NFTSYD was not what I expected

What I expected: being surrounded by Zoomer degens and techbros. What I got: Being surrounded by passionate creatives and entrepreneurial thinkers.

NFTSYD was not what I expected

I've shared my opinion on NFTs here:

but tl;dr, I'm quite excited about the space, I'm particularly interested in how they might be used outside of the art world, but I'm a bystander for now.

So I decided to go to NFTSYD to see who else is excited about the space, and to see what I'd learn.

What I expected: being surrounded by Zoomer degens and techbros.

What I got: Being surrounded by passionate creatives and entrepreneurial thinkers. The friendliest people. Average age, I'm gonna say mid to late 30s. Far, far more gender diverse than any tech conference I've been to (PyCon, BSides, YOW, DevOpsTalks Conf, ..).

Everyone was so passionate about something. I loved it.

Here's some takeaways.

Artists are grateful af.

Every artist there was grateful that NFTs have opened the door for greater artistic freedom and expression.


Royalties baked in to smart contracts.

But royalties already exist in our legal system!!
Apparently art sales over $1000 are legally meant to have royalties go back to the original artist anyways, but in practice this is impossible to police and rarely happens. The way you guarantee this happens is to sell art via a gallery. The problem with this is two-fold:

  1. The galleries take a big cut of any sales.
  2. Galleries are curators. They dictate what art is and isn't something they'll showcase. This is something that artists think about before they even begin creating a piece, which limits their artistic range from the get go.

NFTs have allowed artists to guarantee resale royalties via smart contracts, which means they now have the power to create and sell anything they want, directly to their fans.

The artists were all mad excited and grateful about this.

Who are these artists anyways?
Here's two.

A primary school teacher I sat next to, who sells her Procreate sketches via NFTs, was grateful about this. Super wholesome digital art; the ones I saw seemed to be based around nature, family and motherhood.

The DIRECTOR OF VIVID SYDNEY 🤩 (and some "Paris festival of lights", whatever that is), was grateful for how this has made it possible for 3D artists to connect directly with interested parties. Apparently 3D artists have always had a rough time getting accepted by galleries.

Vivid Sydney. Source 

Musicians are creative

The link of NFTs to the music world hasn't been well established yet. I thought this made the panel quite interesting – it felt more like a brainstorming ideas session than anything else.

Some general ideas discussed:

  • how might NFTs be used in the music world? Should they represent a limited collectors item, or should it represent that you bought an album?
  • can an NFT be used to represent music ownership?
  • is there any going back from the Spotify renting music model, to the ownership of albums you like model?
  • can NFTs play a part in music copyright?
  • are NFTs more likely to benefit small independent artists in future, or the big labels?
  • What should independent artists be weary of when the labels do start getting into NFTs?
  • Are the big labels likely to make their own chains?

Enjoyable moment was when I got to ask the panel's opinion on Limewire relaunching as a music NFT marketplace. Reactions were hilarious – a bit of an eyeroll and a bit of hopefulness. Mixed takes, but overall a "we'll wait and see".

Community builders are talented

A recurring theme of the conference was about how to build stable communities that stand around a shared interest or common goal, and stand the test of time, rather than having people (flippers/degens) pop up and leave with the hype cycle.

I want to bring together a community, and everyone doing this uses Discord, but we all know nobody likes Discord. Any better suggestions?
– Audience member

Watching the audience react to the poll, "Okay, raise your hand if you hate discord", and "raise your hand if you love discord", was horrifying. It was a straight 50/50 split. That many people like discord?!?! Disgusting.

Building meaningful, self-sustaining communities is hard, and props to anyone who's done it successfully. This conversation was also done in a bounce-ideas-around way, which I loved.

Ultimately we all want to be in communities that provide value, so the question becomes, how do you provide value to a community? How do you incentivise community members providing value to each other? I'm not trying to sell any NFTs, but a few communities I'm in are dying, so this topic interested me a lot.

Business book recommendations flew around, like "Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook". My to-read list continues to grow.

The Metaverse

It didn't occur to me that the metaverse had anything to do with NFTs, but it was interesting hearing the artists excitement for it.

Physics does not really matter in the metaverse. Fashion designers do not have to worry about whether a dress needs particular straps in weird places to hold it up – there's no rules. Total artistic freedom.

An artist ranted about how mad she gets when she sees buildings with pillars in VR. Physics is not a thing! You don't need structural supports! You are being limited by the real world when this is a totally new play space! Architects don't need those pesky engineers! Bridges don't need actual structural stability - let's go wild! Imaginations run free!

To conclude...

My personal favourite part? Everyone was thriving, in spite of knowing they're so... well, hated. There's no shortage of people who know next to nothing about NFTs, but who will physically gag at even the thought of them. But these creatives and entrepreneurs know they're onto something and are pushing through it because they're so passionate about their industries and goals.

And it was lovely to be around people who are excited about and care about something. 10/10 would go again.