Non-fungible tokens are a hot new topic in the art and music world. Blockchain technology is now making it possible to create rare digital art. But does this really change anything as far as the value of art. What makes something valuable in the first place. Typically two things, usability and scarcity. Do NFTs make art more rare or usable? In my opinion...barely.
Scarcity: A person can buy an NFT of a piece of digital art (maybe a jpeg). Now this person has the “original” piece right? Well not if the artist still has it on their computer. Is there any proof that the artist no longer has the file. Physical paintings don’t work like that. If an artist sells the original, it’s gone. A customer could potentially copy the NFT onto multiple thumb drives, email it to friends, print multiple copies. There would still be only one NFT but there would be many identical copies of the art. A person could resell the NFT and still have the image. So as far as I can see it it does almost nothing to actually make digital art scarce.
Usability: How does someone display a visual NFT anyway? Most collectors will just look at it on their computer, some might get a flat-screen to view NFTs on their living room wall. It could be a rotating gallery of art on one screen. Or the image could be printed on canvas and stretched on a frame. This has always been an option and many digital artist have released limited edition prints like this. In my opinion it is a far better option because it prevents bootlegging. But will an art collector put a flatscreen in every room of their house? Or multilple screens in one room? I doubt many will.
Copyright Protection: If a customer buys an NFT they definitely could do shady things like resell prints without permission. This opens up a whole new problem as far as sellers trusting their customers. I personally will not be putting out my best work as NFTs. I already have issues with people overseas bootlegging my most popular paintings so there is no way I would ever sell them as NFTs.
Fees: Right now the minting fees for NFTs are very pricey. Probably more than it would cost to just print it on canvas and frame it. The NFT platform Mintable charges .35 eth to set up a store. That’s about $500 at this time. Each item can be about $70 to mint. Etsy is 20 cents per listing and you can sell digital art through that platform. You can actually bundle up to 5 digital items together. But digital art is one of the least popular categories on Etsy. Why? Because it’s not an NFT? I doubt it. It was never in demand because it never had much value in the first place. It’s all a matter of supply and demand. The greatest demand for digital art is graphic design. Menus, billboards, advertisements ect. But those types of images are not collectible or something that can be sold again later. So NFTs do little to solve any problems here.
Music: This might a slightly better medium for NFTs. Many musicians have alternate versions of songs or unreleased material. Selling it as an NFT might be a good option, but once again, bootlegging could be a problem. Selling music with commercial rights might be a realm that NFTs can help with. If a company wants to buy an exclusive song to use in an ad, this might be a good option, but a traditional contract would also be fine for this.
Sports: Collectible sports NFTs will surely be a big market. Video clips of sports highlights are already selling for big prices. Digital sports cards will be a big market. But this is not “art” and still comes with the issue of how it will be displayed. Personally I don’t see the appeal of owning a baseball card I can only see on a screen.
Gaming: NFT items in online games will also be a big deal. I predict this will be the biggest market for NFT’s. These items have to be digital, there is no physical alternative.
So in conclusion, NFTs are mostly over-hyped. They don’t actually create more demand for art. They don’t make the art more valuable. Once the hype wears off I bet there will be a movement back to physical art. So I would recommend collecting physical art even if it is a print of a digital piece. This has true scarcity and usability.
Isaac Carpenter / Mr. Mizu