With the growing hype, and success and Cinderella stories around NFTs for creatives in 2021, I decided it was time this Autumn to investigate NFTs for myself. Why? As funding for creatives is broken, especially around educational projects and projects for social good.
You can read more about my initial research into NFTs by clicking on the article I wrote earlier this Autumn, below.
In it I cover:
- What NFTs are?
- The history of NFTs.
- NFT success stories.
- My NFT concerns.
- The evolving possibilities for NFTs.
- Opportunities for creating NFTs for open education and open culture projects.
- NFT ideas for my own projects.
As we’ve learned over the years, it doesn’t matter how good or innovative your idea is, or if you and it have won awards, you will likely be turned down for funding many, many, many times, if you are a creator. Along with that, you will also be told numerous ridiculous and at times insulting reasons why you and / or your project are not good enough. Things like:
- The mention of ‘educational’ is a deal breaker, as what kids going to want to learn.
- Kids in North America won’t be interested in stories with kids with different accents in different parts of the world. (Yes, a broadcaster actually told me this in a pitch meeting. She was a mom, therefore I was told she knew.)
- You are too old as a woman to be the host.
- You are too ‘vanilla’ to be the host. (Belief it or not, this was actually in a jury members notes from a CMF pitch.)
- That our ideas only had value if we had someone famous attached.
We talked about these problems and more this week on The Creative Farm with Ralph Talmont:
This means that you as a creative need to be resilient, determined, and to learn to differentiate between the beneficial feedback, and that that represents one person’s opinion or shines a spotlight on a problem within the system. But at some point you must also question your path. Are you approaching this in a manner that works for you? With a bit of nudging from our friend Steve Dotto, who has had his own experiences with applying to traditional broadcast funding, and as a result successfully found an alternate path to educational media creation, we began to question our path.
Rather than continuing to smack into the same wall of rejection over and over again, my creative partner Lori Yearwood had the brilliant idea of learning from creatives that were funding their projects in alternative ways, ways that gave them more freedom to craft projects that have heart, do social good, and in which the creators could speak loudly and proudly of the educational value.
This lead us to create the Sustainable Funding Series, in which we’ve been interviewing creators on how they are piecing the funding together for their storytelling, social good, educational, and technology projects. From this we have learned many different alternative approaches to funding projects, that others can learn about in our open access Sustainable Funding Series Course.
Included in this work, we’ve spent the past year experimenting with the Web Monetization Standard, which while still early days, does earn enough to pay for our site costs. We share what we’ve learned from those experiments and our Web Monetization community research in our open access Web Monetization Course.
A New Funding Opportunity with NFT Collectibles
Given our investigations into alternate forms of funding, the hype around NFTs had us curious. Is this a fad? Is this just for artists or the internet famous? Or is this an opportunity for other creatives and educators to set up new funding models around their projects?
From my early research, I discovered that the idea of NFT Collectibles are being used to unlock other opportunities. In the case of Gary Vee, purchasing a VeeFriend unlocks exclusive access to future events, that would be classified as informal education. Stoner Cats meanwhile gives purchasers exclusive access to their web series, once they’ve raised enough funds through NFT sales to film it. And with names like Jane Fonda, Seth MacFarlane, Chris Rock, Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunia and Vitalik Buterin involved, they’ve done that and more. The trading of collectibles around these projects has been in obscenely large amounts of money (VeeFriends: *31,400 Ethereum = *$135,997,796 USD / Stoner Cats: *7,100 Ethereum = *$30,751,094 USD), which demonstrates an opportunity, especially when you see that VeeFriends are not professional pieces of art. Having said that, these two projects also deal with the internet famous, begging the question if this is not just their fan base following them?
*It should be noted here that the publicly shared volume traded on someones OpenSea account does not equate to what the creator of that collection is pulling in, but rather the total amount earned by everyone who has owned and traded any of the NFTs within the collection. One creator explains this further below.
To answer that, I went in search of some NFT Collectible projects for social good and found the Anatomical Hearts Project and Emotion Monsters. The Anatomical Hearts Project is a collection of anatomically drawn hearts created by Melissa Freund, as a way of dealing with her daughter’s congenital heart disease and the three open heart surgeries that she’s already had in her young life. She first released these hearts in the Spring of 2021 as a colouring book and then as NFTs in September 2021. At the time of writing this, 3 months later, *30.6 Ethereum from the Anatomical Heart NFT Collectibles has been traded, which is currently valued at *$132,533 USD. Melissa is not someone who is famous, nor did she have anyone famous attached to the project.
Melissa also graciously explained to me what the volume traded means, in terms of her collection, and what the translated earning are to her.
I want to mention that the 30 ETH you reference for me is traded. So I actually made 100 x .05 ETH = 5 ETH (minus 2.5% for OS fees and minus 2.5% of my own fees… don’t worry I add those back in a moment) on my heart project. So I made 4.75 ETH on the initial sale. Then the 30 ETH is what has actually traded hands. So I receive a percentage of that not the whole thing. So that is about 0.75 (at 2.5%). So total I’ve made about 5.5 ETH on my hearts.Melissa Freund
Similarly medical student Carmen Aguirre (also known as VJ Neurite), who started the Emotion Monsters NFT, is not famous. Rather, after being disturbed by her colleagues reactions to kids dealing with mental health issues in the hospital, she started creating the Emotion Monsters NFT Collectibles to break stigmas around mental health and raise money for a children’s book on mental health. So far her Emotion Monsters have traded *4.9 Etherium to date, which is approximately *$21,223 USD.
This made me think that perhaps NFT Collectibles are a viable funding solution for one of our educational projects? While there are a lot of NFTs out there, and we don’t have fame behind us, we do have heart and are about creating projects for social good, and as Anatomical Hearts and Emotion Monsters have taught us, there are people looking to purchase NFTs that are intended for good.
Our Experiment – Naturally Ours NFT Collectibles
Loving a good experiment, I decided to see if I could apply what I’ve been learning about NFTs to create some NFT Collectibles of our own, and raise enough money to shoot subsequent seasons of Naturally Ours.
For a bit of backstory, Naturally Ours is our internationally award winning nature series all about parks and natural spaces and the people they inspire.
Our team loves shooting this series, as the stories people share with us are rich in hope, cultural understanding, and awareness and connection to our natural world. While we might think we have an idea of what the people we interview are going to share with us, we are constantly blown away by the greater depth and layers of understanding that they end up sharing with us. For me, this also allows me to return to my nerdy, tree hugging biologist days.
We shot Season 1 of the Series on Salt Spring Island. In addition our film festival screenings, and featured launch on Vidme (which alas exists no longer), the series can also be found freely accessible on:
And then the documentary, can be found behind paywalls on:
While I recognise that people with limited art skills are selling NFTs, I wanted ours to represent the mix of quirkiness, quality, thought, hope and empathy that the series has done, and I expected my stick figures would not convey all of that, so after reaching out and considering the artwork of a few people that we suspected might be a good fit for the project, I commissioned Bjorn Yearwood, a recent university graduate turned art therapy student, to create some NFT collectibles for us.
Why Bjorn? As he gets us and our storytelling, is using art to do good in the world and help others, and as he is an incredibly empathetic young fellow, which fits with how we operate within this series. You can see a few of the Naturally Ours NFT Collectibles he created for us below.
The team and I are pleased with what Bjorn has created, as they are fun, intelligent, connect with the essence of Season 1 of Naturally Ours, and include images from each of the episodes.
To decide where to place our Naturally Ours NFT Collectibles, I researched through the platforms, looking for similar projects to ours, with the hope being that that platform would be more likely to have collectors that would be interested in our collectibles. I was tempted to go with Mintable, as Mark Cuban is on there, and was hoping he might then be supportive of a fellow Fireside Chat Podcaster. However, OpenSea had the closest examples to what we are trying to do, with Stoner Cats, Anatomical Hearts, and Emotion Monsters all on OpenSea, so that is where we’ve opened a Naturally Ours NFT Collection and entered the marketplace.
Since OpenSea is on the Ethereum Blockchain, OpenSea requires that you have an Ethereum wallet with Ethereum in it before you set up an account. OpenSea has a list of compatible wallets, here: What crypto wallets can I use with OpenSea? Already owning a digital wallet, this was quick for me (and only momentarily terrifying) in transferring Ethereum into my new wallet. Be aware though, that if you do not have a digital wallet, such a transfer from a bank can take a few days.
In setting up our first collection on OpenSea, we also set out our sales intent, that:
- 10% of NFT sales will be donated to a nature charity in the areas that we film,
- 10% to go to our NFT artist Bjorn Yearwood in royalties (with the hopes that if we are successful that this will help further support him through his art therapy program), and
- the remainder to go to the production of future seasons of Naturally Ours and an accompanying website with park and educational guides
Giving the artist a percent royalties on top of a paid contract is not the norm, but I believe a wise move, as it invests our artist in the success of the project, and ultimately if we end up seeing decent success with this, I want our artist to as well.
Community and access to a behind the scenes creative space for chatting throughout the day is a key characteristic of the NFT Community, especially in the collectible space. The two platforms they use for this is Discord and Telegram. You don’t need both, but you do need one, and I have in fact been told that some buyers won’t purchase an NFT from you, if they don’t like your community space.
I chose to set up our community on Discord, and have been designing it to appeal to the characteristics and interests of our varied community members, whether part of the NFT Community or not. This has included channels to:
- get behind the scenes glimpses into the series development and production
- be able to participate in development discussions
- share their nature rambles
- share their nature pictures
- chat about other nature series they enjoy
- indulge in mindful moments
- talk about their favourite parks
In addition, we have created a space in the discord for NFT enthusiasts to chat about that world, and for teachers to discuss and share nature education resources.
The advantage to what I have designed of this space so far, is that while it is at present a bit of an echo chamber, it is a space I like and thus like posting to, which is important while the community is still building there.
If anyone has any suggestions or tips for me in helping me to both grow and add to this space, and foster the community there, please let me know.
Minting our Naturally Ours NFTs has turned out to be a surprisingly easy process. The most time consuming part of which has been crafting a write up behind each of our NFTs. We also shared what the NFT includes here, and looked to Emotion Monsters to help craft the wording behind the creation of derivatives attached to our NFTs. Currently we have phrased that as:
By owning this collectible Naturally Ours NFT, not only do you support the filming of future seasons of Naturally Ours, have access to all the past and future Naturally Ours documentaries and episodes, but you will get a sneak peek into our process with a behind the scenes discord and will be able to create derivative NFTs from this original artwork. Only the holder of this NFT may make derivative artwork from it, and if sold those rights are transferred to the buyer. We highly encourage that 10% of any derivative art sales be donated to a nature or indigenous charity of your choosing. These derivative rights are for use in the NFT community and do not include commercial rights to make and sell any type of merchandise, as only Ahimsa Media and Bjorn Yearwood retain these rights. Permission from Ahimsa Media is required for the sale of derivative prints.
This leads to one of the questions we have: are we offering enough unlockable value as a part of our NFT, or should we be adding more?
You’ll note here, that we do not reference exclusive viewing rights of our web series and documentaries to our NFT holders, as the whole point of our web series is to share it widely and freely to provoke thought and positive change in this world. Making this exclusive to just those that can afford an NFT negates that. The same goes for the open educational resources too, which as the name implies would be openly accessible and remixable.
Having said that, our NFT Collectible Holders will have access to a private NFT holders only website with the full length documentaries that are normally behind paywalls, and we also plan on sharing other extras here, like additional extras for teachers to make their lesson planning around the open educational resources we’ve shared even easier and parks guide extras, like write ups of our favourite hikes and tips where to see wildlife. And we’ve allowed for NFT holders to create derivatives of our NFTs.
Have I articulated the value well enough? I know I haven’t really mentioned the teaching and parks guide perks. How would you phrase this to better articulate the value?
Does this need more? I know some filmmakers have talked about adding accessible libraries of images and video for NFT holders. While this would require some extra work, I can add libraries of images and videos from shoots for our NFT holders to access and use. I’d just want to keep these to my images and videos, to keep this separate from those that Kelly, our cinematographer, is shooting for the series. Is this something I should be adding as a part of our NFT unlockables or is this too much?
The other big question that came up in minting is how many copies of each NFT Collectible should we be minting. To keep costs of the NFT Collectibles reasonable and still raise enough money for filming, we need to be minting multiple copies, and the more copies we can make, the lower the price that we can sell the NFT Collectible for. But is there a point that the number of copies of the NFT Collectible is devaluing it? Would love peoples thoughts and opinions here. So far I’ve been experimenting with minting 50, 75, and 100 different copies of our NFT Collectibles. Too early though to see if this is impacting buyer behaviour with our NFT Collectibles.
A tip here, for new minters on OpenSea: to mint multiple copies of an NFT, scroll down to copies, and select the Polygon Network, as the Ethereum Network will only allow you to mint one copy at a time at the time of my writing this. Also, this allowed me to mint all of our NFT Collectibles without being charged any of the feared gas prices to date.
Preparation for Minting
You will see from our minting sample above that one of the questions asked in the process is about both an external link and unlockable content. While minting does allow you to edit and add that content later, I would not want to add anything to the marketplace that did not demonstrate the value that we promise, as first impressions are everything when it comes to people making an investment. Whether they decide to buy now or return later, we want to leave them with a good impression so that they do return for a second or third look, and so they tell their friends about it.
What this meant, is that in order to mint, we need to create both a public website for Naturally Ours, and a private website that is unlockable to our Naturally Ours NFT Collectible holders. While the various pages on these two websites still need completing, our audience is welcomed to a clear and inviting homepage to both sites, which gives visitors a vision of what’s to come.
While here, only the main website is accessible to visitors, if there are things that you would add to it, please let me know.
‘The Drop’ in NFT terms is when one releases NFTs for sale on the marketplace. The typical way of doing this with NFT Collectibles is to ‘drop’ a number of new collectibles at once, and build anticipation towards that drop on your social media feeds and in your Telegram or Discord Community.
Drops require thought and strategy, in deciding how best to garner attention to them. Often you might give your Telegram or Discord Community advanced access to a drop or an early bird discount.
With not really having an NFT driven Discord Community yet, I am doing our drops a little differently, in a way that makes sense for us, in already having one season of Naturally Ours shot. The way I am doing this is to release a new video (teaser or full episode) on Cinnamon Video each day and then release one new Naturally Ours NFT Collectible that day, corresponding to that episode. This is allowing me to:
- begin to build a slow buzz around the series and our NFTs
- lead with story first, so that I don’t feel like I am becoming an NFT advertisement
- show off the value of the series that people would be supporting in purchasing our NFTs
Once I have dropped the first 7 images, tied to the sharing of videos on Cinnamon, I will take a couple of Bjorn’s early less refined images, and do a free NFT giveaway to people who join the Discord community and either share what we are up to on Twitter or Instagram.
Next, I will do another slow tease out of images, tied to either the release of a new Parks Guide or Open Educational Resource, on the Naturally Ours website. These drops are intended to create deadlines for me in building more content to the Naturally Ours website, in addition to continuing the slow and steady build to our NFTs and Naturally Ours.
If you have any feedback on this Drop Strategy or other ideas that we might try, I’d love to hear them, as this is an experiment in progress.
With the drop, also comes the pricing of the NFT Collectible, which I am still debating on. After looking at what Stoner Cats, Anatomical Hearts, Emotion Monsters, and other nature based projects are priced at, crunching the numbers on how much we’d need to earn to shoot a second Season of Naturally Ours, I decided to price our NFTs at 0.03 Etherium until the New Year. This is less than Anatomical Hearts and Emotion Monsters, while still acknowledging the value of what we are creating. I may, after the release of the first seven NFTs, experiment with some lower priced NFTs between 0.02 – 0.0275 Ethereum, with some of Bjorn’s early less refined images to see if that makes a difference in sales. Depending on how sales go, I may increase the price on the NFT Collectibles in the New Year, closer to what Anatomical Hearts and Emotion Monsters are going for at between 0.035 – 0.05 Etherium.
If you have any thoughts or advice related to the pricing of our NFT Collectibles, we’d greatly appreciate it.
Feedback from Melissa Freund on My Early Creator Questions
Feeling the need for some guidance on the questions swirling in my head at these initial stages of the experiment, I reached out to Anatomical Hearts NFT Collectibles creator Melissa Freund for a bit of guidance from her story and experience. Here is what she generously shared with me:
- How did you first garner attention to Anatomical Hearts?
I first garnered attention from a @Garyvee Twitter post. He asked for artists that hadn’t had their first sale yet to share their story/collection on his Twitter post and then he was going to buy one. He didn’t pick my collection as one to buy but it had a lot of ‘likes’. From that post I had probably sold around 10 of my nfts. Then on September 16 @bullgirlfriends tweeted (like a 5 part tweet) about my story and project and I sold out the rest of my 100 piece project in about an hour. It was pretty crazy.
- How did you first garner attention to your Discord?
My discord was dead for forever. That took a long time to get even a little traction. In mid/late September I had someone ask if my project was dead. It was insulting because I was doing so much on the back-end but just didn’t have a lot of traction on twitter/discord yet. I will say I had my husband, Shane (@dadcipher) and another gamer friend signed up as mods right away. They were already on discord so they were happy to chat away and say hi to people as they came in.
- How long was it before you sold your first NFT, and then until you began building momentum behind that?
I listed August 31 and sold my first NFT on September 4. Those two interactions I mentioned above introduced me to a lot of people that began to start to believe in me and really liked my work. Also, Twitter spaces and chatting with people in other discords is a good way to meet new people.
- What was your initial price / NFT?
All my art has sold for 0.05 ETH each. That is about $200 USD, which sound like a lot but is a really good entry point in NFTs. I would even say, I price my art a little low. I’m new and priced it lower for two reasons: 1) I wanted tHE people who bought my art to be able to make gains on it. 2) It felt accessible, and I wanted people who really felt meaning in my art to be able to collect it.
- How many copies of each NFT do you make available?
Each piece I only sell a quantity of 1. I repeat some of the styles but each of the coloring I change manually so I still consider all my artwork 1/1. I hope that makes sense. In the future I’m going to play around with different price point and quantities.
Lessons / Discoveries to Date
So far in this experiment, I have been met with the following discoveries:
- Hope and Empowerment – Unlike writing a grant proposal, creating these NFT Collectibles feels like it is something I have some control in catalysing our success. As a result, rather than this process exhausting me, it has been exhilarating and is somewhat addictive.
- Patience – While I’d love to see instant success, I need to keep reminding myself that I am playing the long game, and do not want to come across as spam, as so many in this space are doing.
- It’s About Community – As is often the case in early adopter tech ecosystems, it’s about community. You need to foster, grow and engage community – both around your project and with the broader NFT community.
- It’s Easier than It Seems – The process of setting up your digital wallet, minting, and adding your NFTs to the marketplace is much easier than it seems from the outside, and quite a straightforward and streamlined process.
- To Do Things Properly is Time Consuming – This is not a get rich quick, field of dreams. To do this properly, you need to be invested with your time, creativity, and attention.
- Beware of the Snake Oil Salespeople – With every success and Cinderella story, come those looking to make a quick buck and sell people on dreams of fame and fortune. As my instagram NFT shares will show in the comments, the NFT community is currently rife with them.
Future Potential / Possibilities
At this point in my experiment, with only two NFTs dropped and no sales as of yet, it is still too early for me to predict the future potential and possibilities for our project, but I am excited at the prospects. My current goals with this:
- Make my first NFT Sale, so that I can then pitch my ideas to the NFT Marketplaces that Ripple is investing in building.
- Raise enough to shoot another season of Naturally Ours, or at least offset the cost for another partner on the project.
- Raise enough for freedom of where and when we shoot future seasons of Naturally Ours.
- Raise enough to pay myself and team members to support me in the marketing of Naturally Ours and in the development of open educational resources around the series.
With the above, it would also be outstanding to be able to give some decent sized donations to charities on behalf of the series and to see royalties coming in for Bjorn.
Having said that, even without any of that, this process has already been a great success for me, as we now have some wonderful images that are a part of Naturally Ours as I further build the website, the parks guides, and the open educational resources. And it has created deadlines for me in finally building the Naturally Ours website and finally releasing Naturally Ours on Cinnamon Video. All of this breathes new life into the project and gives me new talking points when I follow up with potential partners for the project.
This has also got me excited to attempt this funding model for raising money for both our Chronic Pain Chronicles Series and accompanying open educational resources, and for our Augmented Reality Natural and Cultural History Storytelling App. Who knows, maybe we even come up with an NFT campaign for building more open educational courses around contemporary media on the StoryToGo Classroom site and for supporting our podcasts? So many possibilities, and as this is something that Bjorn and I are both having fun experimenting with, it is just time and a bit of catalysing funds that is limiting us. Which again reminds me to pace myself and focus on this experiment first, before diving into the next one.
Your Thoughts / Experience
I’d love to hear about your experience.
Have you created or contemplated creating any NFTs? If so, what around? Have you yourself bought an NFT? What inspired you to make the purchase? How do you see creating and utilising NFTs in your industry?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.
A Few of the Rabbit Holes I Wandered Down in my NFT Research
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Ahimsa Media Inc., & Hargreave, E. (2021, November 24). Naturally Ours. Naturally Ours. Retrieved November 28, 2021, from https://roamancing.com/naturallyours/
Burke, K. (2021). The Metaverse Podcast. PodBean. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://outlierventures.podbean.com/
Freund, M. (2021). The Anatomical Project. The Anatomical Project. Retrieved October 13, 2021, from https://theanatomicalproject.com/
Hargreave, E. (2021, October 13). Would Love Your Advice on Navigating the World of NFTs [Forem Post]. Web Monetization Community. https://community.webmonetization.org/ericahargreave/where-on-navigating-the-world-of-nfts-4b9c
Hargreave, E. (2021b, October 14). Exploring NFTs on the Sustainable Funding Series | by Erica Hargreave. Fireside Chat. https://firesidechat.com/ericahargreave/01FJ00CYXG1E86WEY707NSYRFJ
Hargreave, E. (2021c, October 18). NFTs – A Sustainable Funding Solution for OpenEd? | by Erica Hargreave. Fireside Chat. https://firesidechat.com/ericahargreave/01FJAC39R96M8XQ91Z52TF4EEB
Hargreave, E. (2021, October 22). NFT (Non-Fungible Tokens) – A Sustainable Funding Solution for Open Education and Open Culture? StoryToGo. https://storytogo.ca/2021/10/nft-non-fungible-tokens-a-sustainable-funding-solution-for-open-education-and-open-culture/
Hargreave, E. (2021c, November 24). Naturally Ours NFT Experiment : Part 1 – the Concept & Discord. Web Monetization Community. https://community.webmonetization.org/ericahargreave/naturally-ours-nft-experiment-part-1-the-concept-discord-1fh5
Hargreave, E. (2021d, November 24). Naturally Ours NFT Open Education Experiment : Part 1 – the Concept & Discord. OE Global Connect. https://connect.oeglobal.org/t/naturally-ours-nft-open-education-experiment-part-1-the-concept-discord/3320/2
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Vaynerchuk, G. (2021, May 13). What is NFT? Non-fungible Token Guide. GaryVaynerchuk.Com. Retrieved October 14, 2021, from https://www.garyvaynerchuk.com/what-is-nft-non-fungible-token-guide/
Young, J. R. (2021a, August 18). Could NFTs Play a Role in Education? EdSurge. Retrieved October 16, 2021, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-08-10-could-nfts-play-a-role-in-education
Young, J. R. (2021a, September 15). Glitches, ‘Gas Fees’ and Lessons We Learned Selling an NFT. EdSurge. Retrieved October 16, 2021, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-09-14-glitches-gas-fees-and-lessons-we-learned-selling-an-nft
Young, J. R. (2021, October 12). We Wondered If NFTs Could Change Education, So We Decided to Sell This Article on the Blockchain. EdSurge. Retrieved October 16, 2021, from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2021-08-09-we-wondered-if-nfts-could-change-education-so-we-decided-to-sell-this-article-on-the-blockchain