In 2019 I was invited to a strange website called MakersPlace.com
On my first inspection, I didn’t fully understand what I was looking at.
The website seemed fairly young, and there was some fantastic art up on the site already - as well as sales here and there - but MakersPlace was built on a weird premise:
MakersPlace.com is a crypto art marketplace, where creators can sell their digital art as limited editions using blockchain technology.
Blockchain is the same technology that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin function with.
At the time, I didn't think people would get on board with this, and actually treat digital art like a scarce and valuable collector item - so my mind moved on to pursuing different things.
But recently I realised I was wrong, and my opinion has done a complete 180. Now, I am in complete support of crypto art and actively pursuing building my presence in that space
If you are a digital artist, I think you should also be looking at these crypto art platforms very seriously - they might be the future of your career.
What is crypto art?
Crypto art is digital artwork that is published directly onto a blockchain, at which point is basically 'assigned' to a unique token.
Just as with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum, this makes it possible to prove the ownership of the token and thus the artwork assigned to it - and then that ownership can be sold between collectors.
Crypto art essentially allows an artist to publish individual digital files, such as .jpgs, to a crypto art market, declare them to be the 'originals', and therefore charge a premium for them.
Other jpgs and files that haven't been published to the blockchain can be proven to not be part of the originals, as they don't have a token.
Now, the important part is that just because an artist says a particular .jpg is worth more, doesn't mean it actually is.....unless there are customers that agree.
And right now, they really agree.
Do people buy crypto art?
When I looked at MakersPlace.com in 2019, I would have said that there aren't enough people buying crypto art for it to be worth pursuing.
But I recently read the news that popular digital artist Beeple sold some crypto art for millions of dollars.
So of course I took another look at MakersPlace after ignoring it for over a year, and wow, things had really changed.
As I write this in December 2020, I can safely say that yes, people buy crypto art.
In fact, some people buy a whole lot of crypto art - some people seem to be snapping up as much art as they can, with hundreds of pieces in their collections already.
Digging into the whole crypto art scene, I found many more markets and websites than I realised existed, and loads of successful crypto artists making legitimate incomes on these platforms.
It's honestly been mindblowing to investigate.
Most of these platforms only allow payment in cryptocurrency, but some also accept credit and debit cards.
How much money are crypto artists making?
There are loads of artists making substantial money on these marketplaces - thousands of dollars per piece is pretty common - but here are some artists who stand out:
1. Kitty Bast
I've found Kitty Bast's work on pretty much every single crypto art platform I've investigated - she's everywhere!
She also seems to be doing very well with crypto art:
At this point she's made tens of thousands of dollars, possibly hundreds - and from what I can tell, she didn't have a big audience on social media or anything like that - all of her sales are from growing her presence within the crypto art scene.
2. Peter Mohrbacher
I wanted to mention Peter as he's already popular on social media and his digital paintings are very recognisable.
He's been on MakersPlace for a few years, but as far as I can tell didn't put much effort into the crypto art scene, probably for the same reasons as me.
Well he also noticed that the crypto art scene had grown, and so recently released a duo of digital paintings on MakersPlace - one of which was an edition of 100 for $10 each, and the other an edition of 1 being sold as an auction.
All of Pete's edition of 100 sold out in mere hours. The edition of 1 sold for $2758 - not bad for someone who hasn't built their presence in the crypto market!
I've seen work by much less well known crypto artists sell for a lot more, but I bet Pete's pretty happy - he has been building his brand for a few years but it hasn't been toward selling crypto art.
Imagine if he decides to focus and push his brand toward the crypto art market, what kind of prices will he command?
When I started writing this article, I wasn't going to be part of this list as I hadn't sold any crypto art yet.
But while writing this article, I published my first piece on MakersPlace.com as a limited edition of 10, priced at roughly $250 per edition - and sold one within 24 hours!
I didn't do any outside promotion or anything. The buyer had already purchased some of Peter Mohrbacher's editions recently, and graciously purchased one of mine too!
I've also received more offers for my art since!
Needless to say, getting sales so fast has me very excited about the crypto art space.
But there's something even more exciting that I haven't mentioned yet:
Most crypto art platforms pay royalties!
This is important, so let me explain the interesting royalty system that many of these platforms have, as they are extremely generous to the original creator and it increases their potential income quite a lot:
On many crypto art markets, in addition to an 85% cut of the initial sale of the art, the artist also gets a 10% royalty on all future sales of that artwork.
So for example, if you initially sell a piece to a buyer for $1000, you get $850.
If the buyer then sells it a week later to a collector for $2000, you get 10%, so $200.
If that collector sells it on in a year for $10000, you get another 10%, which is $1000.
And this applies for every sale, of every edition, of each piece of crypto art you publish, all compounding on top of each other, possibly forever.
You get 10% commission every single time a piece of your art resells - for as long as the blockchain and market exists, each piece of crypto art has the potential to generate an income without you.
Here's some proof of these royalties in action:
I was browsing the discord community for one of the crypto art markets and came across an artist, JPOpperman, exclaiming he had received his first royalties for a resale on one of the marketplaces of the piece below:
He sold the above piece of crypto art for the equivalent of around $324 - then the next day the buyer resold it for $985.
Now, if it was a traditional painting, the original artist wouldn't receive any kind of royalty for the resale - but this is crypto art, so the artist received 10%, which was $98.50.
Almost $100 extra, in the next 24 hours, without any extra work on his part! This is a passive income opportunity that digital artists could only dream of just 5 years ago.
Going back to Peter Mohrbacher and his edition of 100 that sold out - imagine the royalties Peter will be able to generate if he releases a painting or 2 a month and his buyers continue to snap up and resell his work - after a couple of years what kind of passive income from royalties will he be making?
If you continually work on creating more crypto art and building your brand as an artist, through the value of your art increasing over time and your older pieces being resold, your crypto art royalty income could become big enough to provide a full-time income on its own.
This is a potentially life-altering system.
How to get started with Crypto Art
If you've read this far, hopefully you see the potential of this new market and you might be wondering if your work would suit these platforms.
Who should try selling crypto art?
At this point I've had a look around a lot of the crypto art scene, and I've found art of all kinds, made by artists of all kinds of skill levels.
Browsing the crypto art discord communities only confirms my thoughts, as some artists admit only recently making their very first piece of digital art!
There are no requirements for skill level and quality, no requirements for a certain amount of followers on social media, etc.
You don't even need to understand why someone would buy a limited edition piece of crypto art - you are not your customer, so don't let that stop you.
Instead, all of the platforms currently have a simple application process, in which they hand-pick a few artists from those who apply every month.
With that in mind, I think that all digital artists should at least apply to the main marketplaces - if you're making digital art and putting it online somewhere, you already have the skillset and qualifications needed to start selling crypto art.
Of course, having a higher skill level and a larger social media presence would probably increase your chances of being picked, but they aren't a requirement right now so everyone should be trying to get on board.
It has to be noted that all of these platforms pay artists in cryptocurrency - ethereum, to be exact.
If you aren't familiar with ethereum, I wouldn't let that stop you from jumping in to this. Apply to these platforms first and if one accepts you, then go and learn about how to use ethereum.
How to apply to the main crypto art platforms
There are many platforms out there already, but as someone who is pretty new to the crypto art space, I would recommend the 3 following markets - they are large and relatively easy to understand compared to some of the crazy crypto stuff out there!
They all have application processes with a waiting time of around a month - if you apply and aren't accepted within a month, apply again with some different art.
I'm personally only present on MakersPlace, but I'm putting in applications for the other 2.
From what I can tell, SuperRare is considered one of the most important crypto art markets and has sold pieces for some very big numbers.
The artist gets 85% of the sale of a piece of art on SuperRare, and 10% royalties on resales.
You can currently only sell editions of 1 on SuperRare, unlike the next 2 markets where you can have multiple editions per piece of artwork.
If you want to apply, here's SuperRare's artist application form.
KnownOrigin is also really respected within the crypto art space, just behind SuperRare.
The artist gets 85% of the sale of a piece of art, but KnownOrigin doesn't offer any resale royalties.
On the upside, you can sell multiple editions per piece of artwork here.
MakersPlace doesn't seem to have the reputation of the other 2 yet, but it's growing and accepts credit cards as payment, unlike the others which only use ethereum - much more friendly to newcomers!
The artist gets 85% of the sale of a piece of art on MakersPlace, and 10% of any resales.
You can sell editions of any size on MakersPlace, just like KnownOrigin.
The application is to get a decent impression of your art and your social media presence, but I don't think this is because they are looking for professional artists with large followings.
There are plenty of amateurs on these markets, with no real social media following to speak of.
Instead, I think they want to check that you are devoted to building your career as an artist, and aren't just someone looking for the next get-rich-quick scheme.
All of these platforms are also run by very small teams, so it normally takes up to a month to be accepted. If you don't get an acceptance email after a month, try applying again with some different art.
Publishing art once you are accepted to a crypto art market
I have only been accepted onto MakersPlace at the time of writing, but from what I've read SuperRare and KnownOrigin have similar processes.
When you upload some art and publish it to the blockchain (called 'minting') there is a fee to interact with the ethereum blockchain, and unfortunately publishing a piece of crypto art also incurs this fee:
This fee fluctuates throughout the day - I paid around $14 for each of my pieces of art to be published, but I've seen it go as high as $90 so far.
MakersPlace will pay this fee for you, but only once it drops below a specific number - the ethereum blockchain is extremely busy recently so it hasn't been dropping below that threshold.
This situation will probably change - I know MakersPlace are currently trialing taking the fee out of the artists cut when the art sells, instead of paying upfront.
In the meantime, if you're happy to pay the fee yourself here is a website you can use to check the current fee fluctuations
Each piece of art should be exclusive to 1 crypto platform to protect it's rarity, and only minted once - don't upload the same piece to multiple markets or mint it again, you'll undermine the trust of your collectors.
Sharing the art around social media and on sites like ArtStation is fine though, it doesn't undermine the value of the minted version to show the art elsewhere - the more popular a piece of art becomes on the internet, the more valuable and desirable the minted version becomes!
What might crypto art mean for digital artists?
The tricky thing about selling digital art has always been that you have to put it on some sort of product - perhaps as part of a comic, or print it as limited edition prints, or put it on a mug or a t-shirt.
The only exception so far has been private commissions and freelance, but even then the companies you work for are planning to make your digital art part of a bigger product like a film or game.
It's not common to sell and keep digital art just as it is - except now, with crypto art!
Digital art sells as-is on crypto art platforms, so if you are already making digital art, you already have products made. The crypto art market is wide open for you!
Just like traditional artists can make a career of selling their original paintings, this adds that avenue for digital artists. It levels the playing field completely.
This might open up a whole 'fine art' market for digital art and allow more flexibility around art style
Because digital artists have historically been making art for products, our standards around what our digital art should look like have been quite rigid.
Digital artists deliberately work hard on their fundamentals and steer their art style towards what's required by the product they want to work with - maybe that's trying to make their art look like manga, or like a League of Legends splash illustration, or a Magic the Gathering card.
This throws those style standards out of the window - in crypto art, an artist only has to satisfy the desires of their collectors.
If crypto art catches on, expect a lot more people to deviate from the common styles of digital art and even from art fundamentals, and explore their own personal vision.
Unless blockchain technology proves somehow flawed one day, and the whole concept of digital scarcity falls apart, I have absolutely no doubt this is going to have a big impact on digital artists and the digital art industry.
I don't want to make this look like an easy way to sell your digital art - the same as if you were an oil painter, just putting art up for sale doesn't mean you will sell it.
You don't need to understand why crypto art has value and why a collector would buy it, but you do need to learn how to set your art apart from everyone elses to be able to sell it.
Personally, in case crypto art doesn't work out long-term I'm going to assume that I wont sell any more art on these platforms, and make art as I normally would.
But I'm also going to work my very hardest to put my art on these platforms and sell it anyway, because if crypto art sticks around and I manage to establish myself in the market early, it might have life-changing consequences.
Give it a shot.