The Willow Tree is Building a Community of Ravers on the Blockchain
After over a year with limited earnings due to the pandemic, many artists have diversified their salaries via blockchain technology. Not only is crypto an effective means of passive income, but it also allows creatives to crowdsource new projects and build community.
A London-based group of like-minded DJs, entrepreneurs, programmers, and promoters is setting out to do just that.
The Willow Tree is a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) of around 200 passionate ravers aiming to use crypto to fund, design, and build a community-owned network of nightlife venues and tour events.
Created only two months ago, the Willow Tree's members reach from the UK to South America, Canada, and Switzerland.
London-based recruiter Jonty Harrison is the creative director and lead operator among the group's key staff leaders, managing most of the community's activities and planning day-to-day operations.
He dreamt up the DAO during quarantine. It was a period of reflection for Harrison.
He envisioned owning a music venue in the future, a home for underground electronic artists. And at the peak of crypto's popularity this summer, he decided that the moment to pursue his dream had arrived.
"I was assuming that it would be later down the line. But when I sort of got into the DAO scene, and started getting to grips with what the possibilities are, I thought that it made so much sense for something like the DAO structure to work in nightlife because of the way they operate," said Harrison.
"And considering then, how rave culture works and how it is so community-driven, so community-focused, it just made a lot of sense in terms of how we plan to democratize nightlife."
Electronic music producer Dan Patrick, Pattn, has a background in corporate finance and strategy for startups, specifically corporate governance and finance. Harrison explained his idea to combine blockchain technology with music, and Patrick immediately got involved.
"[The music industry] has evolved into this pyramid structure of power that operates in a way that makes it difficult for artists to break through and for smaller events or clubs to operate with comfortable margins," said Patrick.
"The DAO framework and the lateral thinking of a community-based structure means that people can come in and get paid fairly for their contribution to a project, for an event," he explains. "I think the democratization of it all really does give the scene a bit more life."
Patrick has since shared his expertise in music with the community. He plays a crucial role in community growth by recruiting artists, promoters, and DJs who add value to the project and have connections with popular venues around London.
The Willow Tree is one of several groups utilizing crypto to shake up the music industry within the realm of live events.
The Willow Tree differs in that its sole focus is to use crypto to fund live events for anyone who'd like to join their community network of rave enthusiasts.
"We've found that no matter who you are, a willow tree is a symbol of a safe haven—where groups of beings can go to connect with each other, free from the judgement or restrictions they might feel elsewhere," said Harrison.
Thor Kverndal, events director for the Willow Tree, knew Harrison for four years before being approached by him with the idea to combine the new technology with music.
Kverndal's background is in event management, so he immediately headed social media efforts to plan future events and explore venue opportunities.
"Season One objectives are low-key, ticketed events. I think we're planning on doing most of those in record stores, studio spaces as pop-ups... we're really trying to collaborate with pre-existing music communities," said Kverndal. "Beyond that, we're looking to build out our crypto and our creative fundraising team, and begin work on launching some NFT's."
The group plans to keep its established team of key leaders and add more essential staff as the community grows. They hope to generate more interest by hosting a radio show next month and establishing a music blog for exclusive interviews with integral figures in the music industry.
Switzerland-based DJ and writer Alec Heritier is building out the content for the Willow Tree's blog, which will also delve into music history across several genres.
"This is a community-driven thing. What we're doing with the editorial stuff is going through rave history and putting out articles and interviews with significant people from the scene," said Heritier.
"I really believe that digging into the history and understanding how and why they did things the way they did back in the day is extremely important...that understanding can really affect our practice here as contemporary participants in dance music."
The group plans to release a token within the next year, which will provide holders with access to the group's discord and passes to region-specific events and venues.
The community is still early in its growth—having only coordinated a few meetups and one social event in November. Still, they're enthusiastic in their endeavor, so much so that they've enlisted London-based artist Emina Curic to build a full-sized Willow Tree installation that the group will tour with around club events and festivals.
"The willow tree is a living organism which relies on a network of organs to thrive. It's also a tree that stays close to its roots, which represents a unique humility rarely found in the nightlife industry," said Harrison.
According to the group, ticket sales from future nightlife events and community-created NFT and merch sales will be invested into funding projects by the community's underground artists and into pre-existing nightlife organizations.