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Due to the recent spectacular losses in the cryptocurrency market, speculators have deserted the formerly hot NFT market with their remaining funds. The floor prices for premier collections have plummeted. Now, some individuals in the sector making unique digital art, as opposed to collecting PFP (profile photo) collections such as Bored Apes and CryptoPunks, aim to develop a decentralized, sustainable business model with a low barrier to entry that does not rely on speculation.
A straightforward concept gaining momentum is the sale of inexpensive NFTs.
Take Mike Pollard, who in 2021 began developing Nina, a platform for low-cost music NFTs, which he sees as a "crypto Bandcamp." Nina is currently in beta.
“The models being used for selling NFTs, like auctions and bonding curves, along with the high fees on platforms like Ethereum, made it necessary to sell NFTs at high prices,” he explained.
Nina, in contrast, enables musicians to sell recordings at pricing they determine without the intervention of rent-seeking mediators. As a result, according to Pollard, tracks cost around $10.
Vendors still have a disproportionate feeling of their significance in the art world. “One artist tried to sell a track for $1 million,” he explained. “It did not sell.”
Most of Nina’s artisans strive to establish a more sensible market for their unique digital works.
Pollard believes that Nina undermines the one-size-fits-all approach of services such as Spotify and Apple Music, which price tracks identically regardless of the amount of effort put into them. (It goes without saying that on these sites, you pay to access a copy of the music, not to possess the “original.”)
Pollard noted that Nina enables artists to discover economic models suitable for their audience. Nina is based on the lower-fee Solana network, which appeals to fans who are not deterred by volatility or hefty transaction costs.
Jordan Garbis, founder of the music NFT collecting organization BeetsDAO, had a similar realization. “We just want to restore to regular price and experience expectations,” he told me.
Garbis and BeetsDAO are contributing to the development of Echo, a user-owned music streaming service with a Discord-like interface that enables musicians to engage with their fans. (Garbis is a strategic investor in Decrypt, as disclosed.) Garbis believes that a massive supply of these tokens (“almost unlimited”) plus an enticing use case that discourages resale will keep them inexpensive.
“It should look and feel more like owning music does today,” Garbis told. “Which means millions of plays, and hundreds of thousands of unique fan relationships.”
Each of these contacts can create a trickle of revenue that, over time, could amount to a viable business.
Garbis contends that an additional advantage of selling NFTs at a discount is that it is more inclusive. He stated that musicians’ fame was unfairly hampered by the urge to make drops exclusive and demand (or invent) a high price in the past.
And the situation is considerably worse regarding the second main section of the NFT originals, digital artwork. Digital art is more easily replicated than music, making digital art NFTs more attractive to speculators seeking a high resale value. This strategy is effective while market euphoria is intense, but not so much when the market is falling.
Async Art, a boutique NFT marketplace managed by a small team, enables fans to form a grassroots community around their favorite artists. It provides NFTs of music tracks and original artworks, many trippy, eccentric, and peculiar, for as little as $10. It’s a technique for artists to augment their revenue, a favor disguised as a prestige item. Achilleas Saradaris, Async’s creator and a drummer in the band HMLTD (previously “Happy Meal Ltd”) stated that the methodology is effective.
Sardar is flipped through photographs of one of the website’s highlighted artists, noticing that each one had sold for only a few dollars.
“You can think of it like a vinyl record—something you buy without, necessarily, the hope of reselling it,” he continued. “This artist just likes scribbling, and I like his scribbles too, so I host his NFTs so he can keep on scribbling.”
Notably, Saradaris did not seek to promote the concept of benefits or usefulness. Instead, these NFTs rely on an emotional pitch. “We’re producing value out of thin air,” he stated. “It’s alchemy.”
Saradaris, Pollard, and Garbis concede that their product is fundamentally distinct from Web2 heavyweights like Spotify and YouTube and that they have little chance of competing at scale with these businesses shortly.
In exchange for a sense of ownership or patronage, their appeal to fans is for them to support music and art out of kindness.
Whether or whether this succeeds in bringing the NFT market into a sustainable future will depend on the fans’ actual goodwill.