Crypto & culture: how are humans shaping the future of money?

Innovators behind NFTs and other blockchain-based vehicles are changing the arts, entertainment, and community.

A growing number of people globally are seeking to make a living through their independent online activity as content creators, gamers, and gig workers. They are using blockchain-based money and assets to seize control of their audience relationships and their income. These digital cultures and subcultures are stress-testing what is possible when it comes to the use of tokens and crypto as money and helping to shape tomorrow’s mainstream use cases. 

In our Demystifying Crypto report, we took a closer look at the implications of cryptocurrency on culture. Here, we break down some of the key findings.

Web 3.0 is a new breeding ground for the creator economy

The creator economy has been seeing huge growth over the last few years. Now encompassing 11% of the working population, and forecast to be worth $455 billion by 2023, it is set to have a huge impact on working culture.

And Web3 will have an influence on this growth returning the ownership of data and content to its users. Consumers will be able to take control of their content and monetize it in a way that works for them. “Individuals can and will become tiny, yet mighty, companies, at scale,” according to Alex Valtingojer, CEO of Coinpanion.

While this trend is on the rise, it is not ubiquitous across consumers. In our sample of 30,000 consumers, 46% of whom were aged between 18 and 35, less than half (44%) feel that they should be able to monetize their global data footprint. That compares to 67% of consumers who hold crypto assets. 

Similarly, 30% of consumers surveyed said they believe that blockchain and Web3 will democratize ownership on the internet compared with 70% of consumers who hold crypto assets who think this. It is possible that crypto could be the gateway to Web3’s wider utility for consumers - a way of learning firsthand just what ‘decentralization’ can mean in practice.

Creators have multiple routes to monetization

“Creators can be as imaginative in the construction of their economic structures and dynamics as they are in the work itself,” said Michelle Vaultier, of Rally.io, a platform for creatives in crypto. “Indeed in some cases, we see the lines between economic engagement and creative engagement blurring quite radically thanks to the flexibility offered by cryptocurrency and NFTs (and their inherent relationship with one another).” For example, Rally.io allows creators to start their own tokens, specifically for their fans. Unlike a subscription, coins allow fans to pick and choose what they get from belonging to the fan community. 

This is just one way that crypto is enabling the creator economy. According to our survey findings, 50% of individuals selling their goods or services via online marketplace platforms would like to be paid in stablecoins, while 14% of online creatives have minted an NFT and 46% of online creatives say their fans and audiences send them cryptocurrencies to support their work. Fans of Grammy award-winning artist RAC can earn $RAC based on their fandom and 3D animator Andrea Oshea sells his rare digital art as NFTs, just two examples of how creators are utilizing the blockchain.

Four key uses of NFTs

While a lot of headline space has been dedicated to NFTs, much less energy has been spent on their utility. Our research demonstrated the multi-faceted utility of NFTs and their potential to unlock significant innovation in Web 3.0 business models.

  1. Key — granting entrance or access rights.
  2. Ticket — granting time-limited entrance or access rights.
  3. Recognition — individual-specific certification or proof.
  4. Collectible — ownership with its own value, for bragging rights.

Some use cases offer this multi-faceted utility in one, like Permies that give owners VIP access to Permissionless 2022, a lifetime Permissionless pass, access to a private discord channel and community-led programming, among other things.

Moreover, a single NFT can have several or all elements built into them or could shift over time. For a range of artists, gamers and creative, these use cases open up the door to a wave of innovation that is only just beginning — there is plenty of room for creativity and innovation.

Gaming: the first burgeoning crypto ecosystem?

Gamers are one of the first groups where a widespread crypto ecosystem has formed. “They live in the future and they are early adopters,” explained Chis Fortier, Chief Product Officer at Rally.io, formerly of Twitch TV. The data back this up: 75% of professional online gamers say they currently hold cryptocurrencies and 56% say the majority of their fans pay them in cryptocurrencies. Notably, 58% of professional gamers say they would rather pay for their goods and services in some form of cryptocurrency than any other payment method. 

This group has a huge incentive to build a community that is Web 3.0 enabled: “They share a digital space, they care more about their digital personas than in some cases their physical ones and they interact with vast communities using digital mediums - if that sounds like the ‘metaverse’ to you it’s just reality and truth for gamers,’ according to our report.

It helps that the gaming industry has thrown its weight behind the crypto cause: 73% of online gaming merchants surveyed say they accept payments in cryptocurrency and a further 20% plan to do so by the end of 2023. Play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity have ballooned in popularity, by reducing customer acquisition costs to zero and attracting billions of users. But regardless of whether or not the gaming brands pay heed, the impressive success of play-to-earn crypto games is an indicator of the potential for blockchain-based technologies to drive new revenue streams for individuals seeking ways of monetizing their digital activity.

Mainstream brands are engaging with NFTs

As crypto has grown outside the remit of institutional support, early adopters have found innovative ways to build business models that work for them. Yet, it cannot be stressed enough that crypto is a fast-moving space. The NFT and other token-based markets are currently feeling the effects of market volatility. And the NFT market is undergoing a much-publicized slump. 

Yet, 57% of the online merchant businesses we surveyed say they have issued NFTs. Big-name brands that have done so include H&M, Nike, Burberry, Budweiser, Coca-Cola and many, many more. Use-cases have ranged from the sale of digital goods (for use in virtual spaces) and loyalty schemes to mere publicity stunts and opportunistic revenue streams. As the very infrastructure (and some of the power balance) of the digital economy shifts with the emergence of Web3 and blockchain technology, merchants will need to add thought and value if they are to stay relevant. 

To find out more about how crypto is influencing culture, and vice versa, download the Demystifying Crypto report here.

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Written on

Apr 29, 2022 by

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Jess Houlgrave

Head of Crypto Strategy, Checkout.com

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