The Art Royalty Revolution

SuperRare Labs Team
SuperRare 💎
Published in
7 min readJul 13, 2021


Introducing Collector Royalties

SuperRare introduced the world to automated artist royalties in 2018, and now we’re introducing another paradigm shift: collector royalties. Starting today, collectors will earn a royalty whenever a qualifying artwork is resold in the secondary market. We believe this will help art markets flourish by further incentivizing collectors to purchase and resell art on SuperRare, creating greater value flows back to artists.

Read on to learn more about the art royalty revolution, and how collector royalties on SuperRare work.

What is a royalty and why are they so important for art?

A ‘royalty’ is a right to future payment streams for the continued use or sale of an asset. This can include copyrighted works, franchises, or natural resources where the distributor of a finished good differs from the original creator/owner. Royalties are a particularly powerful economic construct because they allow for durable, shared ownership of value accrual to multiple parties with distinct skills and interests in an underlying asset.

At SuperRare, we’ve believed since the very beginning that a better royalty system could transform the entire art market. Not only would royalties financially empower artists in ways previously unthinkable, but they could also motivate a specific type of collector — the kind drawn to continuing patronage of the artists whom they collect — knowing that their future promotion and resale of a work will benefit not only themselves, but the original creator as well.

Analog artist royalties

Before the advent of blockchains and smart contracts, art royalties were nearly impossible for artists to collect. In the physical art market, there’s no way to immutably prove an asset has changed hands, no way to prove what price was actually paid, and thus no way to truly tell whether an artist was actually receiving their ‘fair share’. While some jurisdictions like the EU and California have attempted to introduce art royalty schemes in recent years, their legal parameters and enforcement vary greatly. Even under the best of circumstances, lawyers, accountants and collections agencies all get to keep their hands in the till and prohibit the immediacy and transparency of rightful payments.

Enter NFTs and SuperRare

NFTs have been revolutionary in many ways, but maybe none more so than in their unleashing of art royalties. With the tokenization of art via smart contracts it became possible for the first time in history to program royalties around the ownership of a piece of art. Because the piece of art is ‘on-chain’, all of its historical and commercial details are instantly and globally accessible, provably authentic, secure and transparent. In an instant, royalties became possible for digital artists worldwide — and a seismic shift in the global art market became inevitable.

The opportunity this presented — to create a more equitable and sustainable market for living artists, where they are paid realtime royalties the moment a work is re-sold — was central to the creation of SuperRare. We set to work implementing artist royalties immediately from day 1, with the first royalty paid on “AI Generated Nude Portrait #4” by Robbie Barrat within the 1st month of the SuperRare marketplace launching on the Ethereum mainnet. Ever since, artist royalties have been a cornerstone of SuperRare smart contracts and were rapidly adopted as an industry standard for NFT marketplaces everywhere.

Royalties and the Sovereign Artist

The feedback from artists continues to be overwhelming. Stories of waking up to a surprise, overnight payment from an unanticipated secondary sale — previously unheard of — are now commonplace. As are the stories of these payments directly impacting artist livelihoods; enabling so many to not only begin living directly from their art, but actively thriving from continued participation in the rising value of their art. Programatic royalties have enabled a form of passive income for artists unlike anything since the royal patronage of the renaissance era. Except this time around it’s available to all artists rather than a fortunate few and those artists remain self-sovereign, free to follow their own creative inspirations while letting the whole world come to them. Coupled with a 24/7, globally accessible secondary market, royalties have enabled greater flexibility, reliability and durability in artistic careers. In turn, many artists are now able to spend more time developing their creative practice and producing higher quality work instead of suffering the inefficiencies inherent in the analog art market.

Introducing Collector Royalties

Today we’re thrilled to announce the next evolutionary leap: Collector Royalties.

As we continue to witness the transformational impact royalties have had for artists on SuperRare, we’ve become increasingly convinced that the next step in unleashing artistic expression is by making collecting more of a social activity and incentivizing primary and secondary sales.

How Collector Royalties will work

Starting today, any artwork on SuperRare without a prior sale will qualify for the new collector royalty program:

  • Artists will continue to receive their 10% perpetual royalty and be unaffected — other than receiving a higher frequency of royalty payments that we hope results from increased liquidity in secondary markets.
  • The first collector of a qualifying artwork will receive a 1% transaction royalty, paid from the SuperRare network fee, upon completion of the first secondary market transaction to which they are no longer a direct participant (mint sale +2). This royalty will decay by 50% for each subsequent transaction until exhaustion (1% → 0.5% → 0.25% → 0.125% → 0.0625%, etc).
  • The second collector of a qualifying artwork will receive a 0.5% transaction royalty, paid from the SuperRare network fee, upon completion of the first secondary market transaction to which they are no longer a direct participant (mint sale +3). This royalty will decay by 50% for each subsequent transaction until exhaustion (0.5% → 0.25% → 0.125% → 0.0625%, etc).
  • And so on for each collector in the ownership chain of a given work, in an effort to promote primary sales for new + undiscovered artists as well as a healthy secondary market.
  • This program will be implemented initially as a 12mo pilot, during which time we will monitor changes in collector behavior to ensure the program is having its intended effect on marketplace health: increased sale velocity, greater aggregate artist royalty payments, and a more engaging collector experience.
  • As the program may require further modifications based on actual performance, SuperRare will first administer this program off-chain before any automation requiring lengthy contract audits/updates takes place.
  • Royalty payments will be computed monthly and updated in the user dashboard following an analysis of qualifying transactions over the prior 30-day period.
  • We plan to provide a public facing dashboard tracking these payments in order to provide transparency around the program.

Why we believe Collector Royalties are so important

Any marketplace requires a healthy balance between supply and demand in order to continue growing and thriving. For this reason, collectors play a vital role in the health of the SuperRare community — providing critical financial support and nurturing the artistic output of the entire ecosystem. Artists provide the fire, and collectors provide the oxygen.

This is a critical moment for digital art. The last 12 months we’ve seen the whole world take note of the monumental possibilities inherent in NFTs. But the ecosystem still needs more collectors. The vast majority of blockchain enthusiasts, to say nothing of the broad public, still don’t own their first NFT. To dramatically expand the population of NFT owners and continue the mission of bringing digital art to millions, we need to break down the barriers to collecting; address the fear of being first into the wild frontier, address the fear that letting go of a work means your journey with that piece ends forever, incentivize risk taking on unknown artists and their eccentric, unfamiliar forms of expression. And most importantly, to raise the total volume of artist royalties being paid out and permanently transform the global art market.

Fanning the flames

A revolution began when the first artist royalty was coded into the blockchain, immutably, for all time. That spark, hardly noticed at its moment of birth, smoldered until it became a wildfire that swept across an entire industry — redefining what was possible for art + artists in the digital era.

Today, we announce collector royalties with the hope that they will mark a similarly historic moment in the revolution currently sweeping the art world and setting minds ablaze.

💎 Viva la revolution 💎

⚖️ Legal Disclaimer ⚖️

The Collector Royalty program is an experimental and discretionary incentive program developed and administered by SuperRare Labs (the Company behind SuperRare) as a gift to SuperRare users. SuperRare Labs intends on proposing smart contracts at some point in the future to perform aspects of the program after further understanding its economic and behavioral effects on the SuperRare network. User’s ability to participate in the program may depend on or be limited by their individual location, qualified royalty amounts, or other factors determined by SuperRare Labs for purpose of regulatory or legal compliance. SuperRare Labs may modify the terms, procedures, and any details of the program, or cease it altogether, in its sole and absolute discretion. This announcement or subsequent actions regarding this Program does not now or ever create an express or implied contractual entitlement or right to, or interest in, SuperRare network fees, commissions, or NFTs minted on the SuperRare Marketplace.



SuperRare Labs Team
SuperRare 💎

The future of the CryptoArt market — a network governed by artists, collectors and curators 💎