SXSW: NFTs and Blockchain Are a Focus

Blockonomics is a decentralized and permissionless bitcoin payment solution

Dolly Parton is preparing for her first NFT drop and a web3 live performance at SXSW, the place dozens of crypto-focused panels cowl subjects like “Breaking the Blockchain Boys Membership” and “How NFTs Are Altering the World.” Prime-level sponsors embody Fox’s Blockchain Artistic Labs, which has its emblem plastered throughout Austin; it sits proper subsequent to that of the world’s Tenth-largest firm, Volkswagen.

The blockchain devoted have reimagined SXSW as a sort of IRL coming-out occasion, concentrating on the various group of attendees at one of many largest in-person U.S. occasions within the final two years. Everybody from tech CEOs to TikTok influencers have participated in panels and descended on lavish model activations to listen to the unified message that blockchain is the longer term.

Then there’s a smaller group: The naysayers who articulate a place much like the chief of India’s central financial institution, which labeled crypto a Ponzi scheme. At SXSW, that motion’s chief is… actor Ben McKenzie, who took to the occasion’s largest stage Sunday afternoon within the newest cease in his crypto-takedown tour. It’s Ryan from “The O.C.” in opposition to a worldwide venture backed by Parton and the Murdochs.



“Numbers don’t go up perpetually, even in manipulated markets. This stuff do occur in bubbles, traditionally talking,” McKenzie stated in a SXSW Live Studio interview, evaluating crypto marketplaces to specious funding autos like penny shares and micro-cap shares. “They burst. Bubbles don’t slowly deflate.”


The place a lot of the blockchain fervor at SXSW focuses on NFTs, McKenzie’s fundamental combat is in opposition to cryptocurrency. NFTs and cryptocurrency are intrinsically linked by their shared system of decentralized transaction ledgers. You may have NFTs with out crypto, however the overwhelming majority of NFT transactions are accomplished with cryptocurrency on networks whose major focus is managing crypto transactions. (Any confusion, McKenzie says, is the system’s intention.)

Ben McKenzie

Chris Lindahl

A number of the earliest (and present) supporters of cryptocurrency indulged a sort of cyberpunk, libertarian worldview in crypto’s stateless essence, however the rising adoption and evolution of blockchain networks invited new concepts about how the know-how may very well be used. For artist Kevin McCoy, who created the first NFT again in 2014, it was utilizing a contract on the Namecoin blockchain to certify possession of a chunk of digital artwork, quite than an quantity of cryptocurrency.

“The purpose of it is vitally a lot the identical purpose that we see now, which is permitting permitting digital artwork to be uniquely own-able, permitting for markets to be arrange round that with a with an eye fixed towards serving to artists with provenance and serving to artists with earning profits,” McCoy advised IndieWire. “The thought of an NFT is way broader than that. It may be used for lots of various issues: membership, or figuring out a neighborhood. It may be used to convey the fitting to be concerned in distribution, the fitting to gather royalties.”

That second half is the main focus of Fox’s Blockchain Artistic Labs, which was based final Could. “You may’t simply consider it as simply NFTs,” stated Fox Corp. chairman and CEO Lachlan Murdoch at a Morgan Stanley convention final week. “It’s actually how blockchain is going to change the economics and the distribution fashions for individuals within the years forward.”

On Saturday afternoon, the BCL Home was stuffed with pageant goers indulging in free booze, tacos, and NFTs. Dominating the house had been floor-to-ceiling video partitions displaying NFT paintings on the market in an online marketplace created only for SXSW. Across the nook was a sequence of screens the place attendees lined up for the possibility to sit down down and take heed to a rotating playlist of songs. When every track ended, guests might add a free NFT of the observe to their crypto wallets — a fancy job for the uninitiated. Fortunately, a pleasant lab coat-clad staffer was readily available to help in onboarding for the web3 future.

BCL CEO Scott Greenberg advised IndieWire that SXSW was the right place to go public along with his firm’s efforts over the past yr.

“We’re much less fascinated by collectibles,” he stated. “We’re rather more fascinated by how will we get mainstream adoption, have mainstream audiences perceive what it means to personal a digital asset and what it means for digital possession in a digital world. After which how will we disintermediate the connection between audiences and creators. Should you’re a filmmaker at SXSW, we’re going to provide the instruments at no cost to strive it. It’s a secure place to drop an NFT, a secure place to play, low stakes.”

BCL’s partnerships on the pageant embody WWE, an occasion with Parton that may see the singer promote NFTs and stream a live performance on the blockchain March 18, an open name to filmmakers to show their film posters into NFTs, and the chance for different artists to promote NFT items in BCL’s market.

Amongst those that took up BCL’s provide was James Freeman-Turner, AKA musician Hēran Soun, who’s promoting a series of pieces he created on a California highway journey. They embody scanned high-contrast, nighttime photographs shot on medium-format movie accompanied with fragments of his brief tales, poems, and track lyrics.

Freeman-Turner’s items are priced at an affordable $25-$300. Examine that to one thing just like the $250,000 Bored Ape Yacht Membership NFTs, which assist perpetuate the dominant narrative that NFTs are an funding automobile. Freeman-Turner’s first piece bought minutes after it was made accessible, with the proceeds promptly delivered to his digital pockets.

“There’s an actual alternative for not pricing NFTs at an unheard-of sum of money and making them sensible and usable,” he stated. “Proper now, I feel NFTs are somewhat too centered on ‘What can I get out of this possession on a financial stage?’ What I favored about every part that occurred over this weekend with BCL, every part was priced in a approach that allowed consumers to deal with the artwork itself.”

BCL’s market resolved one other barrier for consumers: You should use a bank card to purchase NFTs. Sometimes, consumers are required to purchase cryptocurrency by an change like Coinbase, join the digital pockets that holds that crypto to an NFT market, and conduct the transaction.

Permitting bank cards, one thing that different NFT brokers have begun to supply, spotlight the excellence between cryptocurrency and different makes use of for blockchain know-how. For those who view blockchain because the gateway into the subsequent iteration of the net, it’s all concerning the potential for the know-how to energy decentralized good contracts that may very well be used for every part from medical information and identification to live performance tickets.

“That is only the start,” Greenberg stated. “If this can be a baseball sport, we’re nonetheless in batting observe. The sport hasn’t began but. Our view is that is the way forward for content material distribution.”

Crypto critic McKenzie takes concern with that. He questions whether or not the “plumbing” created to energy a cryptocurrency system can be utilized for what appears to be noble goals — or even when blockchain is one of the simplest ways to handle them.

McKenzie, who holds a B.A. in economics and overseas affairs from the College of Virginia, says cryptocurrency shouldn’t be a foreign money; it’s an unregulated safety. And he questions the utility of NFTs, controversially described as nothing greater than JPEGs traded inside an simply manipulated market. “It’s much like a Ponzi, a multilevel advertising scheme,” McKenzie stated. “I’ve heard crypto described as ‘Mary Kay for males,’ which — uh-oh! — that’s going to set off some individuals. Gonna get some tweets about that.”

Draft research from Cornell professor Lin William Cong discovered that a mean of 70 % of cryptocurrency transactions are what’s generally known as “wash buying and selling” the place an investor repeatedly sells and repurchases property to artificially inflate market quantity. The observe has been unlawful in U.S. inventory exchanges because the Nice Melancholy, however is unrestricted within the unregulated cryptocurrency markets.

On Sunday, McKenzie was joined on stage by Vice tech and crypto journalist Edward Ongweso in addition to The New Republic journalist Jacob Silverman. McKenzie and Silverman are the coauthors of the upcoming “Simple Cash,” a guide that may query crypto and study its penalties. In latest months, the pair printed a lot of articles in Slate and The New Republic laying out their arguments in opposition to crypto together with its environmental prices and inspecting the celebrity-shill circuit that’s delivered authorized hassle for Floyd Mayweather, DJ Khaled, and Kim Kardashian.

“If a celeb is shilling the product — shilling being our favourite phrase on this business — whether or not it’s footwear, or a sweater, a automotive, a trip, or insurance coverage, you perceive the phrases of what you’re getting,” Silverman stated. “Additionally once you purchase the merchandise or service you’re most likely not going to lose cash in consequence. You’re inviting individuals to tackle threat that they don’t essentially absolutely perceive, by no fault of their very own, as a result of there’s no disclosure on this business.”

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