Transcription: UniqArt Exclusive Interview with NEAR Philippines

Hey all! NEAR Philippines is back with another episode. This time we have the people over at another NFT marketplace popping up for NEAR up and coming projects as well marketplace that is “By the Artist for the Artist”. We have the co-founder with us Shubham Semwal.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me on. Thank you for the introduction, as Andy already told you, I am the co-founder of UniqArt. Our mission is to bring music NFTs to the mainstream. And we basically chose to develop on near protocol. And we’ve been working for around six months now. And we’re really thankful for all the support we’ve got from near we got the near education grant. And a little bit of background about me, I am also a singer, songwriter, and producer. I’ve been doing that for a very long time, I was one of the top singer-songwriters in India on Spotify in 2021. So I knew that for a long time. So I’ve been doing that for a very long time. And then I kind of figured out that, you know, this is not this, this is not how it’s gonna work. Artists will always keep getting, you know, exploited, or there are other things. So I stumbled upon blockchain as a way to sort of liberate artists and bring back freedom. And that’s how we came up. Basically, I came up with the tagline, you know, by the artists for the artists, because I felt that, you know, that since I’m an artist myself, so I, I kind of understand the pain that you know, all of us artists go through. And that’s basically when we started doing art. And I’ve been working really hard for the past few months. And we hope the launch goes well. And all of you come on board.

Host: Wow. So top artists, from top artists from India to crypto enthusiasts.

Q: Why did you decide to build on NEAR Protocol?

I have a very, very simple answer for that. See, you know, people like me, who don’t really have a lot of experience in blockchain or on building or on developing, right. So building something about NFTs or the NFT marketplace is an idea I had for a very long time. But I never really got the amount of support or the team or the funds, things like that. And then I just came across NEAR Team I got to know about all these programs they’re running. And then I got introduced to the near India team. And I talked to them, and I told them what I wanted to do. And that’s basically how it happened. Because like, you know, it’s NEAR, NEAR Team made it happen.

Host: Have you tried exploring other ones before deciding that near is going to be…

Speaker: Yeah, of course. See, see it as I told you, I was kind of exploring this whole NFT space by myself almost from the early times of 2021. So I did talk to a few of the Indian people that I kind of knew through the industry who work for working in NFT and other things or, or they had the marketplaces or some projects. So honestly didn’t really get a very great response. Because I feel a lot of L ones are already at that spot wherein they don’t really need like somebody really knew to come and start working for them. So so I feel that’s that that’s what I really liked about Nia that they were very, very inclusive. And they honestly didn’t care that, okay, this person doesn’t really have a developing background. But, his idea is good. But what he wants to do is great, and we can help him find the right people, and then he can just leave them. So that’s basically what I wanted to do. And it kind of happened with NEAR.

Host: Yeah. All right. And so here you are your products, your project, and launching in a few hours.

Speaker: Yeah, of course. I’m really excited about that.

Q: What is UniqArt?

Speaker: Basically, what we’re trying to build is, you know, an NFT marketplace. That’s, that’s, that’s a little bit focused on on the music side of it, because, of course, I have a little bias since I’m a musician, myself. And I also feel that music kind of got left behind when it happened because we all saw that in the past few years. You know, digital art really, really took off and there are multiple projects built around with lots and illustrations and paintings and photography and whatnot. But I still feel like that revolution hasn’t happened for music yet. And, and I feel it will happen sooner or later. Somebody has to make it happen. So we are trying to make it happen. And that’s pretty much the philosophy behind UniqArt And I kind of have a little bit of a pitch that I prepared. If you want to go through that, please do share it with us. This is a little bit about the feeling card, that it’s, it’s a markup language designed specifically for artists. And you know that our whole goal is to how we can make the most important NFTs in the whole NFT space, which is the artist, and how we can give, you know, the spotlight on the artists. And we’re planning a lot of things around that, like custom landing pages and things like that, which don’t really happen in a lot of other NFT marketplaces. So we’re trying to kind of create, just like we have Spotify profiles for artists, were kind of trying to create that, like an added layer on top of the marketplace, the marketplace will have a very similar kind of structure as all the marketplaces have, that it’s linked to your wallet, and it shows your creation, your collection. But other than that, we also want to have a top layer with that something similar to like a Spotify profile, where it will show everything, but the artists are called, especially the musicians and all their songs. And, yeah, a basic about what our goals are at UniqArt, you know, mostly to spread awareness. Because we are still know-how, you know, people aren’t really that aware of NFTs I mean, there is this whole niche of people who are involved in the crypto space or who are involved in the NFT space. Of course, they do know about this. But what we also have to understand and IPL. One of the other marketplaces has to do with is that you have to onboard people who haven’t come to web three yet. So that is one of the biggest goals that we’ve kept for ourselves at UniqArt is to you know, onboard the next 1 million people to web three, you know, and that can only be done when we onboard new artists and their fans. And that is the whole plan with UniqArt. And, of course, the next plan is also to support and guide artists, right. So first spread awareness about NFTs to guide artists because most of the new artists, don’t really know what they can do with NFT what it has to offer, and all the things that they can leverage. Honestly, I feel marketplaces like us are technology enablers that we created the technology for the artists, but it’s also part of our responsibility to support them and to guide them and to tell them what exactly they can do with this technology that now we can provide it to them. And lastly, lastly, one of the most important things which I feel everybody is trying to do in that three is to build a great community. And, and our main focus is a lot on the indie community because I feel you know, now, I feel there are millions of independent artists all across the globe. If we take them, I’m pretty sure they’re like millions of independent photographers, videographers, musicians, and illustrators. So it’s all about building community. For us. That’s what we want to do at UniqArt. And a bit of the service that we’re trying to provide, you know, education, brand promotion, onboarding, you know, sophisticated UI, UX marketplace, decentralized crowdfunding, that is something that we really want to position.

A huge interest in, you know, platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo platforms like that. So so many artists, and you know, even filmmakers are resorting to crowdfunding to fund their projects. But we all know that crowdfunding projects take a very huge cut, it’s generally around 8% or 10%, in some cases, even around 12 to 15%. And we all know, when you come to an NFT marketplace, the cut is almost nonexistent. I mean, at UniqArt, we’ve cut we’ve kept the percentage only 2%. So that’s been added to our plan. Yeah. So so the plan to keep it 2% is because you want to make this scalable, right, as I already told you, our plan is to onboard the next million people. So when you’re planning to onboard a million people, we’re not planning to keep a 10% or 15% percentage, like some NFT marketplaces, you know that that do have a high percentage because their business model is a little different. They want to concentrate more on premium collections and they want to sort of you know, keep a gate and not let a lot of people mint and things like that. So I feel every marketplace comes with a different vision. So when it comes to me my vision is to keep it as decentralized as possible. We do not want to prevent anyone from coming and using the technology and creating NFT. So that’s why we’ve also kept the piece at its lowest.

Host: So really nice motive we got there. 2% is pretty low.

Speaker: I think that’s, that’s, that’s the lowest I think we can go with you can’t go lower than that.

So, yeah, this is just some things about what we would need from artists if any artists are watching this. It’s very basic, I think you already pretty much know the kind of things you need. When you’re making an NFT. The plan of action. For the artists, I think, again, pretty much all of you know how this is a basic upload form. They basically tried to keep it very simple. Anybody can come and meet here. Yeah, pretty much. That’s it. Thanks. It’s just a little bit about the platform you’re building. And other than this, we have a little video, I’d like to play this video for you. Oh, hold on. Just just just telling me if you hear the sound, I think I have my airport on. So maybe there might be a problem. Just tell me if you can hear it. Okay, you can proceed. That’s it? Little basic, about the website.

Host: Oh, this is your website? Okay. Yeah,

Speaker: This is the demo. So I thought we could just go around here. And we’re actually doing a lot of UI UX changes, they will be pushed out very soon. So it’s a pretty basic website, because that was the plan behind this to you know, not complicated, much. Keep it very simple. The UX, anybody can come and explore, basic tabs will read about you. And just click on this, you go to your profile, we also have some changes planned for the profile, we want to make it more like a social media. As I said, that is something we’re already working on. And we’re pretty much this shows, you know how almost every NFT marketplace works, collections, creations, collectibles, the basics, the homepage, we have a program running. So if anybody’s watching, you can go and participate. On the main net, we have some programs, the artist is coming up. It’s kind of unrevealed. And then we also have some bug bounty. This public election stopped by or you know, a lot of very basic stuff, but our main priority was on making sure that you know, the smart contract is well written. And your blockchain development part is what takes a lot of time. I feel. And so that is, that was our first priority to make sure that it worked really well because I think we all know, recently a marketplace launched on near and on the day of its launch, there was kind of a, you know, hack on it. So and it’s very common, you know, DeFi platforms and a few platforms. Hackers are just sitting to find some sort of, you know, the vulnerability in your code and exploit it. So that was our biggest concern at the start to make sure that the, you know, everything is well written. And there are, there are no loopholes. So, yeah, now we’re pretty good confident about that. And now we’ve moved to the next stage, which is working on the UI UX. And we’ve already put out a lot of changes. It’s already looking very better than what we started with. And we’re just basic about the website. It’s very easy to create anything you can create collections can create a card if you want to. I have some random things I keep uploading In addition to check it out this basic form, you can create, and you’re pretty much done. It’s easy. And one of the things which are kind of unique about our platform, as I said, we’re a little bit focused on music is like, we have to have this little Claire that we’ve made, and we are working on making it better. And we’re also actively working on making the loading speeds better because right now we’re loading all of our information directly from IPFS. So it does take a little time to load. But yeah, that is that this is pretty basic about the website, you should definitely check it out. But also live on the Main net. And if you want to mint, you can just apply for verification. And I’ll make sure we get your application as soon as we can.

Host: Oh, okay. So let’s say I was interested in musicians that artists would like to apply on your website. Is there a whitelisting process? For this? Do I have to submit an application?

Speaker: Or Yeah, so right now? Yeah, right now we basically have a basic form, anybody who wants to make or upload on the platform needs to fill that out. And the reason we’ve kept with that we’ve just started and we did on, you know, a lot of spam or people just come and start meeting any sorts of things on the website. So, so, so our plan was initially, at least for the first one or two months, you plan to have this form before anybody can come in and meet with you, as I told you, the long-term plan is decentralization. So we’ll definitely be removed by a maximum of two months. Once we are up and running, and we have a healthy, vibrant community and there are people on the platform, then we’ll definitely remove it, then, you know, anybody can come and start minting then we’ll just move to the artist verification system.

Host: All right. Pretty excited about this new platform coming up. Because like, as I mentioned, previously, you know, a lot of our local community is looking for greener pastures. Yeah, of course. Okay. Yeah, you get the point. So, right. And now, especially, you’re targeting musicians, right? Can you say people who make songs, artists? Maybe just a question that they might want to address. So I’m just bringing it upright. Now, let’s say I meant like, my own songs, right? On your platform, let’s say 50 copies of that. So there’s anyone to buy that, you know, one copy of your song, did they own that piece? Or do they own the rights, any technicalities that you can share regarding that? I think that also,

Speaker: Of course, see whenever you’re selling and other free, whatever technicalities or whatever, you know, all of these questions are always answered by the person who is selling the art, it’s very similar to when you’re selling PFP, there are some projects that are just selling you a PFP, some are telling you that you can keep the rights of this, you can probably make merchandise around. So it’s pretty similar to music, NFT’s as well. For some, if you’re keeping the price really, really low, which is what I’m actually telling a lot of artists to do, is because I’m what I’m trying to tell them is think of NFTs as CD sales. Exactly. So if somebody buys your CD, they have basically the supporting event. In today’s day and age, nobody listens to CDs, but there are people who are still buying CDs because they want to support the artists. And that is a feeling that you want to tap. Right? So buying NFTs, it’s a really low price entity. It’s kind of like buying a CD, they just want to support you, right? But you can also keep different kinds of NFTs you up, you can give higher prices, NFT’s that might come with some merchandise that might come with a ticket to your show, or that might come with a percentage of your royalty. So that is up to the imagination of the artists, as I said that we are technology enablers, we’ve created the technology, how are you planning to use it is totally up to you. But of course, we’re there to guide you whether to tell you what can be done. And that is one. One thing that I feel we want to do differently than other marketplaces because what I’ve seen is the majority of marketplaces I feel like marketplaces are being run by projects after a while. Right like, like the core team or the marketplace team isn’t really involved after a while. It’s like they’re just handling the tech and the market. But But But all the ideation all the marketing is kind of being done by the projects that are running on the marketplace. And that is something I feel I want to do differently personally because I feel like I want to keep working with all these musicians with all these artists that come then have that personal connection with them, keep talking to them that yeah, you know, this is something you should try maybe this, this is something you should try or maybe these artists from probably from your upline and did this he, he made this NFT and he did like 100 passes, and then he called those 100 people to a show and then they came up and you know, things like that, I mean, the possibilities are limitless when it comes to music. Because I feel there is this, you know, digital and physical combination, that is possible. And I feel more and more people are actively exploring it. And that is what we all should be planning to do.

Host: Thank you for sharing those thoughts with us to run really, you know, these, what you’re sharing with us and all these plans for your platform is really something that I feel given, given enough time and you know, enough love can cultivate.

Speaker: Love and support. Exactly, love and support. And that is the thing I say on all my posts on all my calls that I just need two things, all of your love and support.

Host: Exactly. So with enough love and support, I feel that this unique art can be really something special. And especially for your target audience, specifically the musicians, the songwriters, and the audio, thank you for sharing with us your interesting platform. And if you have many options, you know, and coming plans or updates for us in the future, we would really love to hear them. Maybe we can schedule something with you again down the line and of course, once you have officially launched.

Speaker: So basically the launch is today. And where we are we’re doing the launch event. There is this really famous singer in India, his name is SINGGA. And so we talked to him we have him on board, he is entering the Nearverse, as we are saying it not the meta was the Nearverse. So he’s entering the Nearverse with us. And that is kind of like our marketing plan for the next few months. We want to onboard as many major artists as possible in the near words. And we are having we basically created a few NFTs around them, we have a 3d avatar. His next song is coming out on the 25th. So he’ll be dropping his song exclusively as an NFT 2 days before it’s released. So if you want to listen to the song, you can come and buy it as an NFT and you can listen to that. So that is another really amazing release plan that I’ve kind of come up with, open for all artists, all of you should try this every time you come up with a new song, try to release it as an NFT like two days or three days before and then ask your fans if they won’t listen to it. They can go they can buy it. And only if they buy it, they are able to listen to it. And that is something we have done to add to the cart that only after they buy the NFT would they be able to play it. So that’s really nice. So that is the plan for the next two weeks. We have this whole launch week planned with this really amazing singer. Other than that we also have a lot of indie artists from all across the globe, they will be dropping the NFTs. And then we’re also in talks with other people in the music industry. And we’ll keep having these amazing drops for the next few months. So definitely come check us out. And hoping to have you all there.

Host: You’d love to see it. Thank you so much for sharing with us what UniqArt is. We’re looking forward to seeing what this marketplace brings to the table, especially for the music industry. And so happy to have you. Thank you for taking the time to have this interview with us really appreciate you being here and shedding some light on what this NFT marketplace is going to do for NEAR.

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