Beyond the Hype is an interview series exploring how artists, creators, and their teams are using NFTs to cut through the digital noise to co-create value with their community.
Today, we're chatting with Craig Dunn, Founder of One Spark Entertainment and veteran artist and brand manager, known for working with big names like Sara Evans and EVERETTE. Join us as we discuss Craig's newest ventures, his collaborations with award-winning artists, and how NFTs are shaping the future of the music industry!
First things first! Tell us a bit about yourself and One Spark.
I’ve been in Nashville working in the music industry for over 20 years now. I started by doing the website and digital marketing for Sara Evans which led to me taking over the fan club and digitizing it. I then went on the road with Sara for almost 7 years overseeing her merchandise operation and capturing content for the website and fan club.
I then came off the road and partnered with a company called Music City Networks and built their entertainment division into what was at the time, the prominent company in that space. We managed websites and fan clubs for major artists such as Lady A, Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Kelly Clarkson, etc. We expanded the company to encompass a merch division, presale / advance ticketing, and more. Just over 10 years ago I started managing Sara Evans and partnered with the Collective. Just earlier this Summer I left and started my own management company called One Spark Entertainment. We manage both Sara Evans and duo EVERETTE, with plans to grow the roster over the coming years.
What drew you into the NFT space?
With my background in digital marketing and advertising, I’ve been watching the NFT space develop over the past few years. Sara Evans had as well and we had a conversation about putting a plan together to bring a NFT to her fans. Anytime we can utilize a new technology that brings value or an experience to the fans, we are always excited to try it and see how it works out.
What role does Web3 play in developing the artists you work with at One Spark?
As with management in general, each artist is different and has a different set of fan bases. That understanding also plays into how and if we decide to implement any Web3 plans for those artists. Younger and more pop based artists tend to have a fan base that’s more in tune with current and emerging technologies, therefore it’s easier to launch Web3 initiatives. With established artists with wider aged fan bases, it takes a little more work of educating the fans on what the technology is, how it works, and trying to show them the value in adopting it.
Last year, you worked with Sara Evans to put out her first NFT collection, Betty. How was that experience?
Working with Single and the team there to put out Sara’s Betty NFT was great. There were many conversations about what would be the best assets to mint as part of the collection and how to roll it all out. We had to figure out the best way to capture the essence of Sara and her music and translate that into an NFT that could be appreciated by fans. The fans have been very receptive and excited about the collection and what we’ve continued to do with the Betty NFT, even after the initial minting, because they’ve had a chance to connect with Sara in a totally new way.
How did the idea first come about?
We had been looking at doing a NFT for a while and it was actually Sara herself who brought the idea up. She wanted to give her fans something unique and special, and wanted to utilize blockchain technology to do so. The idea was to create something for her superfans they would be proud to own and cherish as day-one supporters, and because it brought them closer to her.
Looking back, what is one thing you know that you wished you knew earlier about NFTs?
I’m still learning, but I wish I had known earlier about all the seemingly endless capabilities of NFTs. A better or deeper understanding of the technology, its use cases, and the opportunities it creates would have enabled me to be more creative in incorporating NFTs into my work earlier on, and leveraging their power.
What’s next for One Spark with NFTs? Will you build on Sara’s initial release, roll out new ones, or work with other artists?
We’re using the Sara NFT as a test case to see how fans react, what revenue can be generated, etc. I expect to continue rolling out new drops with exclusive content and building upon what we’ve started.
Can you tell us a bit what it was like introducing an NFT to a country star’s fanbase?
As with any new technology, there’s an importance to explain what it is, how it works, and what the value to the fan is. Sara’s fans are always up for trying new things and that was the case with her NFT rollout. We had a few fans ask some general “how to” questions, but overall most fans figured it out on their own and had no issues, even as first-time NFT holders.
Did you find that any particular activities, utility, or language resonate with her audience?
We leaned heavily on the team at Single to help us with the best way to message the rollout and guide them to which wallet(s) to use and how to purchase the NFT. We also created some step-by-step graphics and written instructions that made the whole process really easy to navigate.
How do NFTs invite you to think differently about creating value for fans and NFTs?
I look at a NFT the same way I would a physical piece of merchandise or fan experience. Does it represent the artist in the best way possible? Does it provide or bring something of value to the fan? Is it affordable or reasonably priced?
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