10K80 by Kyle Nguyen December 6, 2021
Who is Rome Fortune?
They say that the Eternal City wasn’t built in a day, but it can take just a moment in time for a universe to burst into existence. For one ambitious rap visionary in the NFT space, that moment is now.
Rome Fortune is a rapper based in Atlanta, Georgia. A veteran of the southern hip-hop scene, the Philadelphia-born emcee has returned from his hiatus to sink his teeth into an emerging horizon on the blockchain: crypto music videos.
Ahead of the release of his album debut in the crypto space, Mr. Fortune, Rome spoke on his journey as an artist and what the emergence of web 3.0 means for a music industry systematically wired against success.
With his blockchain debut album, Mr. Fortune released, Rome Fortune is making strides as one of the freshest faces at the intersection between music and crypto.
Since arriving in the space, Rome Fortune’s star has only added to its sheen, complete with exploratory sound and jarring – yet beautiful – visuals.
“I wasn’t even in the space for 60 days,” Rome remarked. Liquor store fiend, the artist’s first blockchain video sold on Oct. 31.
He promptly followed up with hoodrich disco — Rome’s second drop was already turning the heads of some of the hottest names in the crypto sphere.
Being a newcomer doesn’t faze him. Hardened from his years in the traditional music industry, Rome Fortune never doubted his worth. After tasting early success with an exclusive first edition of his debut album Mr. Fortune to PHLOTE, Rome has readied 370 editions of his work for the wider world to savor.
He expects the drop to take the space by storm.
It’s by far the best project in NFTs’ short history. I stand by it. Mr. Fortune before 2022: the best album in the NFT space — quote that.Rome Fortune
Beyond signaling a triumphant return to music, Rome says the album is a gesture of defiance against the music industry and a heartfelt salute to his most ardent supporters.
“It’s pretty much a symbolic pivot into the NFT space… saying, Hey, I’m going to reverse the funnel of giving my stuff out of the DSPS first and give it to people who actually understand or appreciate the art as it is,” Rome said.
Rome Fortune never had to look far to find that appreciation for the arts.
The Philly-born artist comes from a line of jazz royalty including Nat Adderley, Cannonball Adderley, and Richard Adderley — his grandfather — who has played with the likes of Miles Davis.
“I always was exposed to a lot of different types of music coming up. Then when I was in high school, I made a real effort to book my own studio time.”
Over the next several years, Rome Fortune went on to become a fixture of his community’s hip hop scene, featuring alongside fellow Atlanta stalwarts iLoveMakonnen and OG Maco.
Since rising to prominence off the back of his 2013 Beautiful Pimp mixtape, the artist never looked back. Rome has collaborated with the likes of Toro y Moi, Young Thug, Glass Animals, and Gucci Mane.
Despite his success, Rome reiterated the difficulty of making it in the music industry.
Rome worked independently for several years before Atlanta-based promotional team Hood Rich reached out to him. The encounter led to a first-time partner in social media personality Gary Vaynerchuk.
Vaynerchuk, better known as Gary Vee, acted as the artist’s “angel investor” and manager, despite being new to the music scene.
“You know, we were both getting our feet wet in the music industry, so it didn’t reach the potentials that I think it could have just due to none of us knowing what we’re doing,” Rome admitted. “But it gave me a lot of insight into the music industry, in business and things that I don’t think a lot of artists are exposed to.”
“So I kinda at that point, felt as if it was wise or purposeful for me to be intentionally independent because I learned things — how to, survive in an industry that was pretty much designed for me not to.”– Rome Fortune
Having since overcome the obstacles of the music industry along his journey into the crypto sphere, Rome believes that web 3.0 provides a golden ticket for artists like himself to reclaim their livelihoods from the music industry.
“When I say it was designed against people like me, business-wise, I’m not supposed to win…” he said.
Delayed royalty payments and piracy have long been systemic ailments of the industry. Due to a triopoly of the world’s largest music labels — Sony, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group — some artists have to rely on touring to make up anywhere up to 75% of their income.
Likewise, Digital Service Providers (DSP’s) — think Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, YouTube Music — are just as problematic. For example, Spotify generally pays between $.003 and $.005 per stream, which means that about 250 streams are needed to earn just a dollar.
In addition, syncing problems across databases often mean that artists lose up to thousands of dollars of revenue due to metadata errors. “With the DSPs, and Spotify and all that you don’t get data. You’re not even given an identifier,” Rome said.
NFTs, then, are the perfect rebuttal. Each individual transaction is recorded, meaning that they are uniquely suitable for securing intellectual property. Furthermore, the decentralized aspect allows for greater freedom in artist-fan interaction.
“I think it gives a comparable, if not more, worth in value to your connection with your superfans, or your people who will go beyond just the initial search bar, or search query of your name,” Rome said.
“People want to be a part of your journey so I feel like, you can make your fans and supporters just extensions of your team.”
“Take out the middleman.”– Rome Fortune
“You have a direct line with the people with who your art speaks, which is an incentive when you break it down outside of fame aspirations that artists have. That’s all they want: is just to be appreciated. And [web 3.0] gives you that.”
Despite seeing a new generation of music artists emerge in the NFT space, Rome spotted an opening to capitalize on.
“You know, I really was an admirer of what they were doing, but I saw that there was kind of a void for people with influence in the music space outside the Metaverse.”
Rome set to work, hopping into Twitter spaces whenever he could and getting to know some of the people working the trade.
“Yeah, it was interesting because I didn’t know how to enter the space. When I was entering the space, music in the past month in NFT spaces boomed,” Rome said.
“Prior to that, everybody was kinda giving me a format or a template to follow because there was no real frame of reference or a context for NFT’s with music.”
In the end, Rome opted to follow his own blueprint and to listen directly to his fans.
“I see a lot of people who offer these roadmaps, and it’s just a really great idea but there’s not a lot put in place behind that to execute it,” he said.
“I didn’t want to put that pressure on myself. I can offer these things. And I know the people who are interested and they’re all Fortune universe — these things will hold value to them. And then you know, we just grow this little mini-world from there.”
For Rome Fortune, that little world is the bread and butter of his intention in the NFT space.
“Especially since my presence in this space is very new, the people who are going to be collecting my NFTs and all of this stuff — these are the people to who the art actually means something,” he said.
“They are going beyond that initial, alright, I’m going to open up the app that’s already in my phone to find this person’s music or I’m going to search or foundation or store or whatever — these people have done so much work just to have access to me.”
Rome says interactions like these go beyond transactions. He feels responsible for being able to repay the faith in his craft.
“They need to essentially get what they’re paying for. Not just financially, but just with the effort. I know, what things make Rome Fortune work as a musician and artist, business person, but these people are here and they want something from me and I’m actually building a universe for them to interact with based on their actual wants and needs for feedback,” he said.
“That’s why I say it’s really cool because you can have a real rapport with your supporters, these people and you can give them exactly what they want.”
Rome laid out plans to create an exclusive platform for his fans as well as a new cryptocurrency in his likeness.
We’re going to pretty much give a payment of Fortune coring to people who collect my pieces, and Fortune coin is going to be a real coin worth, about four bucks per token.
“Right now we’re building the Romey’s Homies universe, and we’re just trying to make sure that we make people have fun. Who doesn’t want free money?”
Rome is dead set on creating value for his fans. “I don’t want to give you a token that’s useless. Shit in life happens,” he said. “If you need to cash out those Rome Fortune coins you can do it.”
“In our world, why not make the best amusement park for the people? I’m at this amusement park, they have this tech, they had this ride that I can get on and I can do all these things.”
“And it just grows from there because you’re providing for people who actually want something for you as opposed to panting pandering to potentials.”
“If you have a skill, and you can handle the bandwidth, you are your marketplace. You are your amusement park for your supporters.”
Despite scoring milestones in quick succession, Rome says that the intrinsic pressure of the NFT space means he doesn’t have time to “revel at the moment.”
The stresses of keeping up with the space keep Rome grounded, he says. Despite making several considerable sales over two months since arriving, the artist remains self-critical.
“Why did we only sell for point five? Why didn’t we get up to this point? Why it didn’t do as well as it could possibly do? It’s a pessimistic way of feeling but it keeps me grounded so I don’t get too aloof and pat myself on the back prematurely,” Rome said.
“I have a lot of work to do.”– Rome Fortune
The ascendant NFT artist also spoke on the grind of getting over the steep learning curve of the crypto space as well as the value of balance.
“My entry into the space was just overloading myself with information, being in every single Twitter Space that was related to NFTs and music, all that type of stuff,” he said.
Rome has since readjusted his priorities, seeking to apply his trade on his own terms. “Most people feel the need to have those real-time updates of everything. And I’m starting to see I don’t need that,” he said.
“The more information that comes out the better. The more I don’t need to be first on this new development in solidity, or this new development overhead, I don’t need to necessarily be up to date on all of these things.”
“Everybody says presence, presence, presence — I agree, but at the same time you have to be present within yourself…”– Rome Fortune
“You got to know what you’re bringing to the table. I see a lot of people know a lot about de-fi, a lot about crypto, a lot about NFTs, a lot about smart contracts. But they don’t know much about what they’re bringing to the table at all,” Rome said.
He believes that taking care of himself is the best way to bring the best of his work to the table. “I don’t need to constantly be everywhere just to show that I care about the space.”
At the end of the day, Rome wants other newcomers into the space to remain resilient and to avoid self-doubt.
Keep not caring, keep not overthinking, keep intuitiveness. If you’re in a certain place where you feel confident you feel comfortable in what you’re doing, just do it. Have fun. The year goes by fast.Rome Fortune