Does it feel like you can’t open up Twitter, Instagram, or Clubhouse these days without seeing the word NFT? Prompting you to wonder what exactly is an NFT? They’ve surged in popularity in recent months thanks to a need for creatives to find new means of income in the wake of Covid-19. It gives them agency over their work and cuts out a lot of the middle management, and since touring was put on hiatus, a great way to get their art directly to their fans. The Weeknd is the most recent artist to announce an NFT drop, which will include an unreleased song and exclusive visual art.
We break down everything you need to know about NFTs and the artists that have tapped into the market so far.
What is an NFT?
Well, to start, NFT stands for a non-fungible token. In simpler terms, it’s a digital certificate of authenticity. It can essentially be anything digital, from the audio file to an unreleased song and digital artwork to a video or 3-D sticker.
What does “non-fungible token” mean?
Non-fungible means it’s one of a kind and cannot be traded for an identical version because every NFT has its own authentic signature. Artwork that’s posted online can be easily copied and redistributed but when you buy an NFT, you have proof of ownership—regardless of how many copies exist. It’s the actual token that’s rare, not the artwork itself. Bitcoin is fungible because when you trade one bitcoin for another, you have the exact same thing. Non-fungible is unique, so when you trade NFTs—you’re left with a different digital token.
What is the technology behind NFT?
NFTs rely on blockchain technology—we won’t bore you with the specifics, so you can read more about that here. It’s similar to other cryptocurrencies, leaving a digital trace of ownership. Think of NFTs as the digital artwork equivalent of a verified checkmark on Instagram, which should help you understand why people would pay thousands collecting them—to virtually flex, of course.
Where do you buy and sell NFTs?
There are a variety of marketplaces for NFTs. Most require a digital wallet—meaning you need to have cryptocurrencies to buy an NFT, rather than a credit card. OpenSea and Nifty Gateway are two of the most popular, used by artists like Grimes and The Weeknd. There’s Super Rare, Foundation, and Zora which offer a curated selection of NFTs, but you have to apply or be invited to become a seller. Rarible and Mintable have lower barriers to entry and anyone can buy/sell.
How Artists Are Using NFTs:
The Weeknd confirmed his first NFT release will be on April 3rd and includes an unreleased song—that will not be available on streaming platforms in the future—and exclusive artwork in collaboration with Strange Loop Studios.
One of the most talked-about NFT sales this year, Grimes put a series of ten pieces up for auction—and cashed in on $6,000,000 from sales. The highest-selling piece was a video called “Death of the Old” which illustrated flying cherubs, a cross, and a sword set to an original song by Grimes—it sold for almost $389,000.
The electronic dance artist, 3LAU, celebrated the three-year anniversary of his album Ultraviolet by selling 33 NFTs. These included a custom song, access to exclusive music, and custom artwork. It’s easy to understand the appeal behind owning music and artwork from an artist you admire, but you might be surprised by how many collectors wanted in. 3LAU’s auction was so popular, the bidding went on for days and ended with $11.7 million in total sales—setting records in the NFT world.
Kings of Leon
To celebrate the release of their latest album, When You See Yourself, Kings of Leon released a series of NFTs including exclusive artwork and front row seats to every single one of their tours—for life. They generated over $2,000,000 from sales and donated over $500,000 to Live Nation’s Crew Nation fund, which supports live music crews during the pandemic.
The EDM superstar partnered with 3D illustrator Antonio Tudisco for an NFT collection of eleven pieces titled “Dream Catcher.” The stand-out item from the sale was the video “Hairy” featuring original music and trippy visuals, and it sold to T-Mobile’s former CEO for $888,888.88.
Teen heartthrob Shawn Mendes collaborated with Genie to sell a 3D model of his SMF Fender guitar as an NFT. Mendes is planning on donating all of his proceeds to the Shawn Mendes Foundation Wonder Grants.
Before MF DOOM passed away in 2020, he dived into the NFT world by teasing augmented reality versions of his iconic mask on Instagram. These masks can be displayed over real-life scenarios by using geo-placement or worn on your face as a filter. They have since been auctioned off and sold for between $18,000 and $857,000.
Canadian rapper Killy released an NFT to unlock the title and cover for his upcoming single. The collectible titled “Hyper Rare Demon Face” only had 25 copies available and was teasing his now released single “Pyro.”
Latin Trap star Ozuna sold a series of five NFTs for about $800,000. His debut in the digital art world was in the form of collectible bears, very on-brand imagery for Ozuna who used bears as the cover art for two previous albums, Enoc and Odisea.
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