NFTs: A Movement for Crypto Enthusiasts or Artists? 

Pavel Matveev

CEO & Co-founder of Wirex


Over the past year, crypto popularity has continued to grow steadily, but interest in NFTs has skyrocketed, with Collins dictionary naming it 2021’s word of the year. Despite their popularity, many still question what an NFT is, and this confusion has become more pronounced as NFTs have started to transition from core-crypto circles to mainstream audiences.

What’s become evident is that the NFT space is no longer exclusively for crypto enthusiasts, but has utility for other groups too. For artists, NFT technology represents a sea of possibilities, most notably the ability to ‘copyright’ their work, allowing the creator to decide the owner of the file, as well as giving buyers the guarantee that they own a unique digital asset.

With plenty of art on the market, it can be difficult for artists to be truly recognised and properly compensated for their work, and this is even more true when it comes to female artists. The NFT space presents a unique opportunity, and new marketplace, where artists can not only be recognised for their work and gain new fans, but the space also represents a new avenue for income.

With 2022 predicted to be the year that NFTs go mainstream, this begs the question whether this will be the year we see artists truly claim the NFT space as their own, or whether NFTs will continue to be a space purely for core-crypto fans?

Movement for core crypto enthusiasts

NFTs originated from within the crypto community, and arguably still have a majority core crypto fan base, given that NFTs live on the blockchain and are purchased using different cryptocurrencies, most notably, Ethereum. The first NFT was created in August 2015, long before crypto had started making waves with mainstream audiences, but even up until the start of 2021, NFTs were virtually unknown in popular culture, particularly as many didn’t understand what they were.

When you say ‘NFT’ (non-fungible token), most people’s minds think of an online image. But NFTs can come in many different forms, whether it’s graphic design, music or even a digital house. Put simply, an NFT is a unique token that’s governed by smart contracts and lives on the blockchain. Currencies, including cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, are fungible which means that one Bitcoin is always going to be worth exactly the same as another Bitcoin. This isn’t the case with NFTs which are non-fungible, essentially making each NFT one-of-a-kind.

Many believe that in order to get involved, it’s essential to understand the technicalities and nuances of how the blockchain works. For this reason, this space has typically attracted crypto enthusiasts who want to build a community with other like-minded people – those who are passionate about crypto. One of the most notable communities is the Bored Ape Yacht Club, where owning a Bored Ape NFT acts as your ticket into the club and gives holders certain perks.

While growing NFT communities may be seen as entry into the crypto space for a wider audience, in reality, crypto is still seen as inaccessible to ordinary consumers. This is a trend that has been seen more widely in the finance sector, with many feeling excluded due to the overcomplication of language and the lack of diversity within the space. The crypto space especially has a longstanding reputation of being male dominated. This has slowly started to change with companies making an active effort to make highlight female achievements in the sector, but there’s still a way to go before crypto and now NFTs become mainstream-friendly.

Movement for artists

The NFT space could also present a huge opportunity for artists as well. It’s no secret that the majority of artists trying to break into the art world are usually under-compensated for their time and work. However, NFTs could offer an extra market where artists are able to achieve recognition for their talent and be rewarded for their work, all while capitalising on the benefits of blockchain technology such as copyright protection and proof of ownership.

Arguably, NFTs first hit the mainstream around a year ago, when Christie’s sold Beeple’s digital artwork, “Everyday The First 5000 Days”. Reaching a record-breaking $69 million, it became the most expensive piece of art sold online and not only made international headlines, but also thrust the blockchain space into the mainstream as audiences began to explore NFTs in more detail. Since then, the art scene has continued to evolve, with Beeple saying the sale changed his life, which has been the case for many others too. Other artists have spoken about struggling financially before exploring the NFT space, which has allowed them to be compensated and recognised for their work in a way that wasn’t previously possible.

Major publications like Vogue have already explored how female artists have been carving out a space for themselves in the NFT community, and A-list celebrities including Reese Witherspoon have partnered with NFT communities in order to support rising female artists. Other companies have also been making an active effort to highlight female led NFT communities and artists, with campaigns on International Women’s Day and spanning beyond. With the crypto scene still being perceived as male-dominated, the NFT space has a unique opportunity to even the gap as female artists move into the space and make it their own.

This mainstream media attention suggests that not only is crypto becoming less of a niche interest, but in fact may be changing focus to place a bigger emphasis on artists rather than core crypto enthusiasts. The blockchain technology merely acts in the background as the mechanism by which these pieces of art can be bought, sold, and collected, but the real draw to the space for many is the opportunity to exhibit their artwork and forge a space for artists.

The crypto space is shifting

Crypto originally started out as a very niche interest that was inaccessible to the majority of people around the world, but the past few years have seen a dramatic change in crypto popularity and mainstream use. People are starting to see crypto as more than just a method for speculation and payments, it’s a foundation of a new type of economy and culture.

Before the meteoric rise of NFT popularity, the space was undoubtedly seen as something that existed purely for hardcore crypto fans, but celebrity endorsement, as well as technical advances to make the space more inclusive have allowed all types of buyers, sellers and creators to get involved. NFTs may have started out as a space exclusively for crypto enthusiasts, but there’s no doubt that the space today has attracted different types of people, who don’t necessarily need to understand the technical workings of blockchain in order to participate in and benefit from the movement.

As the space continues to involve, it may open up to different types of creators and collaborators. For now, there’s no doubt that the scene has started to move away from core crypto fans and has been adopted by artists looking for a way to be better represented in the artistic world.