In 2021 and 2022, when the non-fungible token space and the wider crypto market were flying high, music NFT platform OneOf raised millions. Now, some who dropped thousands on the company’s tokens claim they’re missing out on promised benefits and support while holding virtual goods worth a fraction of their initial price.
More than two years have passed since OneOf announced it had secured $63 million in seed funding and garnered the backing of industry powerhouse Quincy Jones. And throughout the following year or so, other non-fungible token (NFT) startups would go on to reveal multimillion-dollar raises of their own – to the tune of over $100 million in funding disclosed specifically by music NFT companies.
Accompanying these raises were all manner of attention-grabbing headlines – involving the sale of entire NFT collections and the massive price tags attributed to certain tokens – as key stakeholders predicted that the continued embrace of the technology at hand would fundamentally change the music industry.
Along the way, OneOf in particular made waves in the music world, including by partnering with iHeartRadio, the Grammys, and Warner Music Group, to name a few. August of 2022 then saw the Tezos- and Polygon-built platform unveil an $8 million raise with support from Amex Ventures.
But some believe that OneOf’s operational reality starkly contrasts the optimism implied by recent headlines and social-media posts.
Against the backdrop of rising rates and a well-documented crypto winter, an NFT purchaser described to Digital Music News an alleged failure on the part of OneOf to follow through on key promises, keep alive the communities behind its tokens, and transparently communicate with those who’d participated in even the most expensive of “drops.”
Having originally been drawn to OneOf by Quincy Jones’ involvement – “you know, all that hype and everything” – the investor said he’d participated in nearly every drop from the company’s inception until early 2023. All told, he estimated that he’d purchased 1,500 to 2,000 tokens via OneOf for a cumulative $40,000.
“There was a really, really strong community at one point, and people just gradually got tired of the lack of fulfillment, the lack of transparency, the withdrawal from contact of the leadership and the founders,” the investor explained to DMN.
This alleged lack of fulfillment, he said, was perhaps most evident with regard to the “Sky’s the Limit: The Notorious B.I.G. NFT Collection.” First detailed with the legendary rapper’s estate in June of 2022, the 3,000-token offering would per its formal release enable participants “to collectively license the audio of Biggie Smalls’ most famous freestyle.”
Additionally, OneOf and the other involved parties in their release promised holders “first access to The Brook, a lifestyle, fashion, culture, music, entertainment metaverse experience launching soon with BIGGIE’s hyper realistic avatar as a character.”
While the Biggie drop reportedly sold out in 10 minutes – generating “over $300,000 in revenue,” per the LinkedIn profile of OneOf’s social media coordinator – no such metaverse experience had arrived at the time of writing. Little more than a flashy trailer for the as-yet-undelivered digital world had been released, and the web address featured in said trailer, TheBrook.io, was entirely inactive.
Also created for the Biggie drop were 10 “gold microphone” virtual items that the investor told us had been expected to be “randomly airdropped” to purchasers. But according to the individual and multiple posts on OneOf’s official Discord server, customers received just a small portion of the 10 microphones.
“The only way we found out that they did this was by noticing nobody was talking about getting one,” he said. “Because in the Discord everyone was talking to everyone.”
OneOf’s approximately 23,000-member Discord server remained active – and featured other complaints from those described as NFT holders – when this piece was published. “One of [sic] is just selling art it’s not an investment unless you find a special buyer who likes jpgs,” one individual wrote on the Biggie thread in late June. “This project was liquidity for someone but not us.”
“This project is dead. Oneof got their money and has moved on. … The Brook.io (one of our ‘perks’) website hasn’t worked for months,” commented another, with a third having described the situation as “100% a rug pull.”
“OneOf and the creators of this one played everyone,” a different critic claimed in a late-June post about the Biggie NFTs. “tf is even going on with the Fulton freestyle we all supposedly own a % of[?]”
A OneOf representative didn’t respond to DMN’s request for comment about the status of The Brook, the company’s present team size, and other topics.
Beyond the alleged failure to deliver promised NFT benefits, OneOf saw high-profile partnerships – including with the aforementioned Grammys and iHeartRadio – fizzle out despite having been set in motion by multiyear pacts, according to the investor and the platform’s token drops.
“They had a three-year deal with iHeartRadio Festival,” he told DMN. “The first drop was really, really good. And then the next festival came around – nothing. There was no announcement. They just didn’t do it. And the same thing with the Grammys. They had a pretty good drop with the Grammys, they had two or three parties in Las Vegas at the Grammys.
“We noticed, ‘Well, the Grammys are coming up and they haven’t said a word.’ I finally got an answer like two weeks before the [65th Annual] Grammys, ‘Oh, they’re not on the schedule.’ That’s all they would say. And so that’s two three-year contracts that seem to have fizzled out. No announcements,” he continued.
In their 2021 announcement message, the Grammys and OneOf did in fact emphasize that they’d “teamed up for an exclusive partnership to release NFTs that will commemorate the 64th, 65th and 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards.”
Though a drop didn’t appear to coincide with the 65th Grammys, OneOf in October of 2022 reiterated a separate deal centering on the Latin Grammys. And in a release about their own August of 2021 agreement, iHeartRadio and OneOf didn’t point to a specific timeframe for the union. OneOf announced a tie-up with iHeartRadio’s The Breakfast Club program in February of 2022, however.
Notwithstanding the resulting difficult-to-quantify community and sale-price impacts, multiple NFT holders recently tried to sell their digital goods at losses through the OneOf Discord – “offers will be accepted looking for 500$ i paid 999$,” an individual penned of a G-Eazy token that appeared to include two VIP tickets to one of the rapper’s shows.
A personnel reduction, including several executive departures, accompanied OneOf’s described operational scale-back; the entity had approximately 80 team members following its $64 million raise, the investor estimated.
Nevertheless, Refresh Miami in a February of 2022 article mentioned Miami-headquartered OneOf’s having “around 60 employees.” At the time of this writing, the business was displaying on LinkedIn a “company size” of between 51 and 200 employees, with 54 of the individuals on the networking platform itself.
Upon reviewing the associated profiles, though, DMN found that several of the professionals were simultaneously holding roles at seemingly unrelated organizations (Adweek, DropChain, and more).
Others, as investors whose firms had backed the company, didn’t actually hold positions at OneOf. And a number of different team members were simultaneously working for Quincy Jones Productions, making the extent of their day-to-day involvement with OneOf unclear.
2022 and 2023’s opening half also brought the quiet departures of the platform’s director of events, head of marketing, director of strategy and production, senior director of product, VP of artist acquisitions, lead marketing copywriter, artist relations manager, and chief technology officer, per the now-former OneOf employees’ LinkedIn profiles.
Despite these points and a purported dramatic slowdown in on-platform NFT sales – “the marketplace is almost totally inactive; nobody’s buying anything,” the investor said – OneOf added former Warner Music Group head Stephen Cooper to its board in February.
Then, the entity quietly bought enterprise-focused Tap Network in April, provided “free digital collectibles” for a TLC-Songvest partnership in May, completed a “Jimi Hendrix – Contact Sheet Prints” drop in June, and debuted a series of GLOrdinal NFTs in July – with execs teasing on social media a “Middle East and Africa expansion.”
According to the longtime OneOf user and NFT investor we spoke with, however, the perceived lack of support and community behind prior projects will undermine confidence in any future initiatives among veteran and prospective customers alike.
“I could not look myself in the mirror if I had taken $1 million or $2 million from 2,000 people over the last two years and just completely left them high and dry with no promises of anything for the future,” he said. “And that’s basically where we are.”