Posts from art

Sign Everything

The advances in AI over the last year are mind-boggling. I attended a dinner this past week with USV portfolio founders and one who works in education told us that ChatGPT has effectively ended the essay as a way for teachers to assess student progress. It will be easier for a student to prompt ChatGPT to write the essay than to write it themselves.

It is not just language models that are making huge advances. AIs can produce incredible audio and video as well. I am certain that an AI can produce a podcast or video of me saying something I did not say and would not say. I haven’t seen it yet, but it is inevitable.

So what do we do about this world we are living in where content can be created by machines and ascribed to us?

I think we will need to sign everything to signify its validity. When I say sign, I am thinking cryptographically signed, like you sign a transaction in your web3 wallet.

I post my blogs at AVC.com and also at AVC.Mirror.xyz which is a web3 blogging platform that allows me to sign my posts and store them on-chain. This is an attestation at the end of last week’s blog post.

You can see that “author address” and click on it to see that it is one of the various web3 addresses I own/control. That signifies that it was me who posted the blog. It is also stored on-chain on the Arweave blockchain so that the content exists independently of the blogging platform. That is also important to me.

I think AI and Web3 are two sides of the same coin. As machines increasingly do the work that humans used to do, we will need tools to manage our identity and our humanity. Web3 is producing those tools and some of us are already using them to write, tweet/cast, make and collect art, and do a host of other things that machines can also do. Web3 will be the human place to do these things when machines start corrupting the traditional places we do/did these things.

#art#blockchain#bots#crypto#digital collectibles#hacking education#machine learning#non fungible tokens#streaming audio#VC & Technology#Web/Tech#Web3

NFT Art CDMX

We spent this past weekend in Mexico City at Bright Moment’s NFT Art CDMX. Bright Moments is the premier NFT art “gallery” in the world. I use that term in parentheses because Bright Moments is much more than a gallery but that word is well understood. USV is a member of the Bright Moments DAO.

Over the course of the weekend, eleven leading NFT artists minted new generative artworks one by one in minting rooms where the collector and the artist saw the work revealed together.

Because there were eleven artists minting their work and also the 1000 mexican cryptocitizens (called Mexas) being minted all at the same time, there was a “live feed” of all of this minting activity in the center of the space.

Hanging out in the main space and witnessing all of the fantastic art coming to life for the first time in real time and in real life was an amazing experience. We did it for two nights this weekend.

I’ve written before about Bright Moments and the in-person experience of experiencing the creation (minting) of generative art. Too much of the NFT experience for my taste happens online and in isolation.

Art is best when it is experienced by a group of people and displayed in a large format where everyone can appreciate it and discuss it together. When you experience generative NFT art that way, it is an aha moment.

Finally, I want to thank the entire Bright Moments team for putting together an incredible event where the artists were front and center along with their amazing work. I came away from it even more excited about where NFT art is going and what it will become.

#art#blockchain#crypto#non fungible tokens#Web3

Creator Royalties

One of my favorite things about NFTs is that they contain a mechanism for the artist/creator to collect royalties on all of the sales that happen after the initial sale/mint. The creator specifies the royalty percentage when they initially mint the NFT and the NFT marketplaces/smart contracts collect the royalties on future sales and pay them to the creator.

Some forms of creativity have had ongoing economic participation by the creator for many years. In the music industry, there are publishing rights and recorded music rights that are paid to the creator and/or the creator’s financial partners (ie record labels and publishing houses). In the television industry, there are syndication rights. Many of the most successful musicians and television talent have made significant sums of money on these rights.

But for many forms of creativity, the ability to participate in the future value of the work has been absent.

So when I saw the NFT standard emerge, I was really excited about the potential for artists to participate as the value of their work escalates over time.

However, there are clouds on the horizon right now. Some NFT marketplaces have chosen not to enforce NFT creator royalties. There are some valid reasons for this and some not-so-valid reasons.

One valid reason is that “market makers” need very low transaction fees to provide liquidity to a market. A market maker is a participant that trades assets and does not hold them for long-term appreciation. They make money on the spread between where they buy and where they sell. These market makers ensure that there is always a bid on an asset that is being sold and an ask on an asset that is being purchased. Liquidity is essential for markets to work properly and so finding a way for market makers to avoid paying royalties is important. If a creator royalty is 20%, for example, a market maker would either need to underbid by 20% or overprice by 20% in order to break even. That’s not reasonable or feasible.

But there are also less valid reasons. Some newer NFT marketplaces are not enforcing royalties in order to take share from the larger more established NFT marketplaces. While one could argue that is the market working and competition is good for innovation, they are using the NFT creator as a “pawn” in this fight and that really sucks. The NFT creator’s only recourse is to “blacklist” certain NFT marketplaces that won’t enforce royalties and many are reluctant to take that step as it potentially reduces the interest in their work.

Yesterday, OpenSea, the largest established NFT marketplace, partially addressed this issue by announcing a “tool for on-chain enforcement of royalties for new collections.” This will allow NFT creators to require the collection of on-chain royalties when they mint new collections. It is not clear to me whether this tool will only work on OpenSea or if it will work across all NFT marketplaces. Obviously, the latter is the correct approach. OpenSea acknowledged that it does not yet have a good answer for existing NFT collections and is interested in hearing from “the community” on what to do about that.

Another important development in this area comes from USV’s portfolio company Uneven Labs which shipped the Forward Protocol a few weeks ago. The Forward Protocol allows NFT creators to specify that market makers/liquidity providers will not pay royalties on their assets but collectors/long-term holders will. This seems like an incredibly sensible approach and one that the creators and NFT marketplaces should adopt.

Here’s the bottom line for me. A critical part of the NFT innovation is the ability for creators to specify a royalty rate on their work and have it collected in the secondary marketplaces. This is every bit as important an innovation as on-chain art and everything else that comes from the NFT standard. Everyone in the NFT world; creators, marketplaces, collectors, market makers, etc, etc should insist that creator royalties remain a fundamental aspect of NFTs and do whatever is necessary to ensure that happens.

#art#blockchain#crypto#digital collectibles#marketplaces#non fungible tokens#Web3

NFT Screens

I have enjoyed collecting NFT art over the last few years and I have very much wanted to display it in a physical space vs just having it online on a profile, like this one.

So when we started designing the new USV offices last year we started thinking about NFT screens. We were inspired by these amazing NFT screens in the Bright Moments NFT Gallery in Venice Beach California.

So we bought six large displays for the new USV office, three portrait orientation like the photo above and three landscape orientation and hung them around the new USV office. Here are a few photos I’ve taken of the USV NFT screens over the last few months:

Here is how we manage the screens:

We bought Yodecks, one for each screen. A Yodeck is a raspberry pi-based inexpensive device made for the digital signage market but works great as an NFT player.

There is a web app to manage the Yodecks and you can put all kinds of media onto the device. We chose to make a simple web app that runs a playlist of NFTs on each screen and shows the artist, title, and owner on the bottom left and a QR code to view/buy/etc the NFT on the bottom right.

We curate NFTs into a Google Sheet, we use a script to construct a web page playlist from that curated list, and the Yodeck runs the playlist.

It is really simple and works great.

I recommend the larger (4GB) memory Yodecks for displaying rich media NFTs. I also recommend auto refreshing the web app in the Yodeck interface with some frequency to avoid crashed web pages blanking the screens.

My partner Nick wrote the simple web app and we’ve had a lot of fun getting it working well in our office and curating the playlists. Anyone who can fill out a Google Sheet can curate a playlist in our office. So everyone can and does.

Here is the GitHub repository for the web app that Nick wrote.

If you collect NFTs and want to display them in your home, office, gallery, store, or somewhere else, I highly recommend doing some version of what we’ve done. It’s great to showcase digital art on large format screens.

#art#blockchain#digital collectibles

A Visit To The 6529 Museum District

6529 is one of the top NFT collectors in the world and last week he launched the first destination in an Open Metaverse that he is encouraging people to develop along with him.

That destination is the 6529 Museum District and you can visit it here.

When you arrive you will see this map which gives you a sense of what is there right now.

All of these museums are fun to visit, but I particularly recommend:

– Genesis

– Sunshine Square

– Imagined Worlds

– General Assembly

– ACK Bar

I hope you take a stroll through the Museum District this week and if you do, I expect you will enjoy it.

Full Disclosure: USV and I both own interests in many of the NFTs shown in the Museum District.

#AR/VR#art#non fungible tokens

Splitting Ownership and Display/Consumption

I wrote about NFTs last week and said this in that post:

But when a party emerges online that anyone is invited to attend and the 500 person group picks up a punk with a party hat and they all change their social network avatar to this, well that got my attention.

https://avc.com/2021/08/the-opening/

Fractional/collective ownership is something we have been interested in at USV for a while. It fits well with our thesis about expanding access. We have an investment in Otis that is providing fractional ownership for collectibles and NFTs.

But there is an important difference between fractional/collective ownership of physical and digital goods.

When you purchase a share of a 1985 Air Jordan collection, as I did, you can’t showcase it in your home or office. It is shared ownership with many others. So it goes to a gallery or somewhere it can be shown publicly. That’s fine but somehow less satisfying than having it in your home or office for everyone who comes to visit you to see.

Contrast that to what happened with the punk. Everyone who bought it put it on their Twitter avatar. They collectively displayed it on their own digital property.

That is because of an important point my partner Albert made in this post a few months ago.

The underlying misconception here is to think that in the digital world copies are indistinguishable from originals. In a trivial sense this is true. Let’s say you copy a digital artwork, you will now have exactly the same bit sequence as the original. But in a much more profound sense it is not.

https://continuations.com/post/645017712412786688/a-word-on-nfts

What NFTs do for digital art (images/Punks, videos/Top Shots, music, animations, etc, etc) is they separate the concept of ownership and the display and consumption of them. The ownership is on a public secure ledger. The display and consumption of them is out in the open for everyone to see and hear and more.

That’s not something that is easy to wrap your head around but it is profound.

#art#crypto#Film#Games#Music

Digital Art Frames

I have a Samsung Frame in my home office. I think I posted a photo of it here at AVC once before. But for those who did not see that post, here it is:

I’ve had it for something like three years and I change the digital art on it from time to time.

Digital Art has been tricky to purchase and own and the business models around it are a bit challenging.

I think NFTs might change that. If artists can get paid for the “original” or a “limited edition” and then make copies free or near free, then I think the digital art market could explode.

My partner Albert posted about NFTs a week or so ago and made an important point that I think is a bit lost in all of the hype/mania about NFTs right now:

This is what NFTs do for digital content. They let someone assert “I am the Louvre” (for that piece of content).

This is not a fad. It is a fundamental and profound innovation.

https://continuations.com/post/645017712412786688/a-word-on-nfts

Go here and read the entire thing because “the Louvre” is a bit out of context in that quote. His point is that crypto/blockchains allow for someone (or a group) to own the original(s) and everyone else to own copies that are as good as the original.

And that is the kind of thing that could make owning digital frames really awesome.

#art#crypto#non fungible tokens

Digital Art

My friend Seth is an entrepreneur and an artist. I have two of his paintings hanging in my office in NYC. His latest work is taking photographs of the sunset every day at Venice Beach and then training an AI model to turn it into a 30 second video. The work is published in a MP4 video. Therein lies the challenge. Anyone can copy an MP4 video so how does he make this work unique?

He turns it into a “non fungible token” or NFT.

I have written about NFTs a lot here at AVC over the years, most recently on how our portfolio company Dapper has used them to invent a new kind of basketball trading card.

But NFTs are also a very powerful tool for digital artists to bring scarcity/uniqueness to their work. And we are seeing a fair bit of activity starting to happen in and around digital art and NFTs.

Seth minted an NFT of his work and listed it for sale yesterday and then tweeted this out:

I saw that tweet and placed a bid on it this morning. If you would like to do the same, you can do that here (you will need a Metamask wallet holding Ethereum).

There is still some geekiness/wonkiness about digital art NFTs (like needing a Metamask wallet and Ethereum) and I expect that will go away in short order and the experience of buying NFT art will be more like the experience of buying a rare Luka Doncic Holo MMMX card on Top Shot which requires none of that.

Crypto technology has many uses and is absolutely not limited to speculating on meme coins. In fact, the emergence of real utility (vs speculation) is the single most important thing that needs to happen for crypto to live up to its potential (and current market values). I think NFTs and digital art is likely to be an early example of that utility emerging.

#art#crypto