Listen: Power To The Artists: Exploring Creative Sovereignty In Web3

Listen: Power To The Artists: Exploring Creative Sovereignty In Web3

The overwhelming majority of Web3 creators are independent artists. While this new paradigm provides a level of freedom and autonomy over how to create, price, monetize and own one's artwork, it also generates open-ended questions about how to connect with audiences and build platforms without legacy gatekeepers. Decentralized platforms which remove the top-down hierarchical structures of traditional models are starting to emerge, thereby catalyzing engaged communites of loyal fans. Yet, as Web3 evolves, artists and collectors alike must continually reevaluate how to support this shared vision of a sustainable decentralized future.

Ahead, BFF speaks with artist MJ Ryle, Tellie artist partnerships manager Steph Guerrero and writer and music producer Blaire Michael about artistic sovereignty in Web3.

Edited excerpts:

Q: What made you a Web3 believer, and do you still believe that Web3 has made good on the promise of artistic sovereignty?

Blaire Michael

The legacy structures and how they've developed in this post-capitalist world has all been very much about dilution or like adoption of creatives into being content producers — especially as DIY musicians — and having to constantly please algorithms and do things to make sure that you're maintaining visibility. This detracts or takes away attention from art, right?

I found that all to be really disenchanting and not endearing at all. And so I was thought the promise of Web3 was being able to take back some of the power over your career as a DIY musician, being able to support yourself financially but also being able to build your community from the ground up. Just this idea of decentralization and not having these companies or people with power or a lot of privilege and resources setting the ground rules. That was something that was really interesting to me.

I think as we move forward in this space, there's constantly this drawback towards centralization, back towards hierarchies that are dependent on like singular sources or people who have money, resources and privilege. investors, venture capitalists — all of these people that can kind of set the ground rules through branding through recognition, power, etc. It's constantly redirected back towards the ethos of decentralization. This something that I want to see a lot of work to come back into this new year. I'm looking at artists, like — let's not give our power away so easily just because we think we're in a safe space. Because a lot of these entities are trying to build a brand and a business that they can sell. And at the end of the day, where do we end up at the end with that? So I'm still constantly redirecting back towards the independent creator and giving them the tools and the knowledge that they need to not have to depend on someone else.

Steph Guerrero

I completely agree. I think it felt like artists were in control. We had this narrative. And then, towards the end of the year on the music lane, I feel like this veil started dropping. There were certain assumptions when NFTs were being sold and bought that were not necessarily explicit or laid out. When it comes to music, or even any other type of IP-buying, [NFT sales don't] necessarily include the IP ownership there. I feel like that was the hard part. It was very confusing to people because there were projects that were never explicitly giving away ownership and essentially sovereignty over that piece, but it wasn't clear.

MJ Ryle

It didn't actually click for me until I sold my first piece. I didn't really believe that someone would buy it. It was early 2021. This was before Bored Ape Yacht Club even came out. It just baffled me — a traditional artist who's so used to selling physical paintings — to think that somebody would just want to buy a file. It took me a while to wrap my head around that.

But once it happened, then I really started understanding what was going on. I think for the majority of the artists NFTs were the entry point to crypto. They didn't have cryptocurrency, then they came here for NFTs and inevitably got into the crypto. So it's been quite a learning curve. And I think we've sort of taken this art world and mushed it with the crypto world and that makes this weird hybrid of a beast. And they don't really go together, and I don't think that the technology needs to actually be exclusive to crypto. It is possible to use the technology separate from crypto, and I wonder what that might bring down the line.

Q: What would true decentralization and sovereignty look like, where artists wouldn't have to rely on a centralized platform like OpenSea, where their creator fees are subject to change based on what the platform decides?

MJ Ryle

When it becomes easier for artists to put their own collectibles and NFTs on their own website, that will be a huge step forward. Because right now, there is quite a barrier where you have to have a dev team, and that makes things really complicated. And there's costs involved in that where it's not as easy. So I think when it becomes as easy as starting up a Squarespace website, that would be the dream really, so that you can control and not have to rely on another platform.

I'm also excited about what decentralized social media might look like. There are some of those platforms popping up, too. I'm curious about where that can go so that we don't need to necessarily rely on algorithms. That is what I think a lot of us were trying to get away from when we came to this space, you know, just constantly having to feed that that algorithm and never getting it right. It's so frustrating. I think we're just burned out from it.

Steph Guerrero

I feel like 2023 is going to be the year of no-code solutions. For minting, for building sites, etc. Manifold, of course, is one that people are familiar with. Bonfire again is launching one and of course Tellie. I think that's really going to be the year of these easy solutions, which is great for artists to navigate.

[Editor's note: Due to unexpected changes to Twitter Spaces, our transcription service is temporarily unable to deliver us full audio transcripts. Please bear with us.]

For more insights, listen to the full conversation with MJ, Steph and Blaire.

This is not financial advice. If you don't want to spend money investing in crypto or Web3 — you don’t have to. The intent of this article is to help others educate themselves and learn.

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