#165: NFT's and the DNA Rule
Just because it's popular doesn't mean it's a good idea!
My mom had a saying growing up. I only heard it when I attempted to do something that was, in hindsight, what us olds used to call Stuff White People Do. It was called the "DNA Rule".
“See what those kids are doing? That Does Not Apply to you.”
From co-ed sleepovers in high school (this was Livejournal era, we were SLUTS) to not getting haircuts, my mom always reminded me that certain things, through no fault of your own, don't apply to you. Sometimes it was her trying to keep me safe.
Other times it was when she saw danger coming, before it was even on my horizon.
Now, back to today's subject. As business owners and leaders in creative industries, it's time we addressed the elephant in the room.
Every single cultural industry, from sports to tv to advertising, is having a Napster moment. No disrespect to those of you in the music industry...might still be too soon.
Now, I'm not dooming and glooming for the dopamine rush, we sincerely need to work together to solve the biggest problem we're all collectively experiencing in our siloes, but affects us all.
We have to rethink how we operate in our industries. From how we pay each other to how we work together. And no better example/kick in the ass is what's currently happening in the NFT space.
See, NFT's or non-fungible tokens (now you'll win your next Zoom trivia night) are the newest in what seems like a now-annual ploy to artists to finally move on up like George & Weezy. The reality is that two different things are coming true at the same time.
NFT's and the overall crypto space is a massive waste of time and money right now for most creatives and businesses in the cultural industry.
NFT's and the overall crypto space are the Silver Surfer coming to warn all creatives and businesses in the cultural industries about the coming of Galactus, aka Web 3.0. Web 3.0 is what will force all of our respective industries to fight for our literal survival over the next 10 years.
Luckily, you've got me. If we're sticking with the Marvel Comics metaphors, that would make me...
PRESS PLAY WHILE YOU READ THE NEXT SECTION. Doesn't help anything, this song just slaps.
Ok, so when I say Web 3.0, I want to explain. See, we're currently in Web 2.0. Web 1.0 was the earliest days of our lives online. Millennials and older generations remember the birth of the internet and how our industries were before the rise of it. From advertising to movies to sex work, all the cultural industries were revolutionized and innovated in the wake of the expansion of Web 2.0. Here's a grand diagram to explain the concept further, using popular apps across time.
Now, if you'll notice, this diagram ended in 2018. You'll also see that more and more of your colleagues are just now discussing and talking about concepts like Bitcoin and Ethereum. So now think about it: If these concepts and terms have been around almost 10+ years now and if you're like most, your first significant experience with crypto has come in the last 9 months...does it make sense why I sounded so urgent at the top of this newsletter now?
We're already way behind.
Creators, we gotta discuss how you approach selling your stuff and who you sell it to. Currently, everyone old enough to read this was brought up under a Web 2.0 mind frame of how to make money as a creator.
Here's where we are:
Now, here’s where we’re going:
Using that framework, I need you to realize that now is the best time in history to start making a thing that YOU own and that YOU created. This newsletter is a Web 3.0 mindset in a 2.0 world. Thus the first truth:
Learn it now or get finessed later.
I got these sick diagrams from Neer, btw. You should subscribe to his newsletter.
Every single creator who can read these words should spend 20 minutes playing around on Zora this weekend/the next time you are stoned. Read the FAQ. Just learn what it is without worrying about how you're going to monetize it. The advantage we have as creatives is that we can see blind spots. Where someone powered by greed is gonna flood the market. Learn these tools the same way you learned whatever means you use every day. Then, figure out how it fits YOU best. Why in God's name are so many of you doing whatever Drake or LeBron or Coogler or Virgil or Kanye or Beyonce or whoever did? You. Aren't. Them.
I need to also address the genuine FOMO that comes with potentially missing out on a revenue opportunity since creators are perpetually on the short end of the stick when it comes to business and culture. Listen, I ain't gonna hold you, but if the last year has taught us anything, it's that just throwing stuff against the wall rarely works out, despite your best intentions (looking at you, Golden Globes!).
The other reality is that if you're reading stuff like this newsletter, you're already ahead of the additional 99% of people who have no clue what this is or don't understand the tightrope we all walk between business and culture. 99% of people in cultural industries will not attempt to become good at anything but whatever they see working at the time. That alone will thin the field for you (I can promise that they give up within five years). So, if you're worried that the vast majority of people will wake up and suddenly start working hard, I'll go ahead and guarantee you that it won't happen. Before you get the wrong idea, this is not a motivational Rev Run in the tub moment. I am explicitly stating that 99% of creators are too lazy to ever find out what they are good at in the first place to even monetize it properly, much less worry about emerging technology. It's up to you to put in the work.
Ok, now let's talk about the blockchain and NFT's.
You: "Ernest, what is an NFT"
Me: *furiously Googles*
Uh...you see, a…
Non-fungible token (NFT) is a cryptocurrency token that is indivisible and unique. One NFT cannot be interchanged with another NFT, and the whole cannot be broken down into smaller parts and used. NFTs, offer myriad options for creating and trading digital assets — such as original artwork and blockchain-integrated collectible game items. NFTs are useful for proving the scarcity and provenance of rare assets, both digital and real-world.
Us both pretending we understand what I just shared:
Look, I'll sum it up like this. NFT's are a chance for artists and creators to leverage their talents to create one-of-a-kind exclusive masterpieces across all mediums. You could do an NFT of you doing the Crip Walk and post it up for sale. Say some weirdo who gets off to people crip walking wants to buy it. They can buy that NFT, and from that moment on, it's theirs FOREVER...or if they choose to sell it again.
Now, as it stands, NFT's are being pitched to all of us as a chance to build what so many of us dream of, an opportunity to be appropriately paid for our creative labor. The thing is, the current NFT ecosystem is more Fool's Gold than Nick Catchdubs, and A-Trak put together.
Let me say it clear and direct: The only people winning in this space right now are people who have a lot of money.
Not "fake confidence because I'm a wannabe player" money, we're talking “if they made their whole net worth liquid, to measure it correctly, they gotta use the scale that they use to weigh the whales with” kinda money.
To illustrate my point, let's talk about the current buzz around town, NBA Top Shot.
ICYMI, NBA Top Shot, is an online company launched by Vancouver-based blockchain company Dapper Labs and backed by the NBA that allows users to procure a collection of digital basketball highlights (dunks, passes, steals, etc.), and then show off that collection to others. To get these highlights, which they call "moments," IRL money (or fiat money) must be spent in some way, either through purchasing digital packs containing a random assortment of these moments or through spending real cash in the virtual marketplace. The process of buying these packs is similar to standing in line for Supreme or a PS5 or anything you buy at a store. Like a sneaker drop, you have a reserved spot in a digital line based on when you click the link to purchase, and if there is still a product remaining at the time your position in line comes up, you get to cop a pack. Once the packs are sold out, they're gone.
Still with me?
Now here's where everybody gets it wrong. All you keep hearing from people who sit on Clubhouse all day now is "Crypto and things like NFT are how people can connect with their fans directly!" "The kids all are doing it!".
I think all that talk is horseshit, and I'm willing to be the only one who says so, even if everyone else disagrees with me.
Say my little cousin is 12. Say he LOVES Dame Lillard from the Portland Trail Blazers (I mean, same!) Ideally, the NFT world of NBA Top Shot is for him, yes?
This is the market price for a Dame dunk on Top Shot, as of last week:
Wow. Ok, no Dame then. Ok, maybe I'll get something from his other fave, the Greek Freak!
…...uh, ok, those are superstars. Now, what about a guy who barely plays?
So now, the elephant in the room for me with NBA Top Shot: How is the "intended" target audience for this stuff supposed to be able to afford it?
Now, here's an example of a realistic expectation of the NFT space for a majority of the people reading this:
See, this makes sense to me, as people were already spending insane amounts of money on art! The clientele = affluent people in this bubble and wouldn’t you know? They buy! What’s wrong with saying “Until the tech is more widely adopted, NFTs are a luxury item for people who can afford it?” Why pretend it is what it isn’t? I keep logging on and seeing rich people talking to wealthy people about how big of an opportunity this is, but stop lying to yourselves about who this is "helping", please!
For a broader view of Top Shot, read this.
Wrapping this up, the focus needs to shift in cultural industries from following these hot fads and focusing on the broader context of what Web 3.0 is going to do to us, as a whole.
The usual chasm between the people with money and the people with taste needs to shrink for the betterment of us all to handle what's on-deck. NFT's and crypto are only part of the bigger picture around the blockchain, which I honestly can't explain without this thing taking up 3 more paragraphs. All I'm saying, is that it's coming to change everything that we do and how we live. Don't believe me? Look at this:
This is the world that's not coming. It's already here.
Let's drill down into some cultural industry-specific categories, shall we?
What about video and live streaming?
If you don't recognize any of these brand names, congrats. You have something to Google the next time you go to the bathroom. The long and short of it is that we need to spend less time chasing get-rich-quick opportunities and focus on educating ourselves so that when these changes shift our society, those who aren't ever respected, be they the folks behind the scenes who get underestimated in every corporate meeting they're in, to the ones out in front who usually don't hear about this stuff until it's already too late.
I'll close with this: The normal you remember is never coming back. That's hard to hear, but you need to accept it if our industries are going to survive what's coming next, ok?
Also, if you want to hear a way better explanation of the current NFT climate than what I just wrote, listen to this:
AROUND THE WORLD:
I'm bringing back the link dump and renaming this section after Daft Punk's conscious uncoupling a few weeks ago.
If i had the budget, I'd poach Frazier Tharpe from under Will's nose over there at GQ , and I wouldn't think twice about it. His fresh-outta-jail profile of Bobby Shmurda is one of the reasons why.
Speaking of music and writing, I've dusted off my music writer hat to pen some words about the immortal Wu-Tang Clan for the all-new Coda Collection.If you haven't heard of the service yet, think the Criterion Collection for classic music performances, it's insane. Hopefully, I got the jumper back, and I'll be doing music writing again this year (if you're editing a music publication right now, this is my pitch that I'm back outside. Let's work.)
One of the coolest feelings is when something you put out in the world gets discovered by someone you don't know, and you find out about it. I got to live that joy this past Sunday when a subscriber sent me this tweet via DM:
That 65 hour-long podcast is RIP Herb Kent, my curated tribute to the Sundays of my youth, where Herb Kent "The Cool Gent" came on shortly after the morning gospel show ended. Herb Kent was one of the longest-running radio personalities in America, who was on the air from the 1940s, right up to the day of his death on October 22, 2016.
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