How To Become a Successful NFT Artist With Storytelling

The prominence of NFTs

The arrival of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the past couple of years has opened up a new avenue for creators and artists who are seeking to monetize themselves in this digital ecosystem. While the opportunities of the internet have been present for a decent amount of time, the mechanisms of claiming ownership of your work have been limited meaning that you could sell anything online but then those assets would be freely exchanged by others without compensating the actual creator. The NFT solution is here to change that.

When the NFT frenzy started in 2021, digital artists and creators immediately took notice and were eager to get a piece of the pie. There were multiple mindblowing success stories such as the graphic artist Beeple selling an NFT for $69 million or a “Clock” NFT winning a bid of $52.7 million to fund the legal defense for the infamous whistleblower Julian Assange.

Yet this type of success has been available to very few. Those who reap the benefits tend to have a strong following and compelling narrative behind their work. Nowadays, many digital creators and artists are aiming to establish themselves in this space but fierce competition and lack of knowledge are some of the biggest obstacles. 

In this article, I will break down some ideas and examples of how you can use a compelling story to stand out from the crowd and set yourself up for success.

The power of a good story

If we look at the most successful brands - the reason why we love them is not just because of great products or services but the stories they are trying to tell. Take for example Apple’s “Think Different” campaign or Nike’s “Just Do It”. The same thing applies to musicians or artists. A music album or a painting has a tighter relationship with fans and admirers if it’s relatable to them or has a unique story behind it. We all want to be part of it or find a way to link it to our lives. The more relatable the story is to an average person the better.

Storytelling use cases in NFT photography

Since Focus Market is an NFT photography platform, let’s look at some great use cases of storytelling in the NFT photography space.

The Philippe Halsman Archive

The legendary photographer Philippe Halsman became known for his psychological portraits of famous people and collaborations with Salvador Dali. Almost half a century later, his grandson Oliver Halsman Rosenberg has launched an NFT collection to fund a documentary film about his grandfather’s legacy. 

Seven photographs were auctioned so far and all have been collected. Aside from that, each collector was offered an opportunity to curate the next photograph. What makes this collection unique is the deeply rooted history behind every shot and its significance to the culture.

Hidden Stories by Michelle Viljoen

Michelle Viljoen is known for her enticing storytelling through the use of imagery. As someone who always tries to find new avenues of expression, she collaborated with a custom smart contract studio Transient Labs to launch an advanced art collection.

The reason why this project is so unique is that every collector was invited to add their own stories to the photos (NFTs) that they have bought. The information was meant to be written on the blockchain and stored in the NFT’s metadata. 

This allows the story of the project to expand beyond the actual artist and find its way to form an intimate relationship with the collector. Think of it like a wall of tags and signatures that keeps on adding up over time.

Kirill Pobedin and the 5 Stages of Grief

The collection was launched by fashion photographer Kirill Pobedin in an attempt to enter the NFT photography space and connect with a new audience. The uniqueness of this project lies in its free offering (free mint) and also the concept based on a psychological framework describing five stages of people’s emotions when dealing with trauma: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

After collecting the first edition, holders were given the option to burn (a term used to describe the process that involves sending a token to an un-spendable address that no one can access) their NFT photographs in exchange for advancing to the next stage.

This free edition generated a trading volume of 18 ETH during a market downturn and attracted over 1000 collectors who had no prior experience in collecting NFT photographs.

Immersive collection “What If” by Anya Klyueva

In this case, the artist released a collection of photos with each of them revealing a piece of the story. The photos were divided into unique episodes using different mint mechanics such as free mint and airdrop. Each episode was released one at a time while introducing the next one.

Here’s what Anya herself had to say about it:

Imagine that you are watching the series about 2 main characters and their story. You are following the plot through the frames from the movie, you get the clues through the subtitles but it’s up to you to decide how the story ends, because despite the clues, you still have different variations of the ending…

First Day Out by Drift

Isaac Wright, who is better known under the alias of Drift released an NFT which captured his experience after being released from prison. This particular drop is special because it takes storytelling to the next level by using video as a means to transcend the emotional weight of the project. 15% of the proceeds of this collection went to a non-profit organization The Bail Project, which helps cover bail costs for those who get incarcerated and can’t afford it.

Combining storytelling and strategy for successful NFT drops

While a compelling story in the NFT space is very important, the success of your project also depends on different rollout tactics and how you engage with your audience.

We already looked at some examples of artists using various tactics to stand out in the NFT photography space. Now let’s dive a bit deeper to understand them even more.

Free NFT mint

There’s no denying that every artist wants to be compensated for their work. However, if you allow collectors to mint your art for free, you might be able to build a stronger connection with them. By holding some of your art they are more likely to be interested in what you have to bring to the table and what comes next. 

Guido, one of the biggest photographers in the NFT space, launched 14,800 editions of his Sicilian Kiss collection for free. This particular tactic became a successful way to engage his audience by allowing them to exchange (burn) these NFTs for future ones.

Giving power to your audience

We love the idea of having a say or control over different things. It makes us feel as if our voice matters and we can make an input by sharing our unique perspective. Think about how you can invite the audience to be a part of your story.

The examples of Michelle Viljoen’s “Hidden Stories” and the Philippe Halsman Archive illustrate this perfectly.

NFT burn (exchange)

Quite unorthodox in its nature but a fairly interesting and effective way of leveraging the NFT technology to cultivate storytelling and create an evergrowing, immersive experience. 

Collections such as Kirill Pobedin’s “5 Stages of Grief”, Anya Kluyeva’s “What If”, and Guido’s “Sicilian Kiss” are a testament to this novel NFT drop strategy.

You can think of it as an upgrade or a sequel to a movie. You want to find out what happens next, and what’s in store for the next chapter.

NFT Airdrops

Over the past two years, airdrops have become one of the core tactics in the Web 3.0/NFT space for building communities or rewarding users for engaging with your product/service. Even though airdrops have earned their reputation as a growth mechanism for crypto, they can also be very useful for digital artists (see the example of Anya Kluyeva) who have the ability to send free NFTs to their supporters in order to gain exposure or show appreciation. By holding your NFTs, collectors are more likely to be interested in what you do and promote your work.

Community Building

When it comes to the whole Web 3.0 landscape, what makes it different is its core focus on the community. While Web 2.0 is all about the product/service and centralized authority, Web 3.0 prides itself on putting the community first by giving everyone a voice. This is truly important to consider when you’re releasing your art in NFT format.

The above-mentioned projects are great use cases of that. Using all those tactics you can foster a deeper connection with your audience which can later evolve into a solid community. One

great example is the Smoke & Mirrors collection by Justin Aversano. He released 78 photographs and each of them came with 6 physical tarot scrolls. The first one was a 1/1 that got auctioned and sold to the highest bidder while the right to mint the remaining 1/5s was reserved for the most contributing members of his community, Quantum.

Most of the community building in the NFT space happens on platforms like Twitter, Telegram, and a communications app, Discord. It’s important to be in places where your audience is at. It’s less important what kind of platform you’re using but how you’re using it.

Collaboration

Forming a team with someone in the NFT space is very common. Doing so exposes you to a whole new audience and makes it easier to generate hype around your project.

Some notable collaborations worth mentioning:

  • Thank You New York by street photographer JN Silva and abstract artist ThankYouX was one of the first collections that have put NFT photography on the map. They created a video clip combining one of JN Silva’s photographs of Manhattan and ThankYouX’s 3D motion art which demonstrated the amazing creative opportunities that collaborations can bring.
  • The Metascapes is a unique photography collaboration formed between Cath Simard, Ryan Newburn, and Iurie Belegurschi using artificial intelligence to bridge the gap between reality and the Metaverse.
  • Dream Lab developed by Jacob Riglin is the first-of-its-kind generative photography project that harnesses the serendipity of blockchain mechanics to compose 1,111 unique one-of-a-kind NFTs based around Riglin’s photograph of Raktozbrucke Bridge in Germany.
Building a social media following

This one is a very long topic and I would probably need to write a different piece to cover everything. There are many ways how you can approach your social media strategy but the most important thing to consider is that it’s a long-term game. In order to build a sustainable following that cares about what you do you need to put out engaging content day in and day out.

Another crucial factor is to make sure that it’s valuable to your audience. It’s less about which channel you are using and more about how you communicate and deliver value. Understanding storytelling, in this case, can be very helpful because as I already mentioned - great stories are relatable and make people gravitate toward them.

A summary of tactics and strategy to become a successful NFT artist

Final Thoughts

We already covered the main factors required to succeed as an NFT artist. With that being said, here are some final things worth mentioning:

Be persistent and consistent

Most people don’t achieve their goals because they only rely on motivation which is a limited source of energy. In order to reach success, you need to be determined and build habits for taking action regardless of your mental state. The consistent output will compound over time and bring positive results.

Find your niche

The competition in the digital art space is fierce which means that you need to find something that is unique to you and use storytelling to communicate it. Regardless of whether it’s photography, illustrative art, 3D, or motion graphics - all of these niches need to have a compelling story to reach people. Focus on that.

Communicate with your audience

One of the big breakthroughs of the Web 2.0 social media revolution was the ability for anyone to connect and engage with anyone. That is, even more, the case with the Web 3.0/NFT space. The only difference is that in this space the communication needs to be transparent and much more personable for the audience to connect with you.

Think beyond monetary gain

While every artist wants to make a living from their art, it is important to think beyond that. You need to show that your work is not just about the price tag. Building a community is far more valuable than just making a quick cash return. Plus it probably wouldn’t even work unless you had a strong presence and following.

Think about storytelling and the above-mentioned tactics on how you can build something long-term that could bring value not only to you but to your audience as well.

Create value for your NFT collectors

Last but not least, this is by far the most important aspect. It might be difficult to incentivize collectors to show interest in your work unless it offers some kind of monetary value but that is where the power of storytelling comes in. If you can build a story that’s relatable and dear to their heart then you’re gonna make it.

Final Thoughts

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  • Thank You New York by street photographer JN Silva and abstract artist ThankYouX was one of the first collections that have put NFT photography on the map. They created a video clip combining one of JN Silva’s photographs of Manhattan and ThankYouX’s 3D motion art which demonstrated the amazing creative opportunities that collaborations can bring.
  • The Metascapes is a unique photography collaboration formed between Cath Simard, Ryan Newburn, and Iurie Belegurschi using artificial intelligence to bridge the gap between reality and the Metaverse.
  • Dream Lab developed by Jacob Riglin is the first-of-its-kind generative photography project that harnesses the serendipity of blockchain mechanics to compose 1,111 unique one-of-a-kind NFTs based around Riglin’s photograph of Raktozbrucke Bridge in Germany.
A summary of tactics and strategy to succeed as an NFT artist
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