I can imagine that there is almost no-one on this platform, whom hasn't (at least in passing) heard about Non-Fungible Tokens (or NFTs). In their simplest form NFTs are digital tokens (mainly used for Artworks/Music) that scarce, transferrable and have clearly documented and provable ownership. Think collectables, like famous paintings, you can print/photocopy/forge as many duplicates as you want but only one person/group/entity can own the original of that unique item. By the very nature of their limited supply they hold value and given the global decentralized nature of blockchain technology they are accessible to almost everyone that can get hold of internet access.
While I realize I've set the foundations of an "what are NFTs?" article, this information is mainly just to help set the stage. Indeed, rather than cover the 'What' topic, this piece is focus on discussing (with the help of recently published high profile cases) the 'When' of NFT and to propose that this time may well be Now. We're going to look at a few stories that have hit the news over recent months and maybe speculate a bit on what this means for the future of the crypto-industry.
In the meantime if you're an avid reader of all things NFT and haven't started following some of the other well know authors on this platform I urge you to do so. These individual provide great sources of information NFT projects and often run giveaways allow you to start up your own collections. Get them added to your favorites as I have and keep collecting!
High Profile Cases
As mentioned in the introduction there has been a lot of recent publicity around the NFT space. Particularly as a way for musicians and digital artists to be able to reach out and engage with their fanbase, but also for the fans to be able to support directly the creators they love. It is true that there are already some highly successful (Magic the Gathering-esque) games out there on the blockchain (like Splinterlands, Gods Unchained and Streetfighter) which definitely deserve a mention. However, the bulk of the recent activity I am going to share stems from the creation, distribution, ownership and enjoyment of art/music.
Art: Beeple (Christie’s)
Possibly one of the biggest NFT stories in recent months was the creation of a piece by Mike Winkelmann (aka Beeple). Having created this piece from 5000 previously created works of art that Beeple has been making daily for the last 13.5 years, and you might be wondering what the fanfare is all about?
Sure the piece is a collective collage of (what I imagine are) thousands of work created for over a decade, but what has really captured the world is that the form this final digital art piece has taken. That is to say it was minted on a blockchain as an NFT, which by itself would be exceptional for a piece of this scale. However, going further than that the piece is under auction at (arguably) the most well know and respected auction house in the art work, Christie's. Again, this would be exceptional as it stands and a massive achievement for any digital artist, but we can even add the icing onto the cake. Christie's confirmed that they are accepting bids for the piece (which is currently up to over $3.5M), in Ethereum (ETH). I'll explain why I think this is an amazing leap forward later in the article but just take a min to register that. Digital artwork, minted on the blockchain is currently under auction at one of the most prestigious auction houses in the art world, and they are accepting bids in ETH.
Music: Kings of Leon
If you were watching the news this last week you most likely heard the story about Kings of Leon. The world renown rock band shared that they will be releasing their 8th Album (entitled 'When You See Yourself') in NFT format (via https://www.yellowheart.io/) for a limited period after which no further NFT copies will be minted/sold.
In addition to the music there are a whole host of digital delights for fans to buy including (per image above) a number of golden tickets that will guarantee the owners actual gig tickets to one of the bands shows (front row) along with a bunch of other goodies. So not only will people be able to own their first blockchain distributed albums and album artwork by Kings of Leon, this will be (according to Rolling Stone)
"the first time a music ticket has been officially sold as an NFT"
Music/Art: Grimes / DeadMau5 / Justin Blau aka 3LAU
Furthermore, Kings of Leon are not the first musicians and artists to venture into this space as a way of re-engaging with fans and changing up revenue streams, at a time when travel limitations have almost halted (and in some respects killed) sections of the music industry. Indeed, it was reported that Grimes and 3LAU recently sold (for $6M and $11M, respectively) digital artwork in the form of NFTs. Plus there is the well known mainstay of the NFT world Deadmau5 who has been steadily building a great collection of highly sought-after work on the WAX chain.
In fact I was listening to a really great podcast with 3LAU just the other day where he spells out why and how he feels the use of NFTs and blockchain technology are so detrimental to the evolution of not just the music or art industries. If you have an hour or so spare (or can listen at work or in the car) I really urge you to listen to this. It would help wrap your head around the implications for blockchain adoption and how we may well see the future of transactions taking place.
- The Loop Up! Podcast (with 3LAU) https://play.acast.com/s/4761f6df-4f97-581a-889d-8a7205a52700/5fac46d19fb9952cbc456ada
It has been noted that the value of NFT transaction for February was around $179.4M, which is more than double the amount of the whole of 2020 put together. That is just mind boggling and really to me is very hard to picture. These kind of numbers are thrown around and often don't mean anything to anyone on a regular salary. So instead, let's look at it like this; if you think you have been hearing more about NFTs recently (in our crypto-bubble) then take a look at the google trends for them to see the impact on the wider world.
Search Term: NFT, Time: 90 days, Region: Worldwide
Search Term: Non-fungible Tokens, Time: 90 days, Region: Worldwide
As you can see from the trends, the end of 2020 saw that NFTs were happily travelling along without making too many waves. All of a sudden (perhaps spurred on by the recent attention BTC has been receiving) we see interest in NFTs spiking substantially. This to me solidifies by belief that we're definitely not looking at a crypto-verse only phenomena, it looks more like the rest of world is taking notice.
In just the last two/three years it is amazing to see just how much cryptocurrency has grown and is gaining traction. Yes I know we're currently in a bull market and that could be colouring my judgment a little, but I look at where we were, and where we are now, and see the DeFi developments, the recent acknowledgements of BTC store of value status by traditional banking and now the boom of the NFT world and I see the future changing before our eyes.
It is all well and good I think having reports from Citi bank, or recommendations to clients from JPMorgan but we when start to see endorsement in the arts of blockchain technology I feel like it is reaching a tipping point. These artists are not only cultural commentators (through their works), but are also massively influential in their societal positions. What is more is that artist, whom are often well known for being paid extremely poorly (initially) for their creative works are showing their fans and peers that it is possible to own your financial future and reach your fanbase directly without needing to sell your soul to the industry topcats to achieve it. For fans it is an opportunity to own a piece of the artists collection without being a millionaire and to support the things you love. It is becoming a collective experience in which anyone can participate.
The recent public validation (through the Christie's auction) of NFTs in terms of desirable digital items and, to go further, the validation of ETH as a payment medium by Christie's has the potential to propel the decentralized world forward into the the next stages of its evolution. I think, we're starting to see a move from just purely speculative 'cryptocurrency' world into things that people (in general) are much more likely to discuss/share with one another. When it comes to music and art these are focal points, quite often very closely linked with our sense of self. To now intertwine blockchain technologies into these we're seeing a merging and acceptance of the technology into the every day, in my mind this may well only be the beginning.
Hope you enjoyed the article, good luck y'all!