork and different perks. We realized that the music really wasn’t needed, which was a big learning curve. Instead, we focused on building out this community, and then the music will come into play later, but in a way, that isn’t going to change anybody’s life if they don’t want to participate.

I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s so many things that we’ve been thinking about music-wise that could be fun for fans, like releasing smaller records with a handful of songs on [them].

 Do you think NFTs will change how people consume music?

Music is never going to be released into a walled-off garden. The biggest misconception is that if you own the NFT, no one else can listen to it. Even now, I can go on [NFT marketplace] OpenSea and listen to all the music from Into The Ether that other people now own. Once there’s a streaming platform for it, you’ll be able to pay your $9.99 a month and listen to whatever you want, just like you can now. The only real difference will be that the funds are going to be easily tracked, and they’ll go to the artist within 24 hours.

I think what the Chainsmokers and 3LAU are doing with Royal [a music rights ownership platform] is an interesting way to jump straight to the financial aspect of it. They sell a token that has a fractionalized amount of publishing attached, which is a cool way to interact with a few people. We’re setting ourselves up to do something similar, but we’re building the community first and then offering those perks. Our whole thing is a longer game. Rewarding the actual fans is our No. 1 goal.

Has the vision for the Deathbats Club changed since you launched?

It’s just getting bigger. Today we had a talk about adding a whole new multimedia element to it, where we host a podcast breaking down songs and talking about what’s happening in the world of NFTs and the Deathbats Club. The idea is that anybody will be able to listen, but if you own a Deathbat, you get airdropped a token that says you were there that night, or you get a T-shirt for the metaverse. You do have to think a little deeper when you’re dealing with a band, rather than just an NFT project. It’s all about what’s beneficial for Avenged Sevenfold and our fans.

So what comes next?

I would love the website to be very interactive, maybe like a top-down Zelda game where you go to different worlds, and I want the metaverse to open up. In there, I see listening parties, I see live events, I see merch collaborations, I see collabs with other NFT collections, I see giveaways every month, I see fractionalized royalties after the next record, when we’re not on a label. Because this is our thing, it’s as easy as us making a decision and saying we’re going to do it. There are so many things happening, but the high-level idea is this burgeoning community of like-minded people.

Going forward, they’ll either want to be involved in building this up and maybe starting their own thing within the space, or they’ll decide it’s not for them, sell their token and we have new blood coming in. This world we’re building in this digital space is very shoot-from-your-hip at the moment. There are a lot of ideas in the works, but every day we hear about something new that we want to implement. Someone in the Discord this morning turned me on to a concert series that’s happening in [open-source 3D virtual world platform] Decentraland, so I took note of that, and I’m going to check it out this weekend. We’re just building shit and having fun with it.

What about your fans who aren’t a member of the Deathbats Club?

We’re not trying to cut out the other fans. We’re still going to do meet and greets. But do you know how lucky you must be to win one of those when you’re on a mailing list with 600,000 other people? We’re trying to make it so both fanbases feel satisfied. There are people who live and breathe this band, and a chunk of them have picked up a token and want to be involved in building this community out. I feel like those people should be rewarded. It was really important that it was affordable, as well. There was no Dutch auction and no set price. Right now, you can mint a Deathbat for $250, and we’re going to make sure that owners get value for their money. We’re treating everyone else the way we’ve always treated them — we’ll still be releasing music, [and] we’re still going on tour.

You’re entering this space as a hugely respected band with a long career and an established fanbase. How do you feel NFTs can be utilized by smaller bands? 

Bands can use them as a way to fundraise, and they also empower fans to be their own A&R person. When I was growing up, I would go to small shows and see bands like VOD [Vision Of Disorder], Poison The Well and Eighteen Visions. Back then, all those bands were raising funds to record albums by selling T-shirts, which is great, but T-shirts don’t last forever. Imagine instead of merch, you can buy a token. Maybe it’s a cool piece of digital art. Maybe it offers the owner a portion of song royalties. The idea of having ownership in a band is so cool to me, and it means they don’t get locked into a shitty seven-album deal for $30,000, with the label taking 80%. To me, that just makes more sense.

Avenged Sevenfold got $2,500 for our first record. Then we were bought out of our deal by Hopeless Records for something like $100,000. Then we were bought out of that deal by Warner. The amount of money people made off us, for $2,500… you could raise that by putting on one good show and selling NFTs. 

But is it expensive? Are there huge overheads?

People look at the Deathbats Club and assume there’s a huge team behind it, but it’s just us and a few developer friends who have seen some cool shit and think our fans would benefit from it. There are so many ways to do it, though. For a new band, it can be done cheaply. The stuff we’re building on the back end is going to show that it’s not even that hard, but it takes a band that’s willing to put in the time. There’s something very liberating about building it yourself. The sooner that fans can understand it and bands can implement them, the quicker we’re going to get to a better place for everybody.

So you believe something like the Deathbats Club will become the norm? 

100%. We’ve put our money where our mouth is with this because we know we’re the first. We’re trying to put a good taste in people’s mouths, and we’re setting the bar. Maybe no other band will do it the way we’ve done it, but I believe that there’ll be some implementation of tokenizing audiences. I know that if any band I like releases a token, I’ll buy it, and I guarantee the people that have experienced the Deathbats Club will too because they understand there’s so much more value in being interacted with in this way. Two, three years down the line, I don’t know how bands are going to get away with not doing this. When new technology is better than what’s come before it, it usually finds a way. It’s like Jurassic Park — life finds a way.

Is it important that a rock band is leading the charge? Because historically, it’s not the most eager genre when it comes to embracing the future.

Rock is very bad at furthering the genre, whether that’s the sound of the music, embracing new tech ideas or the way we put ourselves out there. I’ve seen it on Reddit, people claiming that we’re trying to jump on a trend, but I just enjoy there being a conversation where Avenged Sevenfold are spoken about alongside the likes of Post Malone and Kanye West. Some people don’t want that, though.

However, the one thing rock has always done well is create communities, so why aren’t we building them in this new era? It shouldn’t just be deadmau5 and Snoop Dogg with rad metaverse worlds. This technology actually gives you more tools to build better communities and to communicate with them more easily.

My kids and their friends, they’re all digital-savvy. But are they hearing rock music in those digital worlds? No. They’re listening to Marshmello and Lil Uzi Vert, and they don’t know rock music exists unless I play it for them. We’re so worked up about being in our own little cocoon, but we should be out there shaping the future and making sure we have a voice in this new world.