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The Creator’s Guide to the Web3 Galaxy
Like most founders, Helena’s story of co-founding Salsa, a web3 messaging app that uses on-chain data to add context, was rooted in a problem she observed. Unlike most founders however, the origins of the problem came from a non-conventional source - her mother. Both of Helena’s parents are creators - her father a film producer, and her mother an author. Helena’s mother had written more than 15 books that were in the hands of thousands, if not tens of thousands - yet she had little idea who her readers were, beyond sporadic interactions with a handful who approached her after lectures, or sending in hand-written letters.
This observation was what drew Helena into the web3 rabbit hole - finally. As someone who was already familiar with crypto, speculative token trading never attracted her. It was the opportunity of leveraging web3 to bring creators (like her mother) and audiences closer together that got her excited, and eventually down the path to start Salsa.
What follows is a collection of possibilities and takeaways for creators who are keen to explore web3. Whether you are a musician trying to understand who your listeners are, or an author looking to release a limited-edition work, Helena shares what creators can look forward to as they start their journey in the web3 galaxy.
A world of possibilities, thanks to connection with context
Imagine you are an indie musician, with an intimate but strong following in your local music community. Today, it is incredibly challenging to create sustainable streams of income - streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music barely pay anything, as you have not reached mainstream popularity. You are turning to live sets to supplement your income, and occasionally sell songs via traditional social media platforms. Yet conversion of the latter is low.
What can web3 do for you?
Imagine turning all live performances ticketing into non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Each performance has its own unique ticket, and your audience starts to collect ticket NFTs as they attend your shows. You start to gather information on who has purchased the tickets.
At each show, the concession booths, ticketing stands and tables are peppered with QR codes or NFC-enabled chips - both of which are low cost and easy to set up. Attendees can scan the QR code or tap their mobile devices against the NFC chips and claim a free proof-of-attendance NFT (POAP), or a digital collectible as a souvenir from attending the event.
For the first time ever, you, the musician, have two sets of data with rich context. You have a list of wallet addresses who purchased your ticket NFT, and you have another list who attended. What is most important is this - you are not reliant on your ticketing provider, event promoter or agent to access this data. This is all publicly, freely accessible to you, the artist.
After the event, you know your audience. The diehard fans are experiencing a post-concert high. You place all of those who attended into a wallet-native messaging experience (cue Salsa), where attendees who attended each concert are in a “group chat”. Fans are able to share favorite moments with each other, and you now have a targeted channel to help attendees relive the experience. Perhaps it is offering the recording of the live set before its release to the public. Or it could be limited-edition merchandise to commemorate the special moment. The possibilities are endless, because you, the creator, now own your audience. You not only have a direct line of communication with fans, but also have context - an individual who attended one concert compared to one who attended every single live show you performed in the past two years is easily differentiable through their NFT portfolios. Perhaps you might even discover the patron - individuals who purchase large quantities of tickets but rarely turn up at the event.
Your relationship with fans is not only limited to post-event sales. Because you now have a captive audience, you can select your superfans and involve them in the co-creation process. Have a song that is in the works, but feel like it is “not you” or “not 100%”? Release it to this exclusive group and get their feedback. This deepens the emotional buy-in fans already have, and make them feel like they are truly part of your journey, rooting for your success. In fact, this may turn out to be yet another monetization channel - some fans would pay for the exclusive early pre-release or work-in-progress versions of the song you are creating. Represented in the form of NFTs, fans also enjoy true ownership of these works - the tokens represent immutable assets that they now own and can show off to others.
Hurdles before we can realize the dream
What we shared is a beautiful picture of what web3 can offer the creator.
But we are not quite there yet.
The 3 roadblocks a creator faces on the journey are:
Negative perception - web3, and by extension, NFTs, carry a bad rep that many get irked with. Perceived to be “money grabbers”, “compulsive, degenerate gamblers” and “fraudsters”, web3 participants are commonly associated with financial speculation and profit maximization - killing the joy and pleasure of appreciating a creator’s handicraft. Yet we all play a role towards changing this perception. By introducing more non-speculative use cases (several of which were outlined above) and using the technology to facilitate connection, the shift in perception of web3 has already started - but will be a long-drawn one. Creators are naturally cautious of web3 because of the potential backlash they may face from their audiences, and until we shift perception, this is likely to be the top teething hurdle to overcome
Complex to participate - the majority of web3 products, beginning with the wallet, remain complex for the creators’ audiences. Take for example email - when signing up and utilizing Gmail, one does not need to know SMTP - the protocol used to relay emails. Neither does one need to know SHA hash - how passwords are encrypted. Yet, the current state of web3 expects familiarity with the underlying blockchains, seed phrases, public vs. private keys, among many other concepts. While there is an emerging swathe of tools that are starting to absolve away this complexity (including Salsa), the web3 experience largely is not seamless today. What creators need to look out for is the inflection point when products become user friendly - defined as a user who does not have to understand or even know that they are interacting with web3, but enjoys the benefits.
Slighting existing fans - as creators get excited about web3, there is also a cautionary tale to be told around failing to include existing fans in the pursuit for a web3-native audience. Even the most venerable brands have made this folly, thus creators need to be fiercely protective of their existing audiences, even as most of them might not be ready to embrace web3.
Intermediaries are here to stay
While web3 can be alluring to creators, especially those who have been mistreated by their intermediaries such as publishers or agents, it is important to still recognize that intermediaries will still have a role. In the famous words (of a fictional character), “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” - it is unlikely that we will see the disappearance of intermediaries.
As an author, Helena’s mother is the prime example of the coexistence of traditional intermediaries with web3 elements. The former group still remains most effective to expand reach and influence. An effective publisher and literary agent gets her books into bookstores, sets up press conferences, and offers extensive distribution reach. If any author aspires to be a bestseller, there is no doubt that intermediaries play a vital role in realizing the dream. Yet, incremental experiments can be introduced to incorporate the benefits of web3 - by placing QR codes in the book covers to mint free NFTs (of course with the blessing of the publishers), Helena’s mother can start to build a direct relationship with her fanbase, not unlike the musician analogy we depicted earlier. Furthermore, she could find new audiences by transforming existing print content into digital creations such as special edition book launches, art work, games or films.
At the same time, there are occasions when creators want to bring a story to light - one that not necessarily has massive commercialization potential, but impactful nevertheless. For Helena’s mother, her desire to write a historical novel inspired by the Jewish community during 18th century Prague would not be held back if she had direct access to her target audience. Web3 provides a potential avenue to reach out to the hundreds of individuals who want to see the story come alive. Through a NFT pre-sale for example, Helena’s mother can now raise initial proceeds to kickstart the novel writing, and distribute the work directly to her supporters.
Wrapping Up: Just Get Started
Just as there is no one tried-and-true path to creating content, there is no one way to get started on the web3 journey as a creator. Some artists start by launching NFT collections, while others explore web3-enabled marketplaces to distribute their creations. There is no one right entry point into web3 - it is about getting started.
As creators pave the way into the web3 galaxy, Helena shares one final piece of advice - get out of your house/office, and go to an in-person event to find someone to connect with.
The passive consumption of industry news or shuffling through ‘how-to’ YouTube videos is unlikely to help build motivation and confidence to experiment. Because of how new the space is, web3 remains intimidating, so a creator’s best bet is to meet someone in-person whom you feel has a similar path, and learn with or through them. After all, that was how Helena found her co-founder- at an in-person conference in Miami, when she struck up a conversation with a woman standing next to her and they discovered a mutual passion in book NFTs. Today, that woman is Grace her co-founder of Salsa.
Rome was not built in a day, so creators can be heartened that the path towards “figuring out this web3 thing” is done brick by brick, and all one has to do is take the first step.