When I helped build the first Myspace pages at Sony Music for artists like John Legend and Killer Mike as part of Sony’s social media (or “grassroots marketing” team as it was called in 2005), I knew we were at the dawn of a major shift in how artist communities—and communities of all kinds—were evolving.
The question at 550 Madison, Sony Music and Technology’s Manhattan headquarters at that time, quickly shifted from “Should we have third-party destination sites?” like Myspace pages to “How can we maximize these emerging new forces in fandom and artist and fan engagement?”
At that time, we set out to design and ultimately build out the frameworks of today, which are demonstrated by companies like Netflix, Spotify, and VEVO, and tackle the nuanced and sometimes competing forces of the emerging digital landscape.
I remember “first contact” with bloggers on behalf of Sony’s hip hop and R&B division. Before I arrived, emerging media platforms like All Hip Hop, HipHopDX, and Perez Hilton were gaining wild popularity as part of the blogosphere—but they had no relationship with one of the largest media companies in the world.
Who knew that what was basically a simple string of HTML, a “top eight” friends list, and some cheesy graphics would evolve into a decentralized ecosystem of cryptocurrency, blockchain, and Metaverse-based communities. In what feels like a blink of an eye, we have evolved from simple interactive online or “Web 2.0” platforms like Myspace and Facebook to the dawn of fully immersive, decentralized virtual communities.
As platforms like Spatial, Morpheus, and CEEK VR inch us ever closer to the “Ready Player One” Metaverse, it’s impossible for someone like me, with a background in investment banking, not to see the 20-year cyclical pattern. The entire world is experiencing a collective digital transformation, all the way down to our molecules, while great geopolitical shifts hang in the balance. It’s almost identical to the early 2000s, post-9/11 era.
In the near future, I believe our online identities will be our identities. Our avatars are already our way of expressing ourselves to an ever-growing segment of our global-local society.
Thanks to progressive business laws, decentralized autonomous organizations, or DAOs, are being incorporated and, for the first time, connected to LLCs and therefore the traditional banking system. As we witnessed with Constitution DAO, this system of corporate governance and community development can be an extremely powerful tool and method of driving financial resources.
Community doesn’t just mean attending webinars or chatting in Clubhouse rooms. The Bitcoin community has decided to vote with its resources by supporting “Clean Bitcoin” mining companies like Gryphon Digital Mining. Gryphon’s customers, stockholders, and investors are voting with their hearts, wallets, and minds.
Another example is COP26, the United Nations’ highly anticipated global climate conference, which pulled off one of the Covid era’s most significant in-person events. In order to pave the way forward for climate policy, thousands gathered in Glasgow despite the Covid risk to work toward our planet’s shared destiny.
Though some were disappointed with the outcome, it allowed real superhero communities to convene. That includes events and groups like The People Environment Achievement Awards, which highlighted the world’s most progressive climate entrepreneurs.
Then there are investment funds like Commerce Ventures and Eniac Ventures, which leverage newsletters, social audio like Twitter and Clubhouse, and in-person events to connect with entrepreneurs on the bleeding edge.
In the near future, communities may be built into every aspect of your daily life. But the core principles of transparency, authenticity, and creativity will continue to drive community engagement, regardless of whether it happens on Myspace, in the Metaverse, in Web 4.0, or beyond.
Kwasi Amaning Asare is the cofounder, chief marketing officer, and board of directors member at ESAIYO.