Mastercard launches web3-focused artist incubator with Polygon

Mastercard, one of the biggest financial payments providers in the world, is launching a web3-focused incubator to help artists connect with fans through a new medium, the company shared at CES 2023 on Friday.

“The core of this program is providing emerging artists with the web3 tools and skills they need to excel and advance their music careers in this digital economy,” Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard, said to TechCrunch. “By providing access to experts and innovators in the space, the artists will be guided on how to incorporate web3 into their work throughout the entire program and then beyond.”

Mastercard partnered with Polygon, a scaling blockchain built on top of Ethereum, which has been making huge strides in the Web 2.0 ecosystem lately. In the past year, Polygon partnered with a number of other big brands like Starbucks for its Odyssey digital collectible rewards program and Disney for its accelerator program, while also having major clothing brands like Prada and Adidas launch NFT projects through its blockchain.

After joining the incubator, participating artists should know how to mint NFTs, represent themselves in virtual worlds and establish a community, Rajamannar said. “We see that web3 holds tremendous promise for artists and creators to create, own and monetize their content, but only if they know how to leverage it.”

This announcement points to the company’s expansion further into the digital asset world as it joined forces with a number of crypto-focused companies to launch credit cards and partnered with Coinbase to help expand the NFT ecosystem, among other things.

“This past year was big for us, with experimental web3 activations around the world,” Rajamannar said.

For example, Mastercard hosted the first Grammy week with Roblox in the metaverse, where it provided immersive activations, in-game branding, artist meet and greets, red-carpet photo opportunities and more.

In the past, high-level employees at Mastercard have been vocal about their bullish sentiments toward the crypto space.

“I feel like once you get the momentum for an institution up and running, it’s hard to get them to turn their head and pivot,” Grace Berkery, director of startup engagement at Mastercard, said at Benzinga’s Future of Crypto event in December. “So if [institutions are] going to enter, they’re going to stay in the space.”