If you’ve been paying attention, or, let’s be honest—even if you haven’t—you’ve likely come across some mention of NFTs, crypto art, or NBA Top Shot in the news lately.
What exactly is an NFT? To put it in very simple terms, an NFT, which stands for non-fungible token, is a digital something you own.
This was the topic of our latest Brainwork conversation on Clubhouse (one we recorded and put on Spotify for your listening pleasure.)
I spoke with six different creators and collectors who practically live and breathe all things NFT.
Artist and collector Coldie of @Coldie
Artist, collector and consultant Sarah Zucker of @thesarahshow
Music NFT expert Sarah Stevenson,@srhstevenson
Ronin the Collector of @RoninDaCC
Collector WhaleShark of @WhaleShark_Pro
Matthew of @niftytime, an NFT producer at Nifty Gateway
One thing was collectively agreed upon between our guests: not only are NFT’s the future of art, they’re the future of everything.
NFTs are a way of creating an object out of an original. The same way an artist would sign and number a print, we now have the ability to do that digitally and publicly and securely.
– Sarah Zucker
Actionable tips and takeaways for artists, collectors and investors:
NFTs are revolutionizing the art world. Ownership has been reimagined and access has been redefined, democratizing how people can participate in the collective world of art.
Equalizing opportunity in a world usually accessible only to an elite few, NFTs are all about creator-led community spaces, centering the artist and allowing them to thrive. If you’re an artist and you’re struggling to make ends meet, now is the time to get to know the NFT community and try your hand at crypto art before the auction houses and galleries jump in and start catching up.
NFTs are the future of a lot more than just art. NBA Top Shot, an officially licensed digital marketplace of basketball’s greatest moments, is one example of this. But NFTs are expected to go much further—possibly revolutionizing the way we authenticate, own and pay for things in the material world, as well as what we might purchase in the virtual.
Revolutionizing the art world with NFTs
We might be in the midst of another renaissance, a suggestion I expand on in my Substack piece titled A New Renaissance: why NFTs aren’t just a buzzword hype.
This NFT renaissance, born out of a plague just like the last one, is all about digital community (not like the last one), expansive opportunity, and the excitement of a new movement no one fully understands yet.
How we traditionally assigned value to items has been thrown out the window, making way for people to determine the value (rather than the experts.)
“The whole system is individualizing value for people so they’re determining what’s valuable for them in the same way we’ve seen cult films pop up...it’s changing the game,” said Sarah Stevenson.
Forever art: a new concept of ownership
Smart contracts, which every piece of NFT art or collectible is on, have caused the traditional concept of ownership to be turned on its head.
Each time a piece of art is transferred to a new owner the artist gets a commission, allowing wealth to be accrued over generations through royalties. As of now, that artist commission is a standard 10% across all platforms.
These blockchain contracts also allow you to see the path of ownership, all the way from the very first owner to the most recent.
“Perpetual income for creative thought has never existed in the past. It’s wild...some people make more on the secondary sale than they did on the primary just because evaluations have gone up. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s generational money and it’s the wonder of technology mixing with art,” Coldie said.
All these shifts in the way the world understands art and value have led to the democratization of expression.
Whaleshark didn’t need a degree or deep establishment in the art world to become one of today’s biggest NFT collectors. “The decentralized nature of tokenization and blockchain essentially allowed the democratization of the value of art,” he said.
“I like to think about NFT collectibles as forever art, or forever collectibles.”
NFTs as equalizers: more access, less gatekeeping
Because most galleries and auction houses are reluctant to do away with their traditions, the NFT communities are largely empty of them, having been created by the artists and for the artists in a way the art world hasn’t seen before.
Rarible and Open Sea are two of multiple platforms that are open, meaning the barriers to entry are low and you don’t have to be onboarded to join.
“I think it’s really beautiful because as a collector, I’ll find something that’s radical and weird made by a person who might live anywhere in the world. What’s coming out of their heart is so pure it’s allowing people to contact and support them in a way that would never have happened before,” Coldie said.
Centering creators: artists to the front
The time is now for artists curious about what they can do in the NFT space to jump in, Ronin urged.
“Artists for generations have been undervalued and now is a time when they can get that value back. I encourage them to do so before the auction houses come in and get their hands in,” he said.
With artists now used to acting as their own gallerists, publicists and marketing teams, Sarah Zucker said the questions galleries and auction houses will need to ask themselves when they eventually do convene on the crypto art space are, “What value am I bringing to these artists? How am I earning my cut from this sale?”
And for those who are dubious about this experimental art, Sarah said NFT art is just a container, it’s there for whatever magic you want it to hold.
“Crypto art is an empty carafe. It can be a carafe of shitty five-dollar André champagne or it can be a carafe of Veuve Clicquot. The container is not the thing itself. Fill the container with your visions, it really is infinite in its possibility,” she said.
How to succeed as a crypto artist
It’s all about authenticity, honesty and connectivity. Talking about your process and letting people share in the excitement you have for your work is a big part of succeeding on these platforms.
“Tell a story about your work and your process, a story letting people know who you are and that you’re a human being,” Sarah Zucker said.
When it comes to networking, Ronin said Twitter and Clubhouse are where it’s at for NFT artists and collectors. Using them to make authentic connections with creators and collectors is highly encouraged.
“The community aspect is very important. The space and the people in the space are super uplifting, everyone wants everyone to succeed,” Ronin said.
Part of the beauty of all this is it decentralizes creativity. Everyone has a voice now.
NFTs: the future of more than art
Beyond art, we’ll probably see NFT technology in just about everything in the coming years, especially when it comes to ownership, authentication and payment. “I think we’ll see NFT technology applied to everything we define as intellectual property,” Sarah Zucker said.
Making millions on NBA Top Shot
NBA Top Shot has made waves as an official marketplace of digital ‘moments’ in basketball history.
You can collect cards or you can collect actual moments in time, like a LeBron James three-pointer. And why, you ask, would someone spend thousands of dollars on a moment they can watch on YouTube for free?
Because of the thrill of collecting. WhaleShark and Coldie expound on it as a direct parallel to baseball cards, only digital and non-static.
WhaleShark got in on NBA Top Shot in the early days (early days being July 2020), investing $150,000 in a couple of vaults comprising roughly 10,000 NBA moments a piece. Those two vaults are now worth upwards of fifty million dollars.
“Now we’re moving into a time and space where having physical stuff around us isn’t as important to some people as it was in the past,” Coldie said.
What else can NFTs do for us?
The answer is: a lot. And what that might be will continue to evolve into spaces including virtual reality, finance, game assets, music, contracts and ownership, potentially going beyond the digital realm and into the physical.
For example, Ronin said we might see blockchain technology applied to bills of sale as a way to keep track of physical transits more accurately.
And virtual reality, while still in its baby stage, is another place where NFT innovation is happening. People are already investing in virtual fashion, like Coldie’s 3D glasses.
“You can pretty much digitalize or tokenize anything...digital real estate, wearables in fashion...even big brands are starting to think about NFTs as a certificate of authenticity for many of their physical goods, particularly in the luxury industry.”
Basically, NFTs are the way of the future, and they’re not going away anytime soon.
As Sarah Zucker told me, and as it became apparent throughout this discussion, to succeed in this new world, you have to be motivated. “You have to be the kind of person who is self-electing. You self-elect your space and you take the space you need to take,” she said.
The opportunities of NFT technology are indeed limitless; all you need to do is get in the game.
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