Extra! Extra! The NFT universe is expanding at light speed! The era of digital collectibility is upon us! NFTs will disrupt the music industry! It’s all very exciting (and I mean that sincerely) but something is sticking in my craw. Something is keeping me from fully believing the message of music NFT evangelists. What is it? What is it?
Maybe it’s this: NFT platforms often assume that fans are speculators and that speculators are fans. I think it’s a mistake to conflate fandom with speculation. A fan is a person who falls in love with an artist and their work. Love is blind and irrational. Love cares nothing for markets, secondary sales, or the inner workings of cryptography. Fandom is as fandom does. A speculator, on the other hand, loves the thrill of the chase. Understanding markets, secondary sales and cryptography is critical in generating ROI. The fan and the speculator are two very different animals. While some people embody a bit of both, generally speaking they’re two distinct species.
[We] often assume that fans are speculators and that speculators are fans. I think it’s a mistake to conflate fandom with speculation.
Were you the kid who collected comic books to read them, follow the story lines and fall in love with the characters? Or were you the kid who kept your comics in plastic covers, hoping to sell them for a profit down the road? Maybe you did a bit of both but one approach or the other probably resonates more strongly with you. My point is: fans and speculators are not one and the same. What does that mean for the way we design products, platforms and services around collectible digital art?
It means what it has always meant: know your customers and speak to them in their language. Early-adopters, especially in the crypto world, are likely to be more tech-savvy and have a stronger speculator streak. It makes sense to put technology and ROI at the forefront of the conversation. For speculators, the fun is in the hustle. But these same talking points can be alienating to fans who have no interest in ROI. The bigger the NFT world becomes, the less important ROI will be to the average collector.
Were you the kid who collected comic books to read them, follow the story lines and fall in love with the characters? Or were you the kid who kept your comics in plastic covers, hoping to sell them for a profit down the road?
The question for artists, developers and platforms at this still-early stage is: who are you speaking to? Fans, speculators or both? Do you indulge the speculator’s appetite for tech and ROI or speak in simplified terms that appeal to the fan’s love for the artist and their work?
Anyone who has ever built a campfire knows that the fuel changes as the fire grows: first it’s paper and twigs, then thicker branches and, finally, logs. If it’s true that the NFT revolution is upon us, it means that we’re no longer burning paper and twigs. It means we’re not speaking to exclusively early-adopters. It means we can’t assume that fans want to be hustlers. It means we’re entering an era defined more by irrational fandom than by calculated speculation. It’s a transition that I, for one, welcome with open arms.