CSA Exclusive: Rock star moves into cannabis retail, NFTs

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Our Lady Peace
Raine Maida, lead vocalist of alternative rock group Our Lady Peace (third from left), is branching into cannabis and NFT retailing.

For Raine Maida, lead singer and founder of alternative rock band Our Lady Peace, the cannabis and NFT retail verticals are natural progressions from the music industry.

Maida, whose Toronto-based group released its first album, “Naveed,” in 1993 and will soon release “Spiritual Machines II,” is the cofounder of Canadian cannabis brand Loop/Pool and chief product officer of NFT platform S!ng. He recently sat down with Chain Store Age for a conversation about his cannabis and NFT activities, and even a little about the rock ‘n roll industry.

“My friend Ian Kwechansky started the cannabis brand Loop/Pool,” said Maida. “Cannabis has always played a big part in the music industry, and I had been getting hip to the medical side of it, such as being an aid for sleep and pain management.”

Although Maida specifies that Loop/Pool isn’t a charity, he is proud to point out the company’s social conscience aspect.

“A portion of the funds goes to a coalition of diverse artists to proactively fund activities like recording an album or video, or going on tour,” said Maida “Cannabis and music make a good marriage.”

Loop/Pool currently sells mostly cannabis edibles made from different strains through what Maida calls a “robust network” of hundreds of store partners across Canada.

“We are selective in choosing our retail partners and our producers,” commented Maida. “Cannabis is an exploding business, but we are starting small, focusing onn quality over quantity. This approach will remain if we get into other cannabis products, such as infused beverages.”

Loop/Pool recently got licensed to sell its product via third-party retail stores in the Canadian province of Ontario. Maida said the company may eventually get into direct-to-consumer cannabis retailing via e-commerce, but he is happy with its growth so far.

“Ontario is like the California of Canada,” he said. “Right now, we operate in Canada only, but would like to move into the U.S. Cannabis is like music, there are really no borders anymore.”

Maida also laughingly pointed out how the cannabis and music markets differ.

“Music is practically free; cannabis, not so much,” he said. “That’s an exaggeration, but not really. However, people are willing to pay for music, but the opportunity has been taken away from them by streaming.”

As an example, Maida said that the Bandcamp e-commerce site, which sells physical music merchandise such as T-shirts and vinyl records, ran a program during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic where artists would keep 100% of all proceeds from sales of their products on Fridays.

“It was massively successful,” said Maida. “People want to support artists.”

To that end, Maida is also involved in the burgeoning non-fungible token (NFT) industry. NFTs are unique digital assets stored on a blockchain ledger which certifies the owner. There is no way for an NFT to have more than one owner, and only the certified owner can sell it. In addition to helping groups develop NFT merchandise as chief product officer of S!ng, he is preparing for Our Lady Peace to release am NFT version of its upcoming album.

[Read more: Three reasons retailers find NFTs nifty]

“It will be our first full album available as an NFT,” he said. “There will be added value as digital collectible.”

Additional features on the NFT version of the album will include separate stems of vocal and drum parts, as well as an alternate demo version of the lead single “Stop Making Stupid People Famous.” One single NFT version of the album will provide a full fan experience, with a merchandise pack, a meet and greet and dinner with the band, and the chance to watch a concert from the back of the stage.

“We want to support the fans and provide them with more fun,” said Maida. “The NFT will be released as a separate limited edition of 5,000 to 10,000 copies. Maybe we’ll release more if it sells out. The NFT album hasn’t dropped officially, but I’m deep in the space – it’s not a side hustle for me.”