Artists turn to NFTs to break free from traditional norms

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NEW DELHI :

Indian artists are taking to the trend of selling digital art via non-fungible tokens (NFTs) online. The trend is picking up in India’s art community as people see the medium as a way to break through traditional norms set in such industries and extend their sources of revenue.

Musicians, artists, photographers and poets look at NFTs as a way to get around intermediaries and gain more control over their work.

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“I think it’s about time we change this notion of a starving artist and I think the NFT marketplaces, WazirX, OpenSea or other digital platforms are actually helping change that,” said poet Priya Malik, who has sold NFTs through multiple platforms.

She plans to create content specifically for NFTs in future.

Malik and many other artists said platforms such as YouTube and Instagram gave them the opportunity to reach millions of viewers, whom they could then monetize.

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“I look at NFTs as an extension of that digital stage. This is where I’m going to be, for the lack of a better word, ‘minting’ money from art that I already own or can create specifically for this market,” she said.

They also see NFTs as a way to retain control over their work. Malik, photographer Abhinav Chandel and musician Sambit Chatterjee explained that the NFTs they sell include a clause that will allow them to earn royalties for future sales. This, according to many artists, was an ability they sorely missed. “If I sell my prints to someone and if they decide to sell it further, they might do it discreetly and I will never know about it. This way, at least I have a contract and I will know what’s happening with it,” Chandel said.

NFTs are built on a blockchain platform and act as a digital equivalent of ownership deeds. The fact that they are on a blockchain makes their ownership traceable forever, which is what allows the royalties to be tracked.

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“Right now, NFTs will give artists the right to (decide) what they want to charge, how they want to charge and a tangible royalty that will keep on coming because of the metadata associated with NFTs. We won’t have to go out looking for paper to show proof (of our work),” said Mumbai-based Chatterjee, who has listed a track he created in 2012 as an NFT on WazirX’s platform. Chatterjee claimed that the track is the world’s first heavy metal song to feature a sarod.

Chatterjee and Chandel said NFTs will help eliminate paying a lot of intermediaries. Musicians have to pay studios and distributors, while artists may have to wait for years to get a chance to showcase their work in a gallery, and then pay them commissions too. An NFT, on the other hand, simply lists on a platform and allows interaction directly with collectors, although some platforms do have barriers to entry like the physical world.

“Over here, it’s about the patronage. The patrons are going to see how unique you are. That is what people are buying,” Chatterjee said.

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Chandel said collectors themselves are invested in the growth of an artist whose work they buy, because it will only increase the value of the piece of art they bought in future and hence make it an asset.

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