Just JPEGs: In Defense of Utility-Free Art NFTs

Just JPEGs: In Defense of Utility-Free Art NFTs

I’m bullish on art NFTs.

Perhaps unreasonably bullish.

As a decades-long veteran marketer who’s earned her stripes in Web1 and Web2, I believe NFT utility is going to be the key to unlock new relationships between projects and communities.

But today I’m advocating for “just JPEGs” (used affectionately in this case) with little or no utility.

Why? I’ll explain.

State of the Art: NFT Utility

Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate current digital art NFT utility. The way this works today is some version of the following:

  1. Find a new digital art NFT project.
  2. Join their Discord group and do some research on team/vibes/art.
  3. Mint or buy digital art NFT(s).
  4. Get verified and access special discussion channels or roles in Discord.
  5. Get verified and access special project perks (like a membership card).
  6. Monitor Discord and/or Twitter for:
    1. Airdrops
    2. Special collaborations
    3. Getting mint-listed with partner projects
    4. NFT art competitions or giveaways
    5. New collections

Part of the fun is getting involved with the community for each of the NFT projects you’ve bought into. Community collaboration, membership unlocks, and more.

But this is also the downside — for both artist and collector.

Just JPEGs: Accessible to More Artists

For artists creating a generative collection, the pressure of providing utility can put them at a disadvantage:

  • Not all artists want to turn their art into a utility-based business (think membership club with ongoing benefits).
  • Running a utility NFT project usually means you have to fund a team.
  • This can take bootstrap artists or small teams out of the game entirely.
  • Solo artists may be discouraged from attempting a project due to lack of time/funds/resources.

Removing this expectation means more artists can join the party and enjoy these benefits:

  • Focus on the art!
  • Participate with little or no funding.
  • Create more art or collections as their audience/patronage grows organically. In other words: sale, then scale. 😉

Two generative art NFT projects I love are Girlies and Garden-Sprites. Both are founded on good old-fashioned bootstrapping, and I love the illustration style. Both are looking at roadmaps and collaborations, but you know what? I don’t need anything else but to look at them. 🙂

Girlies NFT Garden Sprites NFT
Two Girlies, Two Garden Sprites

Patrons Appreciate Simplicity, Too

Sometimes I want to simply:

  • Support the artist.
  • Collect the art.
  • Delight in my ownership.

Digital art NFT projects with limited or no utility offer these benefits to the collector:

  • Reduced time spent on communication review in Discord.
  • More attention free to spend on finding and supporting new digital art NFT projects.
  • Reduced sense of project oversight overwhelm.

If you collect digital art NFTs to support the artists and/or because you really love the art collectible, you may soon find that project-monitoring is your new part-time job.

This picture of Discord notifications is worth a thousand words — or at least 181 of them! It represents a never-ending stream of unread project communications.

NFT Discord Alerts


We’ll Get There

For digital art NFT projects that are art for art’s sake, the ideal setup involves allowing collectors to opt in for any key project announcements. These normally include: airdrops, new collection, media coverage, giveaways, collaborations, and more.

Alas, our current challenges are:

  1. Email is sooo Web2.
  2. Designed as a gaming community platform, Discord wasn’t specifically designed for NFTs.
  3. Web3-native platforms like Backdrop are just getting started, with robust features still in development.

For artists who aren’t embarking on a generative collection, Foundation is an excellent platform for 1-of-1 art.

The space is young. Creativity and innovation abound. Surely we’ll find better ways to best serve artists and patrons in a way that’s both equitable and manageable.

Culture has always been an asset class…it’s just moving to 1’s and 0s now. With ideas and creativity moving at fiber-optic speed, we are shaping the future in real-time.

Do you agree or disagree? Find me on Twitter and let me know. 🙂

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