The industry that saw cartoon apes hit over $20 billion in sales is now becoming an avenue for small creators and businesses.
Visa have announced a Creator Programme, opening up the world of Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to artists, musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers to “help accelerate their small business through NFTs” and expand their traditional art into a digital footprint.
The programme will have former professional athlete turned crypto artist, Micah Johnson serve as a mentor for the small businesses and creators in understanding the industry.
New Zealand entrepreneurs are invited to submit their interest in joining the programme.
Head of innovation and partnerships at Visa, Anthony Jones says the programme is to help those businesses think of NFTs, cryptocurrency and blockchain as a part of their business model.
Over the past few years, the world of NFTs have seen incredible growth. In December 2021, the most expensive NFT, a digital art piece ‘The Merge’ by artist Pak, was sold for a whopping price of $91.8 million.
NFTs are unique digital assets run through a blockchain software that can range from images, artworks to music that can be purchased and transferred through a range of people.
Jones says many NFTs are made to limits, creating “scarcity” within the assets, resulting in the hype the industry is seeing today.
The fairly new concept has raised eyebrows across the world, with people questioning ownership of digital assets when they can easily be screenshotted. However, once purchased, the owner not only digitally owns the asset, but they also own the IP (intellectual property).
Original artists of the digital asset can also follow closely where the art goes, who purchases it next and still receive royalties from every sale done through their asset. This gives buyers certification of authentic pieces.
Jones says the world of NFTs have seen incredible growth in the past few years. He says the growth and level of interest in NFTs continue to grow, which is why Visa is looking into working with the world of cryptocurrency.
“NFTs have the potential to become a powerful accelerator for the creator economy,” says Cuy Sheffield, head of crypto at Visa.
Visa first broke into the world by purchasing a $150,000 CryptoPunk NFT, considered to be the original NFT collection, in August of 2021 as a way to establish their belief in the future of the industry.
Jones says the biggest opportunity small businesses and creators can gain from the NFT programme is building a community. The level of engagement is more personable as creators and business owners can communicate directly with their fan base and customers, he adds.
The programme is set to debunk information about the world of NFTs and cryptocurrency and introduce small business owners and creators to the “new wave of consumerism and ecommerce”.
‘We’re not teaching them how to create work, we’re helping them move to the digital world,” he says.
However, Professor Alex Sims who specialises in blockchain technology, NFTs and cryptocurrencies from University of Auckland says NFTs are currently only generating hype and at the moment are not “a sustainable source of income for most small businesses and creators”.
“Although they will be for a few,” she adds.
“If you look back to the dot com bubble in the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, the same thing will happen with NFTs.”
“My concern is that everyone seems to be jumping in without knowing what they are doing,” says Sims.
Sims says for small businesses and creators, the world of NFTs can be used alongside physical products. She says small businesses selling clothes for example, can sell the digital asset with their products, giving those customers exclusivity access to events or discounts.
The Bored Ape Yacht Club is the perfect example of selling exclusivity. A collection 10,000 NFTs of a bored ape with unique and different traits, ranked by rarity and is the ticket to join the ever so exclusive, Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Members who have purchased a Bored Ape NFT, which was originally sold at $190, are then able to access the club which allows members to be a part of a community. In November, Bored Ape Yacht Club members held an actual yacht party with featured appearances of Chris Rock and The Strokes.
The use of NFTs for small businesses and creators is a great and helpful way to build their audience, which Sims says the Visa programme would be helpful as it gives them access to mentors and other support.
Craig Heatley CNZM, who has recently acquired a stake in Glorious, a New Zealand company specialising in the NFTs, says he sees “this space as quite analogous”.
“I have absolute belief in the technology long term,” he adds.
He says with NFTs, the technology evolves the traditional art market, as the artist is in full control and “absolute security of provenance”.
“It’s exciting for all involved because the technology is going to allow artists to continue to participate financially in their work going right into the future,” he says.