Tips from CAM Faculty on Selling NFTs (a Quick Start Guide)
NFTs may very well be the future for all kinds of art forms going forward. Here's what you need to know to get started.Megan Briggs | College of Arts & Media Feb 1, 2022
Whether you are looking into selling NFT 3d art, music, or some other form of a non-fungible token (NFT) on the blockchain, you are not alone. The world of NFTs is new and rapidly evolving, and the amount of information on the internet about NFTs is as numerous as the amount of cat gifs for sale on OpenSea. Fortunately, at the College of Arts & Media (CAM) we have a few faculty and staff members who are diving into the world of cryptocurrency and NFT 3d art in particular, and they have passed on their insight about this new and exciting market.
The Pros and Cons of NFT 3D Art, Music, etc.
First of all, why should you care about things like the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and NFT art in the first place? According to Michael Levin, a BitCoin analyst and former Google employee, cryptocurrency is a technology that has been adopted faster than any other technology on record. Levin writes, “In just 12 years, Bitcoin has grown to 135M users worldwide with an adoption rate faster than that of the internet, mobile phones, or virtual banking tools (i.e. PayPal) over comparable time periods.” Some experts are projecting that cryptocurrency will become mainstream in a matter of several years. The rise of cryptocurrency will inevitably lead to the rise in NFTs as well.
As Digital Design professor Travis Vermilye points out, one of the advantages of NFTs is that some of the barriers for artists looking to sell their art have been removed. Literally anyone can “mint” a piece of NFT 3d art and sell it on one of the open platforms like OpenSea. There are no museum curators, no gatekeepers on these platforms deciding whose art is worthy of gallery space and whose is not. Of course, there are some platforms, like SuperRare, that are invitation only. Additionally, Vermilye says, compared to displaying art in a gallery, the reach of the art is much broader on NFT platforms. Anyone can see the NFT 3d art he has created, for instance, but not everyone has the ability (or the desire) to walk into a gallery. Vermilye is attempting to bring the two worlds together, however, by incorporating his NFT work into his gallery exhibitions. A current show, BOUND, consists of physical pieces that simultaneously exist in the digital realm as augmented reality experiences and as NFT digital artworks.
The open nature of many NFT art platforms is both a pro and a con, as Music & Entertainment Industry Studies (MEIS) faculty member Jeff Merkel sees it. He compares the current climate on these platforms to the early days of YouTube, when the amount of quality video on the platform was quite low compared to the bevy of amateur content. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t quality art on these open platforms, of course, but it does mean that high quality art is in close proximity to art created by people who only just decided to be artists…yesterday.
But just because cryptocurrency and NFTs are becoming increasingly popular and the barrier to entry is lower than more traditional avenues available to artists, there are some drawbacks. The sustainability (or lack thereof) factor being one of the bigger ones. Ethereum, which is the main cryptocurrency used to buy and sell NFT art, requires an incredible amount of physical energy to produce, or “mine” as the terminology goes. This is something the creators of Ethereum are addressing via the long-awaited roll out of Ethereum 2.0, which will utilize “proof of stake” instead of “proof of work”, which is what requires so much energy. (If you don’t know what these terms mean, check out the further reading section below.) In the meantime, though, some artists, like Vermilye, do things like donate a portion of the sales of their NFTs to conservation organizations in an effort to offset the environmental impact Ethereum has.
Quick Start Guide to Selling NFTs
Now that we’ve covered some of the things to consider when determining if and how to sell your art as an NFT, let’s get into some of the basic steps for launching your art:
- Sit down and read (or watch) everything you can about NFTs, cryptocurrency, and the blockchain. Vermilye says he spent a considerable amount of time researching this new market before he dove into selling his first piece of art. There is a lot to learn here and it’s not exactly intuitive, so take your time and check out the further reading section included below.
- Get a cryptocurrency wallet – A cryptocurrency wallet stores both the public and private keys you will need to buy and sell Ethereum. Merkel recommends Metamask because it can store both Ethereum and NFTs in one place.
- Select a platform - OpenSea, Rarible, NiftyGateway, and SuperRare are all platforms that allow for the buying and selling of NFTs. Vermilye recommends listing something on OpenSea to get experience before you get too deep into the rabbit hole of the “big players” where really expensive art is exchanged or where you need an invitation to sell.
- Purchase some cryptocurrency – Depending on the platform you choose, you will need to purchase some cryptocurrency to start selling your art. For instance, many platforms accept ether (as in Ethereum), which is required to pay for a variety of service fees (called “gas”). Since ether is a volatile currency that fluctuates in value from one minute to the next, the amount you will need to cover these service fees will fluctuate. (More on this in the next step)
- Mint your NFT – Minting your NFT is the process by which you add your piece of art, music, or video to the blockchain. Some platforms let you decide if you want to offer your piece at auction or sell for a fixed price. Until recently, artists needed to plan to spend anywhere from $50-500 to mint an NFT using Ethereum. Now, however, some platforms have introduced a “lazy minting” option that doesn’t place the artwork on the blockchain until the piece has been purchased, at which time the seller covers the fees associated with minting. This may or may not be an option depending on the platform you choose. Keep in mind, though, that if you mint your NFT up front, it is going to take money, and the bigger the file, the more money it will cost to add it.
- Promote your work – The hustle doesn’t end once you mint your first piece of work. Just like anything else you are trying to sell, you will need to promote your work wherever and whenever you can.
One last and very important tip comes from Vermilye: Don’t forget about taxes. You will need to account for any sales you make in cryptocurrency just like you would any other kind of income. Keep this in mind when you sell a piece of art.