A lot of people are still trying to get their heads around the idea of non-fungible tokens. While NFTs have caused lots of excitement, especially in the art, music and entertainment industries, there’s also a lot of confusion and criticism. Some discredit NFTs as overpriced JPEGs bought and sold online for ridiculous prices. They’ve also become synonymous with what’s known as “NFT art”, a common name for a new generation of digital art.
But a deeper dive into the capabilities of NFTs reveals that they’re far more than just expensive JPEGs. NFTs are set to become one of the primary building blocks of Web3, with the ability to disrupt almost any industry. One of the most exciting use cases for NFTs is their ability to enable holders with exclusive access to various kinds of experiences, communities and benefits.
Unlocking Access With NFTs
NFTs have been employed extensively by a new generation of innovators to provide special benefits to holders. Lately, we’re seeing more and more NFTs leveraged as subscription models or for membership of exclusive clubs. By using NFTs as a substitute for a subscription, companies and organizations can grant holders premium access to various new products, services and scarce benefits that others cannot have. NFTs can act like digital passess, similar to a physical ticket, unlocking all kinds of advantages.
In one instance, the world-famous DJ Steve Aoki created an exclusive members club for NFT holders. The club is called A0K1VERSE, and NFT-holding members gain access to physical and digital rewards, including tickets to his concerts.
Another pioneer is Starbucks – yes, the coffee shop chain – which last year launched its own NFTs with the promise of numerous benefits for holders. While it remains to be seen what these benefits will look like, commentators have predicted that the company might give holders first dibs on special drinks or coffee blends that other customers cannot have, free monthly items, coffee recipes and physical merchandise.
NFTs Merging The Physical & Digital Worlds
NFTs can provide both real-world and digital-world benefits. One of the world’s most famous NFT collections, Bored Ape Yacht Club, hosts exclusive parties and get-togethers for holders, while the clothing brand GAP recently collaborated with Frank Ape to create a gamified experience where NFT owners can transform physical hoodies into metaverse collectibles.
The augmented reality-powered metaverse startup Peer is aiming to provide a mix of physical and digital benefits to NFT holders. Peer’s AR metaverse will overlay a gamified digital layer onto the real world, allowing people to explore their physical location on foot and find various digital collectibles en route. Users will be able to mint digital content as an NFT, and monetize it through Peer’s metaverse. Alternatively, a business or service provider could ‘drop’ collectible NFTs at various locations in a city, offering real-world bonuses such as discounts to anyone who can complete the set.
In a recent podcast, Peer founder Tony Tran said the metaverse will exist as a three-dimensional expansion of the web, with NFT-based content existing everywhere and connecting everything. “It’s really like a merging of the present web that we know, all of the data on the web, plus all of the connected devices, and mapping that to the real world.”
Real-World Experiences With NFTs
Experiences are another key utility for NFTs and run the gamut from the virtual to physical world. Culinary enthusiasts have embraced a project called Flyfish Club, a private gourmet dining club that will launch later this year, where only NFT holders will be able to enter. Those who hold a Flyfish Club NFT will gain unlimited access to its private, 10,000 square feet dining room located in New York City. They’ll also be entitled to numerous other one-off experiences that the club intends to organize.
We’re also seeing a rise in the number of event-based experiences. Gary Vaynerchuck has created a Vee Friends NFT experience that offers access to a Vee Con experience as well as ownership of digital art.
NFTs are a brilliant way to engender a community spirit, and there’s no better example of this than Ukraine, which has used the tokenized assets to rally support from across the world. The Ukrainian government has issued NFTs that act like war bonds as part of its fundraising activities and the artist Artem Humilevskiy created a series of NFT-based self-portraits that emerged as a powerful symbol of resistance. Meanwhile, Time magazine created a Web3 community known as TIMEpieces centered on its “Make Art, Not War” exhibition, with proceeds directed to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
Decentralized autonomous organizations, known as DAOs, are another kind of community that allows members to collectively govern Web3 projects ranging from DeFi protocols to climate activists like Klima DAO. Fans of these projects can acquire NFTs to effectively become part-owners of the project and vote on its governance decisions.
NFTs Provide Value
Not all NFTs are the same and there are reasons to be skeptical about many of these tokenized assets, especially those that are, literally, just a JPEG. But the utility of NFTs is evolving fast and they’re going to disrupt a lot of industries in the years to come. One of the key drivers of this is the value NFTs provide in the shape of access to exclusive experiences, products, rewards and communities. It’s these benefits that will come into focus as the NFT space grows, and there will be lots to look forward to as the technology becomes more widespread.