The NFT’s short-lived fad

For many Kenyans like Anthony Wahome, photography has not lived up to their expectations despite being passionate about the art.

Since he discovered photography in high school, he has always wanted to be come a professional and has pursued his passion even though he graduated as a psychologist. 

Although photography is widely embraced by Kenyans especially the youth, most photographers take cents on the dollar for their work. Those who make good money are mostly commissioned by large corporates such as Safaricom PLC.

This makes it a largely competitive field but there’s a lucky few. For anyone joining or already in the industry, to get an edge and come out on top, you need to do things differently and creatively. This means getting ideas that are out of the box and doing things differently. 

Luckily, a growing market was coming into the limelight around 2021. A market where some cheesy cat GIFs would be sold for upwards of $600,000, one where NBA clips of people making dunks would be sold for outrageous prices and one where a digital image known as  ‘Everydays—The First 500 Days’ sold for a whooping $69 million. 

This new market dubbed NFTs took the internet by storm attracting creatives to the possibility of earning their work’s worth or more. NFTs are digital assets, media or files that can’t be replicated and they exist on the blockchain. They have been in existence since 2014 with Kevin McCoy’s Quantum being the first ever. The market wasn’t quite successful in gaining popularity.

However, the story started to change in 2017 when several NFTs were launched on the Ethereum blockchain and soon the world was falling over itself for a piece of the new assets.

When COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, bringing lockdowns and with it a surge in digital connection as workers stayed at home to work remotely. During this pandemic-induced virtual reality, Beeple, a digital artist sold his “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” for cool $69 million in an auction.

Those reasons were good enough to make artists such as Anthony look further into them with the goal of making some good money.  

But as money poured into NFT with crazy valuations, an economic bubble was soon inflated. It would end as abruptly as it began when the Americans started increasing interest rates and ending the supply of easy dollars that had fueled speculative assets such as the NFTs. 

A financial bubble is an economic cycle characterized by rapid increase in the price of an asset to an unsustainable point causing it to burst or contract in value. The bubble had caused some questionable pieces to be sold for outrageous amounts and day by day people wanted a share of the cake.

If you’re well versed in the buying and selling of art, you definitely know that the higher the interest in a piece the higher the price can go. Digital artists centered their ideas around raising interest over their digital media. This was mainly done by creating a buzz in social media over their NFTs in the hopes of benefiting from the bubble. 

In 2021 the NFT trading markets hit $17 billion which translates to over 20,000 percent surge from 2020 which stood at $82 million. Some NFTs made a profit but true to the predictions of a financial bubble, the time to burst was here and so did it. This is evidently seen the following year with a drastic decrease in trade sales and volume.

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But between January and September last year the trading volume collapsed by 97 percent to just $466 million from $17 billion. Google, too, reported a decline in NFT interest and searches across board by 88 percent in less than a year.

The sudden NFT growth proved to not be sustainable. Unfortunately for most people they got late to the party and didn’t reap from the financial bubble at the time. It’s best described by a Sauti Sol and Nyashinski jam “short and sweet” period for those who made a profit from it.

While NFTs have been hailed for reshaping the art world, critics are skeptical about their future. The NFT market has drawn extraordinary ranges of spammers, scammers and grifters. People are creating NFTs of artists’ works without their permissions and using artist works’ without copyrights. All in all the market was predicted to see an easier 2023 and we’ll be here to witness it.

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