The Secret to Winning The NFT Game: Community Before Art
Beeple made the NFT game seem so easy. First, he experimented with the marketplace NiftyGateway and managed to amass over $66,000 for one (1) artwork. Then his win started gaining traction, diverting collectors’ interest into his work, managing to score a partnership with Christie’s — an influential fine arts auction house that never dabbled into digital art before. Together, they managed to auction off a piece titled “The First 5000 Days” for $69 million. The event is forever etched into art history — a turning point that brought mainstream interest into NFTs.
Today, Beeple continues to auction off his work on Nifty Gateway for big bucks (think millions). While most haven’t heard of this legendary artist outside the keywords “NFT” and “69 million dollars”, he also isn’t an overnight sensation. For the past 13 years, Mike Winkelmann — Beeple in real life — made one digital render a day. His Twitter bio doesn’t lie. While not being the center of over 100 million fans’ attention, he built a community of followers who truly appreciate his work and dedication to the craft.
Beeple put in 13 years of work before getting to where he is now, and NFTs were able to elevate his success a million times over. To put it simply, it’s not an industry that generates one-shot wonders every few minutes. If you want to win the same NFT game, you need to build a foundation: a community.
Beneath The Glamorous World of NFT-Driven Success Stories
Many artists have been able to gain financial traction through NFTs, but what they have in common is recognition. Marketplaces are extremely easy to get into — anyone can create a non-fungible token with a few clicks and some Ether to cover the gas fees. And that’s why the Ethereum network is so congested, resulting in long queues to put files up for sale. A quick look into OpenSea and one fact remains clear: there are too many artworks from aspiring artists minting mass-produced NFTs, and too little collector interest.
Vice documented an artist’s attempt at selling at NFT. They covered the journey of a talented individual who hasn’t delved too deep into the industry and emulated the supposedly “easy” selling process that marketplaces promise — a common narrative that defines the image of today’s aspiring creators. And everything was certainly easy, up until the point of listing. That was when the situation became crystal clear: there were no buyers in sight.
With thousands of NFTs entering the marketplaces daily, collectors have too many options to sift through. Some might do a bit of window shopping, but realistically, there’s no way to guarantee the value of a gif created by Artist X — it’s like comparing a friend’s drawing of a girl with the Mona Lisa. The drawing might be great, but where’s the intrinsic value in it?
How Communities Define The Value of NFTs
Much like how social media influencers can tempt thousands of followers to go on a shopping spree just by wearing a piece of clothing, artists can do the same for their work. Community-building is a crucial aspect in building a brand and influence — and in the world of NFTs, securing these two factors is necessary to stand out against a highly competitive market.
Beeple’s artwork embodies satirical nuances and uses the imagery of political figures and iconic artwork — indirectly making fun of them through digital renders that fit the 21st-century culture. His work has garnered the interest of thousands of people, essentially building a community of collectors who appreciate his work on a personal level and internet folk who enjoy his unique style. He also regularly creates online tutorials, teaching beginners how to use complex rendering software.
Because he spent so many years building his brand and capturing the hearts of an audience through sheer dedication and creativity, Beeple’s work has always had a significantly higher chance at NFT monetization than an unknown artist with no social media presence and no advocates to speak highly about their work. Like how large companies can bloom through tactical community-building, so can individual artists.
In short, you need to build a community of interested collectors to stand a chance at selling high-value NFTs. This mission comes before art because even the most talented artists can’t sell their work when there are no buyers who believe in its value.
How to Build a Community
It all starts with a little bit of courage sprinkled in with a marketing strategy. Personal branding is more important than ever, as people look for familiar cues to identify the storyteller behind each product (in this case, NFTs). For instance, Beeple’s style is so unique that it’s easy to tell it apart from the rest. While it’s not necessary to bring forth only the most iconic pieces your brain can conjure, it helps.
Popular social media platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, are great ways to post your work and engage with your community. More recently, Discord has been a popular platform for creators to interact with their fans — bridging the unfamiliar gap between the two parties. A strategy among artists is to bring in NFT education into their socials, helping their followers understand how these tokens work while symbiotically benefitting from building interest through informative content.
Joining other communities and artist groups also helps with gaining exposure. Fifty thousand followers aren’t generated overnight. For most, that’s a result of years of hard work and active community-building efforts. But if you’re looking to build a practical portfolio out of the NFT hype, then platforms like ESPA offer designers to join their team to create art for use in gaming and fashion. Likewise, you can take advantage of the NFT interest outside the art collecting sphere and target fashion enthusiasts and hobbyists, diversifying your work experience while also finding a community that you resonate with.
Like all other speculative trends, there are no guaranteed wins in the NFT industry. But by gaining recognition through active community participation, artists can generate interest among high-end collectors. Artist Krista Kim sold the first digital house NFT for $500,000, and it was her website and history of influence over a small community that made the sale possible. So it’s not just Beeple who’s doing things right. That means other artists can, too.