mariah carey
This holiday season monero users can buy licensed music merchandise from artists like Mariah Carey. Cryptocurrency is spreading throughout the music industry. Mat Hayward/Getty

This Christmas more than 35 recording artists are running a cryptocurrency Christmas sale in their online merchandise stores, including Mariah Carey, Dolly Parton, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, Lana Del Ray, Toby Keith, Weezer and the Backstreet Boys. It turns out all Carey really wants for Christmas is an anonymous community-driven token called monero.

"These artists are using monero exclusively this holiday season at their online stores if you want to buy merchandise or music,” serial entrepreneur and monero aficionado Naveen Jain told International Business Times. “We're going to be offering exclusive discounts. If you pay with monero you'll save between 10 and 20 percent on your order from most of these stores.”

This holiday sale was inspired by the monero community's unofficial South African ringleader Riccardo 'Fluffypony' Spagni. He posted a proposal for a fun ‘secret project’ on the cryptocurrency’s Forum Funding System, where monero users share projects they want to crowdfund together. "The monero community funded this thing and they don't even know what they got themselves into,” Jain laughed. “It's kind of a giant surprise for the monero community and the whole ecosystem." And thus, the Christmas campaign now known as Project Coral Reef was born.

Unlike the similarly anonymous cryptocurrency zcash, there isn’t any startup or nonprofit foundation driving the monero’s development. The community crowdfunds for institutions like the academic Monero Research Lab. But that lab doesn’t make decisions about monero’s core technology. The cryptocurrency itself is ruled by a cypherpunk, peer-led ethos. Spagni wanted to create a project to connect less tech-savvy music lovers with the blockchain ecosystem. More than 180 monero users pooled funds to help create the technical support for artists’ sites so fans can now purchase merchandise directly from these online stores with monero.

"What we're really trying to do here is bridge this gap, this vast divide, between the crypto community and the general public using music as a vehicle,” Jain said. “On the artists' side, it's really cool for them to tap into a new community...They [artists] absolutely want to learn about cryptocurrencies and how this new technology can benefit them."

Performers such as Shelita Burke and Gramatik are already experimenting with new ways cryptocurrency can create direct payment channels between fans and artists. Monero’s festive campaign adds a new feature to the mix: consumer privacy. Monero tokens are anonymous and almost impossible to trace.

This is a big deal for many people from communities where secular music can still be seen as controversial. Heavy metal fans in Iran were famously arrested and imprisoned in 2015. Israeli performers are often considered divisive for political reasons. For example, Lebanon banned the ‘Wonder Woman ’ movie because it starred Israeli actress Gal Gadot. It’s not uncommon to hear anti-Zionists offer similar sentiments about Israeli musicians. But you don’t need to care about Middle Eastern politics to enjoy the perks of private purchases. Fans of the Insane Clown Posse protested warnings from the FBI earlier this year when the government labeled this fanbase as a dangerous "gang." All around the world, music can still be political.

Many people around the world prefer to keep their personal transactions anonymous. After all, knowledge is power. And corporations know a lot about us based on what we buy. “Consumers don't even know they have an option. What if they knew they had an option that was far more secure and private?” Jain asked. “Consumers on the whole don’t know much about cryptocurrency, so this will be a surprise for them,” Spagni told International Business Times.

This will mark the first time mainstream retailers accept monero. Licensed music merchandise is reportedly a $3.1 billion global industry. “With the emergence of cryptocurrencies as an increasingly popular way for consumers to purchase goods, it makes sense that we partner with a trusted digital currency such as monero to allow fans to transact with artists in a way in which they have never been able to before,” Christopher Drinkwater, head of e-commerce for music industry giant Global Merchandise, said in a press statement.

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According to CoinMarketCap, monero’s global market cap is quickly approaching $3 billion. Meanwhile, the monero community is busy making helpful resources for curious newbies who haven’t ever used cryptocurrency before. The monero subreddit has around 45,650 subscribers. These people often help each other learn how to use cryptocurrency. Project Coral Reef is also a part of that push for open source education. "This is going to drive a lot of learning," Jain said. "Monero is all about the community.”