Note: A version of this post was first published on Decrypt.
On Tuesday, a financial reporter friend texted me about NFT NYC and asked, "How is it even happening this year when the volume is so low?" On Wednesday, a different reporter asked me if this year's event felt like a shell of what it once was.
Hey, I get it. After the speculative JPEG-flipping bubble of 2021 popped and overall NFT sales volume plummeted, the mocking stories write themselves.
But if you ask me if the scene is dead, the answer is an emphatic no. The manic hype of 2021 has absolutely faded like it was all a fever dream, but NFT NYC events I attended this year had the usual energy, positivity, and idea-sharing I've come to expect from crypto cultural gatherings over the past few years.
Here are just a few things I saw that should excite Web3 builders.
1) 9dcc Treasure Hunt
NFT collector and influencer Gmoney and his Web3 luxury brand 9dcc set up an NFT scavenger hunt with stops across the city. Participants had to hit at least seven different locations from a larger list over the course of three days, checking in at each one by scanning their phones to earn a POAP showing they were there; prizes included a rare Chromie Squiggle. At every party I attended I saw people wearing the 9dcc ballcap they received at the hunt's first stop, and raving about the experience. This is one of many use cases we're seeing for NFTs that are unique, social, marketable, and make actual use of the technology.
2) Jeremy Booth's NFC-chipped Wrangler jacket
The commercial artist Jeremy Booth, a former illustrator at Coinbase, has had a glow-up in the NFT art space thanks to his crisp Western-themed artwork showcased in collections like "Boots" and "Dirt." (His style is already being very blatantly imitated elsewhere.) In time for NFT NYC, he partnered with Wrangler on a custom "Western Art Dept" black denim jacket, adorned with his own cowboy art and embedded with an NFC chip that allowed anyone Jeremy met during the week to scan his sleeve and earn a "proof of friendship" POAP with his art on it. Again: the type of thing NFT skeptics would probably dismiss as a gimmick, but to me it combines original art, fashion, and an IRL experience—all in a way that brought more attention and fans to a digital artist.
3) Bitcoin NFTs toasted at a Bitcoin-themed bar
It wasn't so long ago that NFTs were strictly "an Ethereum thing," and Bitcoin maximalists wanted nothing to do with NFTs. That has changed with the soaring popularity of Ordinals, made possible by Bitcoin's Taproot upgrade last fall. At this happy hour hosted by Trust Machines at PubKey, a Bitcoin-themed bar in Manhattan that opened last year, let's just say I ran into a lot of familiar faces who are loud and influential on Crypto Twitter and who, one year ago, were certainly not talking publicly about NFTs. Now Bitcoiners are buzzing about Taproot Wizards, Bitcoin Apes, and Ordinals on Magic Eden.
4) Web3 sci-fi TV series scores some known names
The veteram TV actor David Bianchi was in town to promote his forthcoming dystopian sci-fi series "RZR," which announced this week it has added Mena Suvari and Danny Trejo to the cast. I ran into David outside SoHo House and he showed me a clip from the show, which is in post-production; it looked very slick. The eight-episode series is truly a Web3-native effort: a live-action series produced by a Web3 company for Web3 release. It will premiere in July on the new streaming platform from Gala Film, a division of Web3 gaming company Gala Games; Bianchi's production company sold NFTs to spur engagement (holders will get access to bonus content); and the plot involves crypto. Bianchi is already in conversations with multiple large streaming platforms about a wider release after the series launches on Gala.
These are just a few memorable moments, but they're reflective of what excites me in Web3 right now: unique use cases of the technology in art, fashion, and entertainment, and in ways that reward artists and creators.