ZOOM: Opportunities and risks? Singapore creators are riding the NFT wave as a new source of income

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NFTs are one-of-a-kind digital tokens that most commonly take the form of art, music, or collectibles. But they can digitally represent any asset, even real-life ones like real estate.

At its heart – proof of ownership that cannot be replicated, as it is secured and verified by blockchain technology.

He discovered the concept after an online art community touted it as the “next thing” for digital artists. So far, that has rung true for him.

More than a year after he began selling his art this way, Mr. Hafiiz has sold over 200 NFTs worth around $150,000. The logistics are also easier than with traditional sales, as digital transactions mean he no longer has to worry about printing and delivery.

When someone resells one of their creations, they also get a share – unheard of in conventional art sales.

Yet the most valuable thing was to find his own tribes. “I’m in a few (artist) communities and we all support each other.”

“And the community with my followers… I give back to them, engage with them, they support me. It’s like a mini ecosystem,” he said.

Mr Hafiiz is among a growing number of Singaporean creators who have entered the NFT space – and found it rewarding in various ways.

Booming Potential of NFTs for Artists

Mass interest in crypto art was sparked in March last year when artist Beeple sold a NFT for US$69 million.

The thirst for such assets has exploded since then, with NFT sales volumes skyrocketing to US$25 billion in 2021 from US$95 million in 2020.

A plethora of players also got in on the action, with luxury fashion brands, newspapers and even celebrities creating their own NFTs.

Attracted by the novelty of the medium and its apparent viability as a source of income in a country where art is often considered a precarious career, more and more local creators are choosing to give NFT a chance.

An online art community founded in Singapore, NFTAAsiagrew to more than 3,300 members within a few months, including people from other countries, said one of its founding members, Jonathan Liu.

“There is definitely an increase (in the number of NFT artists in Singapore)… but slowly, as there is still a high barrier to entry with the need to understand the blockchain and cryptocurrency background.”

Those who overcome these barriers claim that NFTs are disrupting the creative world, for example by allowing any work to be tokenized.

This includes things that “are not usually associated with art,” such as program code, Liu said.

“Game designers, space architects, people who work with 4D cinema, new technology software now have an audience,” added the visual artist and lecturer at LASALLE College of the Arts.

Without guardians of what constitutes art, it also “democratizes” creativity, Hafiiz said. Other benefits include provenance – you can verify the authenticity of a piece as it is linked to the creator.

NOT JUST “IT MONEY”

Receiving post-sale royalties also helps artists make the most of the value chain.

Each time an NFT is resold, the creator automatically receives a portion of the sale price – usually between zero and 10%.

It’s a huge benefit besides being able to track your work, said prominent local artist, Farizwan Fajariknown as Speak Cryptic.

“If you’re selling the old-fashioned way or the traditional way, you may be getting a slice of the gallery and you’ll probably never see it again. With NFTs, you know where the work is, you know who has it, you know how much it is sold on the secondary market and it is more transparent.

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