Four months ago we launched MakersPlace to the public featuring only a handful of digital artists like Art with Flo, Dania Strong aka Twirble and Mauro Gatti who were intrigued by the possibility that blockchain technology could not only help protect their digital work but also provide a new way to sell their digital artwork. We’re excited that in just a few months we’ve been able to help hundreds of digital creators upload their first limited edition digital works onto the blockchain and go on to sell their digital creations to fans and collectors.
Blockchain… Getting Past the Noise
Blockchains have been increasingly associated with scams and “shitcoins”, and no Floyd Mayweather and DJ Khaled aren’t crypto-geniuses after all. Here at MakersPlace, we’ve always been excited about the underlying technology behind blockchains as a solution to a real problem for creators. We believe that blockchain technology has the potential to profoundly impact the value exchange of digital creations.
In an increasingly digital and online world, it’s simply the norm that anything digital will be copied and shared. This isn’t always a bad thing, in fact, for billions of people, instant access to their favorite photo, song or video is a good thing. However, ask a creator and they’ll tell a different story, a story of their work being stolen and their work not being valued. Just ask someone how much they’d pay for a digital copy of a photo they saw on Instagram. I’m sure many wouldn’t be able to grasp what that means. Why would they buy something that can be copied and viewed by anyone? What’s special about their copy?
“Product innovation needs to be 10x better than the current prevailing way.” — Ben Horowitz of A16Z
Venture capitalist Ben Horowitz coined the adage that a product or experience that’s only marginally better won’t be good enough for people to adopt it, it needs to be 10x better. Today, there are a number of mechanisms like DRM (Digital Rights Management) and Creative Commons that aim to control the illegal use of a digital creation in order to capture its full value. However, these solutions don’t effectively change how you actually value that digital creation, especially if you know you can obtain a free version just as easily. If something can easily be obtained for free, most will believe that it should be free— it’s basic supply and demand at play.
10x Solution (Ownership, Authenticity and Scarcity)
We believe the 10x solution to capturing the full value of a digital creation requires getting to the root of the issue — changing people’s perceived value of the creation. Let's see what that means with a digital artwork that was recently sold on MakersPlace.
The artwork below is Coffee in the Garden, a 1 of 7 limited edition digital art piece by Reinhard Schmid. A collector recently purchased edition #1 of 7 for 0.5 Ether (approx. $60 USD). So, why would this individual pay 0.5 Ether for what seems like an image that can be viewed and copied by anyone?
Even though anyone can view and copy the image itself, blockchain technology ensures that only 7 collectors can own the authentic version signed by Reinhard Schmid himself — like a signed and authentic physical print. The signed and authentic Picasso will always be valued more than any replicas. It’s for these reasons and more, that the collector purchased and valued Coffee in the Garden at 0.5 Ether.
If you’d like to learn more about how exactly blockchain makes this possible, we’ve previously written about how blockchain enables ownership, authenticity and scarcity of a digital creation.
Will the Real Blockchain Please Stand Up?
So blockchain technology has the ability to completely change what it means to own and ultimately value a digital creation and we’re already starting to see this on MakersPlace. People are purchasing to truly own digital creations, much like a physical collectible.
That being said, blockchain technologies are still in its early stages and major improvements are needed in a number of areas for it to realize it’s full potential. One important area that we’ve identified early on at MakersPlace is the user experience. What we saw with our earliest creators was that the available tools were confusing and prohibitive to use. Creators forgetting or misplacing their private keys, sending tokens to the wrong addresses, having to install a digital wallet like MetaMask and fill it with Ether in order to upload their creations. To bring the benefits of blockchain technology to the world’s digital creators, things need to be easier.
In order for all creators to realize the benefits of blockchain technology, it’s necessary that they’re not encumbered by any of its complexities. Over the last months we’ve been able to launch a number of features that simplify the user experience, and brings us closer to becoming the easiest way for a digital creator to create and sell their unique creations.
Learning to Walk Before Running — Managed Digital Wallets
Every unique digital creation on a blockchain needs to reside in a digital wallet, and it turns out this is one of the highest-friction barriers to overcome. Self-managed digital wallets are powerful in that you can be sure that everything stored in it is truly yours and affords you full control over its contents. It also means that you take on the full responsibility of managing it, which to the tech-uninitiated is a major burden. What if you misplace or lose your keys? What if you’re on a different computer?
To address this, MakersPlace provides and manages a unique digital wallet for every creator. For all intents and purposes, this wallet is yours. We’ve implemented both industry-standard and propriety procedures to ensure its security so that creators don’t need to. When the day comes where you wish to graduate to a personally-managed digital wallet, you can transfer your creations to that wallet.
A Concierge for the Blockchain
Another major challenge that creators face is with the tools to actually interface with the blockchain. Gas fees? Managing stuck transactions? Accidentally sending your creation to an incompatible wallet address? No creator wants to deal with these issues. Instead, we provide the tools to help interact with the blockchain without having to understand the technical details. We’re able to pass along our expertise in building world-class consumers experiences to our creators.
The World Still Uses Credit Cards
Finally, in order to purchase a digital creation on the blockchain, you need a digital wallet to store the creation and cryptocurrency to pay for it. Unfortunately, the majority of the world doesn’t own a digital wallet or own Ether, making it difficult for creators to sell to their fans and collectors. To solve this, we’ve partnered with Stripe to support credit card payments worldwide. If you don’t own a digital wallet, you can purchase a creation using a credit card and MakersPlace will issue you a digital wallet to store your creation. Once again, when you’re ready to manage your own digital wallet you can transfer your creations to it.
Creators Come First
It’s this creator-first approach that has allowed us to introduce and onboard hundreds of digital creators onto the blockchain over the last months. Many who have never heard of or care to understand the details of blockchain technology, but simply wish for a better solution to protect and make money from their digital creations. There’s still much to be done but we’re excited about the progress so far and our continued mission to empower creators.
If you’re a digital creator and interested in learning more you can sign up for MakersPlace here.
Finally, here are some digital creations by featured creators who were first introduced to selling their digital creations on the blockchain, through MakersPlace.
We understand that it’ll take a community to help blockchain realize its full potential. If you’re passionate about the intersection of blockchain and digital creators we’re hiring!