On Not Being Evil
Why we believe in NFTs
A lot of people sent me Dan Olson’s viral video on NFTs over the weekend. If you haven’t watched it, I would encourage you to. Dan and I disagree on a lot of things, but I agree that healthy debate is a positive thing for our industry, and something we should embrace. I even agree with Dan that Web3 as it stands today has a lot of problems! (Though to be honest a lot of his points are nothing new…)
Here’s where Dan and I disagree: I strongly believe that when people engage with Web3 and NFTs for the right reasons, the future has a LOT of promise. That promise, to my mind, outweighs whatever headaches we have to endure along the way.
Here’s why we’re optimistic and bullish on NFTs:
NFTs represent a direct and meaningful bond with your community. Think about the process of becoming an art collector. It’s one thing to attend an artist’s show whenever they have an exhibit at a local gallery.
It’s quite another to purchase one of their pieces and officially become a collector. There’s something that happens in that transaction. You’re invested in that artist’s continued success.
Part of the reason we purchase art is to hang that art in our homes. But another reason — and I would argue a stronger reason — is to show our support for an artist we love.
NFTs accomplish both of these things. Having an podcaster’s audio in your crypto wallet will be indicative of taste, the same way your collection of vinyls is a flex on a first date. It’s also a receipt that proves you believe in someone’s work, enough to make a piece of it your own.
Creators deserve to be paid for their work. I’ve written about why I think the myth of the starving artist will soon be irrelevant. We’re witnessing a major cultural shift where people finally recognize the countless hours of work that go into creating the content that enriches their lives.
At the same time, we’ve seen so many business models fail us: ads and sponsorships threaten artists’ editorial independence. Listener-supported models encourage creators to put their content behind a paywall: the LAST place any creator wants to place their work.
NFTs encourage investment DIRECTLY in the work itself.
A Collectible is Something You Keep. In Dan Olson’s video, he mocks the idea someone should always buy two blue chip NFTs because they’ll inevitably get attached to one and not want to sell. Well, it’s true! When audiences invest in their favorite creators (the right way), they’re doing it because they genuinely value that creator’s work. I can think of more than a couple people I know who would hesitate to sell their childhood Princess Diana Beanie Baby, even if they could still fetch a few thousand for it on today’s market. When the biggest downside to an investment is you’ve lost money giving money to something, or someone, you value... well, there are worse things that could happen. (Giving that money to a scammer is a separate issue, and something we want to help people avoid.)
Audiences Can Share in Creators’ Upside. At the same time, it’s true that the speculative aspect of NFTs is something that makes them really unique. Not only can creators get a cut of revenue from future sales via smart contracts, but audiences can be rewarded for celebrating and promoting their favorite artists. You simply can’t get that by buying someone a coffee.
NFTs can encourage deeper listener engagement: There are all sorts of ways you can image tokens being used in the podcasting world. Maybe a certain number of (free) NFTs are available to listeners after each episode, or an NFT is hidden in the middle of a show. Listeners can show their loyalty and get access to special perks (free of charge) simply by showing up. It’s a simple way for creators to truly notice, and reward, their biggest fan attention.
Web3 is an unstoppable trend that represents a new era of technical and social innovation. Like all technologies, Web3 tools are fundamentally neutral — their direction and impact will be determined by the values we decide to imprint onto it.
The question is whether we work to build something meaningful in the space, and bring its promise for creators to life, or whether we let the scammers and naysayers win. I vote for the former.