"I sold a 450 frame, 7 and a half second looping video of a floating game console for $8000"
I get non-fungible tokens explained to me by someone who's selling them
Last week I was shocked to learn that Kings of Leon had another album. I thought they were long gone. “Sex on Fire” seems like a lifetime ago. What did “Your sex is on fire” even mean? But it wasn’t just the news Kings of Leon still existed which shocked me. It was that they were selling their new album as an NFT. A non-fungible token.
“The Kings of Leon album will be released on traditional streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. But the NFT version of the album sold on YellowHeart comes with some special perks. The token is priced at $50 and includes enhanced media like a moving, live album cover.”
Look, I am going to be honest: I had no fucking idea what an NFT was. The internet exploded with explainers, but they all just left me feeling more confused. This is The Verge’s attempt to explain it:
“At a very high level, most NFTs are part of the Ethereum blockchain. Ethereum is a cryptocurrency, like bitcoin or dogecoin, but its blockchain also supports these NFTs, which store extra information that makes them work differently from, say, an ETH coin. It is worth noting that other blockchains can implement their own versions of NFTs.”
I was none the wiser. Like someone trying to explain cryptocurrency, it was all meaningless.
Then I noticed that Richard Parry has been selling some of his art as NFTs. Richard once kindly illustrated this conspiracy Webworm, Faking It: QAnon from the Inside. I figured if Richard was actually selling NFTs, he could explain to me what the hell was going on.
This is the conversation we had. Oh, and before I start — how cool is his stuff? God I love it:
I talk to Richard about what the hell is going on with NFTs
Richard, just quickly please explain your art. I would describe it as “Cool technology or birds or sandwiches sort of exploded apart like a technical drawing, but with some weird elements added plus it’s all in hyper-colour”. Is that accurate?
I like to present ordinary items in a new or interesting way, but I’m also fixated with gadgets and technology so that's the direction I’m drawn to most of the time. I like super bright and colourful art so that’s what I use, but to be clear, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing and I shouldn’t be here, this has all just happened by accident.
Okay to get to my point, I am fucking confused right now. You have sold a piece of your art, but it’s not like a print or a poster — it’s an animation of your art. Is that right? You sold a video file basically.
David you’re so right, I sold a 450 frame, seven and a half second looping video of a floating gaming console for eight thousand American bucks. That’s almost $24 New Zealand dollars a frame, and that’s about the price of a Chicken saagwala, a butter naan and a cold drink. High quality (at least on a technical level) though, 2000x2400 pixels, lossless compression; you won't get that on Instagram. I know, I’ve checked.
To be accurate, you didn’t just sell it, it was a bidding war?
While I think ‘war’ is a bit dramatic, it was a bout of bidding lasting 24 hours. It all kicked off in the last five minutes where it jumped from about 500 bucks to eight grand, these faceless punters were firing off bids left right and centre. Actually maybe it was a bit like a war, we’ll stick with war for now — but if you can come up with something more intense just chuck it in.
We’ll stick with “war”. But people were not bidding in cash, they were bidding in some type of cryptocurrency?
They were bidding in a cryptocurrency, yes. Ethereum is a bit like Bitcoin’s little but more capable and versatile brother. One Ether is worth roughly $1,500 American dollars.
How much money did that convert into — like how much turned up in your Kiwibank account?
After selling three of these works I ended the day with 22,000 New Zealand dollars in my crypto wallet. I haven’t cashed out just yet, the coin is experiencing a bit of a lull and with the recent excitement in the market I think it will probably go up a bit.
Alright, and if I am understanding this right — even though you sold three digital files for $22,000, you can only sell each one once? Like, it’s a rare item? How?
This whole market works on an honesty system. There’s nothing stopping me from making a new token with the same file in it and selling it again, but fair is fair, I’ve kept a copy for posterity but they won the auction and that file will never leave my hard drive again.
What other things are people selling as NFTs?
I believe any digital file you have on your grubby little hard drive can be tokenised. I think this market has existed for videogame items for a while, you can buy a new piece of flashy armour for your barely-dressed elf mage on a large list of online games. I think the guy who started Twitter is selling the first tweet? Maybe he’ll use some of that money to get rid of that awful beard.
(Editor’s note: Richard’s right — Jack Dorsey is selling his first ever tweet as an NTF:
Jack Dorsey, the billionaire co-founder and CEO of Twitter, a man who stans bitcoin right on his Twitter bio, is attempting to sell his very first tweet as an NFT — a digital good that lives on the Ethereum blockchain.
You’re probably familiar with the famous tweet:
Despite the fact that this tweet has been publicly available as a free digital item to look at whenever anybody wanted for nearly 15 years, Dorsey is now trying to sell it as an NFT, or “non-fungible token,” through a platform called Valuables.
Last time I checked, bidding was up to $267,000. Yep. Okay, back to my chat with Richard…)
Are you going to sell more things?
All of my creative juice is going into making NFTs at the moment. I’ve been scraping a dollar-per-print from online art stores for four years and it feels like I’m finally getting somewhere. Also my e-scooter was pinched from work a couple of weeks back and I want a new one that goes faster and weighs more, so next time I’m robbed the burglar might pull something in his neck throwing it into the back of his Camry. Fair play though, he’s broken in four times and hasn't been caught; he’s like the Danny Ocean of electric scooters. Shine on you crazy diamond.
Will NFTs last? Or is this some weird obsession? I mean, is this around to stay like cryptocurrencies have sort of stuck around?
I have absolutely no idea. They’ve been around for four or five years before they’ve exploded which is exactly what happened with Bitcoin, so maybe. Maybe in 2030 we'll be paying for bulk toilet paper with rare pepes. To be clear David: I hope this is not the case.
How is this a real thing?
If I’ve learnt anything, it’s that you can justify just about anything with $22,000.
I think I understand NFTs now. And I hope you do, too. And I really do hope Jack Dorsey shaves off his horrible wizard beard.
Richard’s worked for years selling his art the old fashioned way — online stores, sending out physical pieces that are ordered. From what little I know about artists — they are not out there making a tonne a money. There is a reason they say “struggling artist”.
So this NFT thing was as much of a shock to Richard as it was to me. Well, more-so, because he was the one who suddenly ended up with a lot of extra money he wasn’t expecting.
And keep this in mind: “Any digital file you have on your grubby little hard drive can be tokenised.” Food for thought. Have a great day in this utterly mystifying, confusing world.
PS: If you want to share this, it’s: webworm.co/p/tokens.
An earlier version showed what a total dimwit I was, where I thought it was non-refundable, as opposed to “fungible”. As Adrain Wolfe pointed out to me on Twitter, “Non-fungible is what makes a bunch of minted artworks of a set individually distinguishable, which is what separates it as a crypt asset from cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum where each one is exactly the same: fungible.”
The Webworm tee shirt giveaway is now over! Winners have been contacted — thanks for all the lovely feedback!
You can keep an eye on Richard Parry’s other NFTs here — it’s utterly bonkers to watch the bidding going on!