NFTs are boring. NFTs are revolutionary!

Guest Post Series: “NFTs and the (classical) music industry”

This post is part 1 of the series “NFTs and the (classical) music industry”.

Coming soon:

Part 2: “10 Uses in (classical) music for NFTs today
From Imogen Heap to the Dallas Symphony, NFT projects are springing up everywhere. What’s working, what’s not, and where is it all going?
Part 3: “How to build a sheet music NFT with OSMD”
Walk through building, minting, and selling a sheet music NFT using the Open Sheet Music Display kit. 

NFTs may be all the craze, and I truly believe that they signify a fundamental change in the way we interact with the Internet, but they’re not entirely new, and you’ve been using a form of them ever since you got your first computer.

To understand what I mean, exchange the words “Non-Fungible Token” with “Unique Identifier” or “ID”. It’s a valid substitution because NFTs are unique identifiers that are linked to you (your identifier). They just happen to be written onto a decentralized blockchain, whereas other IDs are stored in other types of centralized systems.

It’s all about IDs

What kind of IDs can you think of that we already encounter in real life? Email is one of them, as are telephone numbers. We all have email addresses and phone numbers that “belong to us,” and are globally unique. These “NFTs” are used as the foundation of a wide array of Internet functionality that we now take for granted.

Email, in addition to allowing us to receive messages and file attachments, allows us to sign up for and authenticate ourselves on websites and apps. In fact, using email to establish an identity that is portable across apps and sites is perhaps as significant as the email messages themselves.

But email addresses and telephone numbers have a common drawback when compared to an NFT. Both are leased to you by centralized providers. Your telephone number is bestowed upon you by the grace of the telecoms. You don’t actually own it. Ditto your email. Whatever entity comes after the @ sign, eg @gmail.com, has the power to revoke your email. And even if you have @yourowndomain.com, and you run your own email server, your domain will still come up for auction as soon as you stop paying the renewal bill for its registration.

NFTs in contrast, can’t be taken away from you. There’s no renewal, no annual fee, no central authority that can make the NFT go away or belong to someone else. (footnote – this does depend on the governance model of the blockchain itself, not all NFTs are created equal.)

What about Stoner Cats, Bored Apes, and Crypto Kitties?

Screenshot Bored Ape Yacht Club Page on Open Sea
The Bored Ape Yacht Club Collectibles Page on OpenSea.io

Don’t be fooled by the predominance of NFT “collectibles” that are dominating the news. Stoner Cats, Bored Apes, and Crypto Kitties – these are just the first wave of NFTs, the first implementation pattern. The real magic isn’t in delivering a JPEG via the blockchain, the magic is that the block has your wallet’s address ascribed to it, and that the blockchain can be queried to establish the connection.

People who buy NFTs right now make a digital copy of their ape or kitty and upload it as their Twitter profile picture, proving that there is no actual rarity or scarcity in the jpeg itself. The next logical step is for Twitter to let you connect your wallet (eg. Metamask) and then query the blockchain and let you choose which of your NFTs to use as your profile picture, maybe putting a “Verified NFT” checkmark on it to signify verified ownership.

Connect your wallet

I predict that businesses of all sorts will try to attract customers who have acquired aspirational NFTs by giving them perks for belonging to the club. An ecommerce site today could easily give any member of the Bored Ape Yacht Club a discount on their purchase, because as long as the customer is willing to connect their wallet to the site, the site can establish without doubt that they’re dealing with a true owner.

So the Bored Ape Yacht Club, or the Crypto Kitties, or the Cyber Punks, or LOOT, MLOOT, or BLOOT owners will all start to get offers and incentives aimed directly at them. If you can establish that a site visitor is able to pay enormous sums of money to own a jpeg, you can make wise decisions about how to pamper them, without having to engage in the pernicious spy network of cookie tracking, browser fingerprinting, and “analytics” that is in place now to build a demographic profile. In that way, NFTs will become the most visible bridge between the decentralized world of blockchains, and the centralized websites that we know and use today.

The technology to do this exists today. The Unlock Protocol is one example of a full implementation that lets you sell tickets or set up paywalls by minting NFTs. The use cases are unlimited.

By the time NFTs unleash their full value, they’ll be quite boring. They are incredibly well suited to represent ownership of assets like property deeds, licenses, certificates, passports, diplomas, and much more.

The original wave of now famous NFTs will retain their value, and most likely appreciate, much like an original iPhone still in its unopened box, and for the same reason; both are small, odd, and innocent seeming, but both will change the world we live in forever.

About the Author

Robert Douglass

Robert Douglass is the Executive Producer for Kimiko Ishizaka and Christina Jones, and is the Artistic Director of the Open Goldberg Variations project. As a technologist, he explores the intersection of technology, community, and art. 

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