You’ve found this manifesto, which means you’re probably curious about NFTs—non-fungible tokens—and have been looking for info about them. Perhaps you have seen some of the recent eye-popping seven-figure sales of NFT art. (1)
Why would someone buy a digital file for seven figures when they could easily see it and download it from the Internet for free?
Great question. I’m glad you asked.
See, all this NFT art business doesn’t make a lot of sense when looking at the question purely from the present.
But it makes perfect sense if you look at its development within the history of art—particularly the modern art of a century ago.
To share this context, in a way that I think will make NFT art sales make perfect sense, I want to tell you a story.
A story about a urinal.
In fact, a story about the most valuable urinal the world has ever known.
The most valuable urinal the world has ever known was created in New York City in 1917.
It had no diamonds in it, nor any precious stones at all. It was not made of gold or platinum, but of porcelain, just like every other urinal. In fact, in every respect, it was just like every other urinal, into which the common men of the time were relieving themselves in the public bathrooms around the world.
In 1917, an artist calling himself R. Mutt signed his name to such a urinal—said to be a Bedfordshire model bought at a foundry showroom on Fifth Avenue—and submitted it to an exhibition organized by the Society of Independent Artists, paying their $6 fee. Even though it was a non-juried exhibit, open to anyone who paid the fee, the Society’s board took the extraordinary step of exercising jury powers. They turned down Mr. Mutt’s submission as not being art and returned the urinal to him with a rejection slip.
A photograph of the urinal—the only remaining record of the original—appeared in an obscure art journal called The Blind Man, along with an editorial denouncing the board’s decision. “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view—created a new thought for that object.”
Mr. Mutt, it turned out, was a young artist named Marcel Duchamp, associated with an emerging avant-garde art movement called Dada. Fountain, as the work was titled, took on a life of its own. The original was lost, but over the years, Duchamp authorized seventeen replicas, one of which is now held in the permanent collection of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, another in the Tate Modern in London.
(1917 photograph by Alfred Stieglitz of Duchamp’s Fountain; this is the only remaining image of the original.)
Before Duchamp got his hands on it, that urinal was worth whatever he paid for it at the store—probably a few hundred dollars at most, in today’s dollars. How did he turn a urinal he bought for a few hundred dollars into something that would be worth possibly over $100 million?
A clue to the answer can be found in the case of later artist Piero Manzoni. It took about 44 years for Duchamp’s line of thinking to work all the way down the digestive tract of modern art. In 1961, Manzoni tinned 90 cans with 30 grams each of his own excrement, labeling the cans “Artist’s Shit.” Manzoni originally sold the cans to the art market for around $37, or around $323 in today’s dollars.
Seems like a reasonable price to pay for a can of poo… I guess?
Well, the story doesn’t stop there. Over time, the art market decided, this whole thing wasn’t bullshit; rather, the market became bullish on shit.
The value of the cans skyrocketed. In 2016, one of these ninety cans sold at auction in Milan for €275,000, then about $289,000—implying a valuation of $26 million for the entire, uh, “load” that Manzoni dropped.
Later, a collaborator of Manzoni’s claimed that Manzoni had filled the cans with mere plaster, not poop. The cans are made of steel, and thus can’t be x-rayed. The only way to find out for sure would be to pop open a can, which would ruin its six-figure valuation. The media speculated that the value of the cans might go down if they were false advertising, containing plaster rather than genuine artist’s dung (2).
How does an artist make his crap (or plaster presented as his crap) worth $289,000 a can? Manzoni, it turns out, left a clue.
Before, I wrote that Manzoni originally sold the cans for “about $37.” However, in writing that, I left out a crucial detail.
Actually, he priced his 30-gram cans at a floating rate based on the daily market value of the cans’ equivalent weight in gold. That market value was then about $37 (or around $323 in today’s dollars.) But remember, the cans weren’t priced in dollars (or other fiat currency) per can; instead, they were priced based on the floating rate of gold.
Manzoni was, in other words, turning his grams of shit into grams of gold—or at least, he came as close to doing that as any human ever has or will. And the value of his number two far outpaced the value of the yellow metal. In August 2016, when a 30-gram can of Artist’s Shit sold for $289,000, thirty grams of gold was worth about $1,387. That means that in the art market, shit outperformed gold by 208X over half a century.
The shit-into-gold aspect of Manzoni’s piece is an obvious reference to alchemy, the medieval philosophical system which included, among other esoteric practices, attempts to transmute low-value substances, such as lead, into precious metals such as gold.
The alchemists failed at their direct attempts at that goal. But it seems that artists (or at least some artists, well-positioned within the rarified world of modern art) succeed at turning garbage into gold. They can turn urinals and dookie into pieces of fine art worth millions of dollars.
How do they do so?
These artists developed something I call “narrative wealth.” (3)
For better or worse, Duchamp created a world in which visual artists were no longer being valued for the craft of making things. To whatever degree there had been a correlation between an artist’s skill at their craft, and the value of the artist’s work historically and financially, Duchamp flushed it down the toilet. Now, artists are being valued not for the craft of making things.
Rather, they are being valued for the craft telling narratives about the things they make.
It’s not a urinal: it’s a statement about the artist’s power to create art out of anything. Or perhaps, a statement about the arbitrary nature of art curation. Those are stories. Valuable ones, it turns out.
It’s not shit: it’s artist’s shit, canned to “expose the gullibility of the art-buying public,” Manzoni said in 1963. (The art-buying public, it seems, are conceptual masochists–they will pay a pretty penny to be mocked.) That’s a story.
Narrative wealth is wealth that is created through telling a story. It can become financial wealth, as with the multi-million-dollar valuations of Duchamp’s urinal or Manzoni’s excremental output. These objects have turned into narrative wealth because they have become part of art history, and cultural legend. People want to “own a piece of history,” so when something is part of a widely-shared history, it acquires financial value on markets for art or collectibles. (4)
Narrative wealth can also consist primarily of non-financial sentimental value, which is the value that people place on specific objects unique to their own life path. Two identical wedding rings, for example, might fetch an identical price at a jewelry store, but few married people would gladly swap out their wedding ring for another (even if the other were worth much more on the market), as only one of the rings was worn on that person’s wedding day. The one worn on the wedding day was a central part of the married person’s life story, and has taken on a form of narrative value for that person that no other ring ever could.
In other words, a specific object’s role within a narrative makes it non-fungible. Fungibility is a property by which—for some market actor—one quantity of something is interchangeable with a similar quantity of the same thing. If you sell me your used car for $5,000, you don’t care about the serial numbers on the dollar bills I hand you; if they’re real US dollars, one dollar is as good as another.
However, on my side of the transaction, used cars are less fungible to me than dollars are to you. Two cars of the same make, model, year, and color, and similar mileage, might have significantly different values to me, depending on how well-maintained they are. (5)
When specific objects become part of personally or historically significant stories—as with people’s wedding rings, and art and collectibles—that’s when they become highly non-fungible.
One aspect of these objects’ non-fungibility is that specific people touched or signed the object. Anyone could have bought the same model of urinal Duchamp used for Fountain, and thus owned a “replica” of the piece. But Duchamp only authorized and signed seventeen of these. In fact, in one of these cases, a gallerist bought the urinal himself at a Paris flea market, and asked Duchamp to sign it; Duchamp hadn’t even selected the item himself, but his act of signing it made it what might be called an “authentic replica.”
This dynamic can be seen on an even wider scale in the fine art photography market. Why does such a market even exist? These days, anyone can download a copy of almost any photo that has been made public, print it, and put it on their wall. If there’s a version of the photo floating around the Internet with a high-enough resolution, anyone can print that photo in a manner almost indistinguishable from the photo that the photographer printed. It’s not like people are paying for photographers’ printing ability.
Why do people pay top dollar for photographs printed (or authorized to be printed) by the photographer?
The photographer touched that photograph, and authorized it, making it an original, along with any others in a limited series; all subsequent versions are mere copies. In a way, the signature acts like the artist’s “blessing” on that specific version.
When people are important to us—be it a spouse, an artist, a historical figure, or a celebrity—the fact that they touched or signed something that played a part in a valuable story gives the object almost talismanic power. A talisman is “an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.” (6) Insofar as we view pop stars, athletes, actors, famous artists, and other celebrities as gods, their act of touching something imbues it with almost magical, mythological power. A famous person has a Midas touch—everything they touch turns to gold.
And that brings us to NFTs.
Welcome to the Era of Digital Talismans
A non-fungible token (NFT) is an immutable entry on a public blockchain ledger, pointing to a specific, permanently-identified instance of a digital file. The file can be an image, a video, a text—anything that can be digitized. That file can be copied and downloaded ad infinitum on the Internet, but only one instance (or however many are in a limited edition) will be tied to the NFT.
Thus, when a creator “mints” an NFT (the common verb for creating an NFT), they are essentially digitally signing the specific file that NFT points to. It’s like Duchamp signing Fountain: of all the exact same urinal models in the world, only the seventeen he signed are considered authentic art. NFTs allow such authenticity-granting signatures to be extended into the digital realm.
(Ironically, despite enabling a proliferation of aesthetic expression online, NFTs have an unfortunately unaesthetic acronym—and it’s even worse when you say it out loud regularly. For this reason, I will follow the lead of Nifty Gateway, an NFT exchange, which coined the term “nifties” for NFTs; I will use these terms interchangeably for variety.)
I believe that nifties are the greatest means ever devised by which artists and creators can exchange value with their fan base. (In the rest of the manifesto, I focus on artists—including visual artists, musicians, performance artists, writers, and any kind of creator–but almost everything I say applies to anyone with a fandom: celebrities, athletes, influencers, etc.)
Before I say more, I should point out that one has to have a fan base in order to exchange value with it and earn money from it. In most cases, I don’t think nifties will be a great way to gain a fan base. So I don’t wish to paint nifties as a panacea for all creators; as with most things, there’s a bit of a “rich get richer” dynamic at play. When celebrities are minting millions in minutes with their nifties, it’s not because they created a nifty per se; it’s because they’re a celebrity who made a nifty.
Nonetheless, I believe nifties will lower the bar on how large an audience a creator needs before earning significant income from their fans. Let’s imagine an up-and-coming musician with 10,000 fans. Not a celebrity by any stretch, but not an unknown either. Let’s call her Chloe.
In the 2000s, before nifties, how would Chloe earn money from providing value to her fans? Selling CDs? Um, what are CDs? Selling downloads? Who buys music anymore? Earning royalties on Spotify plays? Pennies. Sponsorships, endorsements, advertising, and licensing? Probably not at Chloe’s level. Touring and live concerts? If her 10,000 fans are scattered around the country, it’s too much effort for not that much money—and that’s on top of the work of actually creating the music!
The digital era has made it easier than ever for a creator to develop 10,000 fans, but harder than ever to sell anything to those fans.
Everything is digital, and no one buys digital because it’s infinitely reproducible and freely downloadable.
Until now. NFTs create the first digital scarcity in the arts. If desirable things are infinitely available, they end up cost-free, no matter how desirable; if desirable things are limited, people pay for them. Chloe can make her concerts scarce (she only tours so much, and there are only so many seats in each venue). But in the digital era, it was difficult to make her songs scarce enough to charge for them.
Nifties change that, because they allow Chloe to make scarce collectibles of songs—the files she has signed digitally and deemed to be the “originals” or “firsts”—while making all other copies freely accessible.
Within any fan base, there will always be a few people with significantly more wealth than everyone else in the group—perhaps more than everyone else combined. (See “the Pareto principle.”) To those people, paying several thousands of dollars or more for a scarce digitally-signed collectible version of a song might be the same financially as most of the fans paying $1 to hear the song on iTunes (not that anyone even pays that anymore!)
Among Chloe’s 10,000 fans—maybe there are 100 (1%) who are relatively wealthy compared to the others (even if they hide it beneath their hipster hoodies). Because of the Pareto principle, these one hundred people are probably vastly more affluent on average than Chloe’s other 9,900 fans are. This 1% has money to burn—as the 1% usually does. But before nifties, there wasn’t an easy way for Chloe to provide this 1% with an exciting way for them to invest in Chloe’s career—as equity or revenue-sharing deals in an artist’s work or career are notoriously tricky and sketchy.
Now, with nifties, there is an easy way for Chloe’s relatively wealthier fans to invest in (or “bet” on) the growth of Chloe’s career: buying scarce digital collectibles representing important points in Chloe’s artistic development. Chloe gets the money now to develop her career. And if her career grows the way she, her fans, and her patrons hope, then her renown will grow. And if her renown grows, the value of her early-career collectibles goes up, rewarding the early investments (or bets) of her patrons. It’s a classic example of “buy low” (when the artist isn’t as famous) and “sell high” (when the artist becomes more famous). And the rest of Chloe’s fans, who didn’t have the means to invest, benefit as well when Chloe has more resources to create more art. It’s a win-win for Chloe and for all those who believe in her career.
This model of patrons investing in (or betting on) the careers of young artists has always existed in the world of painting, sculpture, and fine art photography. There, the patronage model works because the objects these creators make are non-fungible. If you buy a painting or signed photograph by an artist you love, you now own a scarce collectible that will go up in value significantly if the artist’s career develops as you hope it does.
Part of the thrill of art collecting is the bragging rights of “I saw their potential first.” Saying you were one of the first to discover an artist, believe in her, and see her long-term potential is a massive mark of prestige and status among the developing fandom for that artist. Investing in young artists is a way to prove to the world your visionary taste and prescience. (7)
What’s more, your financial investment helps that vision come about. Additionally, as a patron, you can further support the development of your beloved artist (plus the value of your investment in their work) by “evangelizing” for that artist’s career; the history of art is full of examples of collector-evangelists who played a critical role in artists’ stories.
But this tried-and-true model in painting, sculpture, and fine art photography breaks down for any art form that does not produce non-fungible artifacts. Musicians, actors, performance artists, installation artists, conceptual artists, video artists, digital artists, comedians, writers, poets, playwrights, and thinkers (8) (whose writing is mass-published and therefore not scarce) have historically had a difficult time attracting the same kind of patron-collectors that painters and sculptors have—because there’s nothing to collect.
Nifties open up a whole new world of patronage for all kinds of artists and creators, not just those who create scarce non-fungible physical objects. With infinite reproducibility and zero materiality, digitized creativity has become something of a “public good”—a product or service that provides value to many, but which is severely undervalued financially by society, because it’s hard to charge people for it. Because it is undervalued, less of it gets made than otherwise might, because it’s hard to make a living making it.
Nifties allow digitized arts to remain public goods for most people—freely and infinitely reproducible—while granting the creator the capacity to digitally sign a limited number of these copies, which are scarce and non-fungible. These copies are in fact exclusive—and exclusivity is where the money is made.
Why would a fan with means shell out megabucks to buy a copy of an artwork, song, piece of writing, performance video, etc., that they can access for free? Because they’re buying the signed copy. The one the creator deems original and authentic. The one to which the creator has given their blessing.
In other words, they’re buying the one version that the creator has expended their energy and attention to create (as opposed to a distributor making a million copies). Thus, it has somehow been a part of the creator’s story. At one specific moment in time, the artist created it, just like Duchamp created Fountain (and the replicas) at specific moments in time that were important plot points in the artist’s story.
Nifties marry art to one of the major features of blockchain: publicly verifiable, immutable timestamping. When you buy a nifty, you are buying a scarce, verifiable digital representation of a specific plot point in the artist’s evolving storyline. Your storyline intersects with and is forever linked to the creator’s storyline through that one immutable timestamp on the blockchain. And your story even helps the artist’s story develop, through the resources you are providing the artist. (Also, smart contracts allow—for the first time in history—artists to receive percentages of secondary market sales of their scarce objects. Thus with nifties, even secondary buyers are now supporting the artist’s career.)
Nifties are like getting your favorite musician’s autograph on your favorite album, except the musician will only ever sign one copy of that album (as opposed to thousands). Imagine if you owned a signed copy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, or Sticky Fingers, or Dark Side of the Moon—and it was the only copy of that album the artist ever signed. What’s more, imagine if you had paid the artist for that singular signed copy when the artist was up-and-coming, at a time when the money actually helped them develop as an artist? You are now a part of that artist’s story forever. And, as we’ve seen, people will pay to be a part of amazing stories.
What else is more valuable than being part of a story you cherish?
B.NFT. – A.NFT.
One way to look at the history of human creativity is through sea-changes in technology available to artists. Of course, technology does not necessarily improve the quality of the art being made, but it certainly changes the economics of being an artist, as well as the types of art being made and the way it is disseminated.
In music, there was a pre-recording era, a pre-radio era, a pre-digital era, and a pre-Internet era. In writing, there was a pre-printing-press era and a pre-Internet era. In acting, there was a pre-motion-picture era, and a pre-television era. In visual art, there was a pre-photography era—etc.
I believe that for all arts, by 2030 we will come to see that there was a pre-NFT era, and a post-NFT era. Call it B.NFT. and A.NFT
Again, I’m not saying that nifties will necessarily improve art itself. (There is already an overabundance of meager NFT art being made.) But I am saying that nifties will bring about an epochal change in how art and creativity are funded—mostly for the better. (9)
Nifties allow fans to own a piece of history. Because the history of nifties is in its infancy, and because nifties will be seen in a decade or less as one of the most consequential technologies in the history of creative expression—on the level of the Internet—that means that everyone who gets involved in nifties now is a historical pioneer. It’s like being early to the printing press, or photography, or recorded music, or motion pictures, or video. It’s like being early to the Internet, circa 1992, or to cryptocurrency circa 2010.
I was late to the cryptocurrency game—I bought my first piece of bitcoin in early 2021. As with many people, I didn’t really “get it,” and it seemed kind of sketchy to me. Thus I missed out on one of the greatest decade-long booms in history. Even now, I’m not that passionate about the financial aspects of crypto, though I am saving in bitcoin rather than fiat and expect it to do well.
My experience learning about NFTs was entirely different. Because I had already been writing and thinking about narrative wealth, I instantly grokked NFTs. Within an hour of reading about them, I had a “conversion” flash, similar to the religious-like conversion people describe from the early days of Bitcoin. I immediately knew that NFTs will change the world, and will become a central part of my own narrative arc—and my narrative wealth.
Ultimately, humans are non-fungible. A human who is important to you is most definitely not interchangeable with any other human.
In contrast, most of our financial wealth is fungible: one ounce of gold is as good as another, one dollar is as good as another, one bitcoin is as good as another. (One frequent exception is owning a home. Living in a house can create deep sentimental value. Nonetheless, we also often treat houses as purely financial assets, tradeable for better ones when the opportunity arises.)
The divergence between our fungible investing (in which the traded assets often have little narrative meaning) and our non-fungible life (in which much of the value stems from narratives) can give finance and investing an alienating feel. In our lives, the people we care about are non-fungible, forming unique and irreplaceable parts of our life story; these people and stories are the sources of our narrative wealth. But the dollars (and bitcoin) we try to bring into our lives through much of our careers and investing are the opposite of unique—they are fungible, devoid of character, flavor, or personality. They’re just lifeless numbers.
Nifties allow for financial value and investing to align with the most essential part of being a human: the stories we tell. On a scale unprecedented in history, nifties give creators the opportunity to convert stories into wealth.
Join me in this adventure: the adventure of the artist as alchemist. Let’s transmute our stories into gold, together.
Daemon Derriere Lips.Social
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[Daemon Derriere is the erotic filmmaker/performer persona of author Michael Ellsberg. This piece was originally published on Ellsberg’s site
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(1) v 1.0, March 10, 2021. (v 1.0 first published as an NFT March 7, 2021.) Any corrections, updates, or additions to this Introduction will be posted here.
(2) I shared a version of the Duchamp and Manzoni stories above in my 2016 book The Last Safe Investment (co-authored with Bryan Franklin).
(3) I coined the term “narrative wealth” in a 2013 draft for The Last Safe Investment. I first published the term in a 2017 telling of the Duchamp and Manzoni stories. All of this was before I had ever heard of NFTs. When I first learned of NFTs recently, I instantly “grokked” them, as it was clear to me that NFTs were a continuation of Duchamp’s artistic alchemy into the digital age. It was technological love at first sight; I knew that I wanted to dive into this developing technology and movement.
(4) In fact, buying and owning the object that is part of history can make the owner part of that history too, as provenance is often part of the artwork’s story, legend, and valuation; this is particularly true with collectors/patrons of early-career artists, who are sometimes more well-known in the art world than the early-career artists, and whose taste and curation forms a part of the artists’ growing renown.
In addition, sometimes the purchase of an artist’s work for an eye-popping sum can make the buyer part of the object’s public history via news stories about the purchase. Hedge fund founder Ken Griffin made headlines around the world when he bought Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Boy and Dog in Johnnypump for an eye-popping $100 million+.
(5) This is different than with buying new products. When someone buys a new product, and the seller has inventory of dozens of the same product with the same features, the products are usually fungible to the buyer; one is as good as another.
Also, there are degrees of non-fungibility; it’s a spectrum more than an absolutel. Used cars, for example,usually don’t have a lot of sentimental or narrative value attached to them (unless they are antique or artfully customized); the Kelley Blue Book lists their values, and these values hold for most market participants. Thus, while non-fungible to some degree, used cars’ non-fungibility has to do almost exclusively with the condition of the product.
(6) Oxford Languages.
(7) Profit and wealth are ubiquitous drives in human experience–but I believe status is even more ubiquitous. Some may not seek it, but the actions of even many of those who claim not to belie their claims of humility: notice how many spiritual masters preach egolessness, in front of thousands of adoring fans, and with their names and photos plastered large on their very books in which they preach egolessness. I believe the vast majority of people are engaged in some sort of status game or another, which I wrote about in my 2011 Forbes.com article “Are the Status Games You’re Playing Helping or Hurting You?”
While some people want money just to indulge in extreme consumerism privately, the proportion of people chasing after inconspicuous consumption is a fraction of those chasing after the conspicuous kind. This suggests that in most cases, lusting after wealth is actually an instance of lusting after status.
You can never go wrong betting on the status-seeking behavior of humans. The challenge for status-seekers is, the biggest and most coveted status pyramids–wealth and political power–are already occupied and well-defended at the top. Currently, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are battling it out for world’s richest person. (Some say that award may go to Vladimir Putin, but he’s not forthcoming with his finances. If Satoshi Nakamoto is an individual and still alive, or if someone else has the keys for that million-bitcoin wallet Satoshi stashed, and if bitcoin goes up to $1 million as many bulls predict, then anyone who controls that address could become the world’s first trillionaire.)
In the political power status game, you have to be the president of the U.S. or perhaps the chairman of the Chinese Communist Party to win the mantle of “world’s most politically-powerful person.” Below that, there are regional status prizes for wealth and political power: “Richest person in…” “Governor of…” etc. But overall, it’s hard to win status games for wealth and political power; far more humans want to compete in and win status games than there are slots for winners.
That’s why humans are constantly inventing new and often exotic status games to compete in. “Most X,” “First Y,” “Best Z,” “Original A,” “Winner of B,” “Fastest C.” Fill in the variables, no matter how provincial or obscure, and people are competing for it. (My favorite example is competitive eating. Can’t be the world’s richest person? Become the person who can eat the most hot dogs in the shortest amount of time instead. Not quite as prestigious, but at least it’s still prestigious among other competitive eaters. There’s now even an International Federation of Competitive Eating, which organizes Major Leage Eating competitions.)
Nifties allow for fans of any artist or celebrity to compete for status within that fiefdom of fandom. “The only person to own the nifty of X important moment in Y creator’s career.” Don’t underestimate how strong of a motivating force such status competitions are among die-hard fandoms.
(8) If you’re a theoretical scientist, and not interested in turning your ideas into patentable tech—you’re just in it for the ideas—how could you attract a patron-investor? Before NFTs, you had to rely on rich patrons’ generosity–whether individuals, universities, or governments. With NFTs, you can rely on their taste for wealth—which, among rich patrons, is more reliable.
Imagine NFTs were around in the early 20th century. And imagine if Einstein had, when submitting “E = mc2” for scientific publication, also emblazoned it on an NFT. Would $1 million invested in that NFT (in 1905 dollars) have been a good investment? How much would that scarce digital collectible be worth in 2021? Probably north of $100 million. Why not let patrons collect the work of scientists and thinkers just like they do the work of painters?
(9) There will be downsides too. For balance, I will be talking about them in this manifesto. One obvious downside is that it is annoying to see super-rich celebrities getting even more rich; there’s never been a more powerful means of monetizing celebrity. I do think, however, that nifties will provide far more opportunity for artists with moderate-level fame to fund their careers than has ever existed before. There will also be more opportunity for up-and-comers to gain crucial early investments (or “bets”) from early believer who see the vision of the artist becoming big–and who support that vision in coming to fruition.