The Story Behind "Non Fungible Rebels" drop on Foundation

Not sure if you knew about this or not, but around two weeks ago I dropped my genesis piece that was a collaboration with NFT music artist Nifty Sax on Foundation.

This story is not written as a brag, but rather as a journey that explored the full roller coaster ride that I went through from the moment the idea was born until the NFT was in the collector's wallet. I do realise that everyone’s journey may be different, but at the same time, I am sure there may be some parts that might be useful to those who are just starting out. 

Let’s go.

The back story

To be completely transparent - I was interested in the NFT space because it felt to be the most creative direction of the blockchain space. But besides that I also had a business idea that I needed to validate and for that I went to Twitter Spaces to talk to the NFT community and understand them better. 

Unfortunately the more I learnt about the community and the space the more I learnt and as a result that initial idea was successfully trashed. 

BUT

It revived my creative side that was relatively asleep in the past years and being among amazingly talented people got me inspired. 

I was so fascinated about the whole space and loved the warm, friendly and supportive nature of the community so much that I even decided to rebrand my Crypto Talks podcast that was covering the broader aspects of crypto and blockchain and niche it down to NFTs…(that’s how the NFT Rebels was born.)

Eventually the conversations on Twitter Spaces led me to a point when out of nowhere the muse came back and I sat down and wrote a poem in about 15 minutes.

The poem was inspired by the NFT community and was about the NFT community.

So as you can see when I just got in here I had absolutely no plans of becoming a “crypto artist” and minting NFTs - I thought I would simply do the podcast and write my newsletter and see where that leads me.

But once the poem was written it just felt wrong doing nothing about it, so I decided to turn it into an NFT.

The beginning of the journey

The very first issue that I needed to figure out was how to create something visually appealing from a poem. I minted my first novel 3 years ago - and I know that purely word based NFTs are not yet so appealing or attractive - and in some cases they don’t make much sense either.

So I truly believed that the poem needed some kind of visual representation.

I had 2 option:

  1. collaborate with a visual artist

  2. figure it out myself 

I hate depending on others so the second option, although felt harder, was definitely more appealing. 

And now that I had chosen the option I had to figure out the next thing:

How would it look? 

Since the poem was dedicated to the community it totally made sense to feature the NFT artists there.

But how?

The first thought I had was using their Twitter profile avatars/images. 

For context: I can’t draw, I don’t know any visual software (photoshop, animation, etc.) and I am not that good with design either… 

So I went back to the community and asked for the simplest tools to try… and got loads of suggestions…

As a result I spent days figuring out how each of them worked and finally chose one that I could kind of handle and started manipulating the Twitter profile pictures… 

Things looked ok-ish… but then I realized I had a big problem.

During those few days almost everyone had changed their Twitter profile pics and they kept doing it … 

And that is when the initial idea and approach died - RIP!

And while I was at it, I kept showing up in Twitter Spaces and hinting that I am working on something… 

So now people started asking about how it’s going and when will they be able to see it (no pressure right?)

Hmmm now what?

Visual struggles 

Well - I had to find a way to represent the NFT artists so that 

1. People would see who they are 

2. It is based on something that does not change any other day 

3. It has to be simple enough for me to be able to implement

And so I started doing what I usually do when I am stuck…

Keep thinking about it, getting angry at myself that I can’t figure it out, searching for answers in a pint of beer and watching crappy TV series to switch off my mind. 

Now add to that talking on Twitter Spaces and you would realise how busy I was!

Busy … procrastinating and not doing anything about the NFT itself… which meant that things did not progress.

And that is how I did not meet the initial 1 week deadline that I had set to myself. (Bravo Ani!)

And then out of nowhere the basic idea came to me - why not Twitter handles of the NFT artists? It looks like those stay the same (ironically that was when I personally changed mine haha!)

Now that I finally kind of figured it out I had to find out how to visualise that…

I played with Procreate - and ended up with many different versions of ugly stuff that I will never share.

And that’s when I had to take a few steps back and ask myself the question that always helped me in the past.

Why am I trying to do what everyone else is doing using the tools that everyone else is using? Maybe something different would fit me better?

That led me to look into what I already know and could work for the purpose.

So I went back to the good old Canva. 

From that point on it did not take too long to find a template and put together the visual.

Sent it to a few people from the community and based on reactions it felt like it wasn’t that bad so it could work, so I decided not to overcomplicate it and leave it at that.

Now let’s move to sound

At this point I felt like the rest should be an easy and smooth ride (very naive indeed!).

All I had to do was record myself narrating the poem and putting a background music to it.

So I took out my favourite mic and recorded 3 takes of me reading the poem. Although I have been podcasting for over 7 years already, I still don't like my voice much - so I equally did not like any of those takes. At the same time, I knew that the process could go on forever if I let it so I stopped there.

Now all I need is royalty free music and it’s done right?

Oh well… it appeared that not really.

After doing some research and speaking to NFT artists - it looked like you could not use those tracks, since NFTs are essentially commercial use… I was not sure it would legally be ok to use those, so to be on the safe side, I decided that I’d rather have something original.

So another challenging element came at me unexpectedly. Now I was trying to create an original track with Garage Band.

Watching tutorials, playing with tracks and mixing things up took hours… and predictable so brought quite crappy results. That’s when I realised that probably I bit more than I could chew and maybe it was time to accept that I could not do it myself. 

Collaboration?!

I had to figure out who to do this with… and that probably was the toughest part.

Initially I was not even sure anyone would like to team up with me… I mean, why would they, right?

But when I mentioned it on Twitter many reached out offering help. All of them were amazing creators and it was so hard to pick only one. After few messages back and forth I did pick an artist - based on the fact that he had made something similar for another poetry NFT project and it was easy for me to imagine how it would potentially end up.

So I sent over all the 3 takes and the visual and could not wait to see the end result… 

But unfortunately it didn't work out (

The artist was overwhelmed with many different projects and it would get some time until he would get to mine.

If you know me, you probably also know that unfortunately I am quite impatient. And now that I was finally so close I could not wait …

That was the point when I had a conversation with Nifty Sax since he was checking to see how things were progressing. He said “hey, send the files to me, let me try to do something”. 

That was all.

The next day I received the almost final file with the nice soothing music that he wrote and I loved it! (just a fun fact to mention - even at this point I had no idea what his real name was).

We had one more wrinkle to iron up!

When everything seemed to be final I sat down to re-check everything and that’s when I realised that I had several double entries in the file. Taking those out and reshuffling all the Twitter handles ended up causing about a 5 second difference in the total time of the file… So Nifty had to re-record some of the music.

And finally we reached the finish line - Foundation here we come!

I am very grateful to Andy who had kept his Foundation invite for me and was patiently waiting for us to be ready so I could use it. I got in and set up the account. It was a pretty straightforward process.

Mental preparation

I know that for many artists there is a big emotional journey at this point. The stage where you are going to go public and show your work, when you will keep thinking how would people react to it and if you will even get a bid or the piece will get stuck unseen and lonely.

I did not take it too seriously - I decided that this is going to be an experiment and I had no expectations whatsoever. I was ready for a public “failure” because I had decided that in the worst case I would just put my learnings into an article for others to avoid my mistakes. So in any case it would be worth it.

Are we there already? Not yet (

To be fair we could not plan the promotion of the drop because:

  1. There was no way to tease it - the whole concept such that people had to see it all at once 

  2. Gas fees were getting too high so committing to a drop at a certain time could cost us too much

So we just decided to share and talk about it only once it’s been minted and listed.

3 days of refresh!

Now when everything was ready I was even more impatient…

For almost 3 days I was checking the gas fees to be able to catch the “dip” … but things were either crazy or too crazy!

Felt like every time a collectible was launching the gas estimations were becoming ridiculous. And collectibles kept emerging like mushrooms after the rain.

And that was just for minting - more less the same amount would be needed for listing too :)

I was even advised to wake up in the middle of the night since those were the low gas times of the day… which I did but it still did not work. Was lower, but still not anything close to normal.

And finally the day came!

On Sunday morning I finally managed to get to not so insane fees and mint and list it. It was registered on the blockchain now!

Pricing was a tricky one for me. But after discussing it with Nifty Sax we decided that we wanted it to be affordable for anyone so we would just put the reserve price at minimum and let the market decide it’s worth.

Now we had to “promote” it.

To be fair finding out how much exposure and acceptance I already had within the community and how would that work without a big marketing push was part of the experiment.

I knew for sure that I would definitely not “shill” our work - and I was even more certain that I won’t go and speak about it in front of new audiences either. So this was going to be an indication of what would happen if you leave it and see how it does organically.

Once it was minted I tweeted it out obviously.

I think it took about 30 minutes for Alex to make the first bid and the roller coaster ride started. I was happy it was Sunday, because probably it would be hard to think of or do anything else that day.

After Alex we did have a bit of a bid war in there.

Needless to say I was so grateful and humble. To be fair I do understand people who thought “why would anyone pay for this stuff?”… I mean deep down I can’t completely explain. I guess each one has his/her own reasons…

When I saw Mentalist’s bid I had to double check again! As I already mentioned I did not have certain expectations before listing the piece - and this was definitely not something I even hoped for.

And that’s how we ended up with a sale and an awesome collector!

But what was even more important…

I felt that the piece belonged more to the NFT community than to me so it was very crucial for me to see how they felt about it…

And the amount of the support, kind words and encouragement during the Twitter Spaces that we had on the day of the auction was priceless. It was heart warming to see how many people resonated with the piece and appreciated being part of it.

It was also great to see people I knew and respect bidding on my work - because who would get it mattered to me.

Having Mentalist winning was the cherry on top.

Takeaways

  • Everything is much easier when you build genuine relationships with the community before you start minting/selling (as you can see I had loads of support during the whole journey - encouragement while creating, the Foundation invite, people offering to help with music, the bidders…!)

  • You may plan and imagine it in a certain way but things may turn up being completely different and the journey may not be as smooth and straightforward as you thought

  • Do what you can do well and collaborate with others to cover what you suck at

  • Create something people would resonate with (I guess there should be a story and concept behind what you do…)

  • It IS possible to sell your NFT without shilling everywhere and being annoying

  • Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith and possibly fail (I did not know how would it turn out - but if I had not tried I would never know and the “what if-s” would haunt me…)

  • You don’t have to create what sells well (my NFT is not among the styles that are popular… but oh well…)

  • Collaborate with the right people (I have heard stories of collaborations that went wrong… )

  • Keep in touch with your collectors (they bet on you, support you and appreciate what you do after all!)

And here it is!

I guess that’s the end of the story (sorry ended up being way longer than I anticipated).

For those of you who have not seen the piece - here it is!

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