NFT artists who can no longer count on a frothy crypto market to boost their sales are not giving up, but they need to lower their financial expectations and get more creative.
Why it’s important: Artists have struggled to pay the bills since time immemorial, and when the NFT craze hit last year, many hoped the technology would provide a lasting solution.
Catch up quickly: NFTs are digital records of ownership that exist on a blockchain – usually the Ethereum blockchain. Artists can “coin” their work as an NFT, and then sell the digital ownership rights to collectors.
Status: The the value of most NFTs is closely tied to the general crypto market, which has been in full retreat this year.
- A single ether coin, for example, is now worth around $1,300, down from a peak of nearly $5,000 in November 2021.
- The number of daily transactions on OpenSea, a popular NFT platform, is down to around 60,000, compared to almost 225,000 in April.
Between the lines: The NFT market, experts say, was flooded with content of varying quality, creating a glut that forced prices down. There were also more people making NFTs than buying them.
Yes, but: Although the hype has died down, there is still an active community of people buying and selling all kinds of NFTs, says Lynnette Blanche, co-founder of Desire Path, a digital community for NFT-curious photographers.
- “There’s still a lot of activity going on with smaller artists and communities that, if anything, I feel matches the amount of sales and creation that happened in the beginning,” Blanche told Axios
- “I just think there’s not as much of this hype that was very prominent on Twitter in the early days, with quarantine and COVID when people were at home and had less things to do.”
For Noah Kalina, a photographer in New York’s Catskills who was a relative early adopter of the NFT world, the phenomenon has shifted from something that could pay the bills to another income stream alongside his other work.
- “In many ways, the NFT market has just become a part of life, like everything else,” Kalina told Axios.
Commercial and art photographer Pete Halvorsen has used the bear market to prepare for what many in the NFT world hope will be an eventual upswing.
- “I’ve used this opportunity to start becoming more multi-disciplinary with my photography, and now I’m working on how else to present the images – whether that’s using some [generative art] aspects to show them to even incorporate some AI into my images,” he says, referring to increasingly popular artificial intelligence-based art-making tools.
The big picture: All those in the NFT world who spoke to Axios for this story agreed that despite the financial pain, the community was better off now that those who were just in it for a quick cash have left.
- “It’s gotten tighter because misery loves company, and people love to say, ‘Hey, man, I’m feeling bad — let’s talk about this,'” says Halvorsen.
Plus like the San Francisco Chronicle photojournalist Scott Strazzante told Axios, artists can still find financial success selling NFTs — provided they’re already big names or are invited to sell their work alongside other creators in high-profile collections.
Be smart: Many artists criticized NFTs due to cryptocurrencies’ energy consumption.
- However, Ethereum recently underwent the “merger,” a behind-the-scenes structural reboot that dramatically reduced power usage — a change that could draw in more creators if there’s another bull market.
What will be next: Artists in the NFT room hold out hope that the glory days will return. But many are realistic about that possibility while celebrating the still vibrant community.
- “It was always, in the back of my mind, ‘Well, I’m going to flip these and make some money,’ and ‘This is going to be something — I might quit my job eventually,'” Strazzante says of his NFT collection. “These the dreams are definitely over now.”
- “But the NFT space in general is just as amazing,” he adds. “There’s still a community of people coming together on Twitter Spaces and talking about photography, and I’m seeing the work of so many photographers I never knew existed.”