The Unreasonable Ecological Cost of #CryptoArt

Late to reply to this thread. Thank you @dogmaskmusic for starting this conversation! Highly appreciated.

Want to respond first as a climate activist. My wife and I are so committed to this topic that we’re actively talking about going completely (we hope!) off the grid by 2025. We’re also currently engaged with a design university on a program called “Designing Exit Strategies” which is looking at degrowth from a design perspective. So, the point is, we take this s*** seriously.

That said, hearing this “crypto is a carbon nightmare” meme is frustrating beyond belief.

Speaking now as the founder of Resonate, there is a direct line between my discovery of Ethereum in 2014 and the existence of this music platform. (Meaning we all wouldn’t be having this discussion if I hadn’t drunk the blockchain kool-aid, as it initiated a specific series of events leading to founding Resonate.)

Back in 2017 I heard about a site called Digiconomist that was stating rather convincingly that PoW (proof of work) was consuming as much electricity as country ___. You could even check back every few weeks to see which country Bitcoin was overtaking at the time. Problem is, the science sucks:

The computer process that generates each coin is said to be on pace to require more electricity than the United States consumes in a year. This bitcoin “mining” allegedly consumes more power than most countries use each year, and its electricity usage is roughly equivalent to Bulgaria’s consumption.

But here’s another thing you might want to know: All of that analysis is based on a single estimate of bitcoin’s power consumption that is highly questionable, according to some long-time energy and IT researchers. Despite their skepticism, this power-consumption estimate from the website Digiconomist has quickly been accepted as gospel by many journalists, research analysts and even billionaire investors.

Four years on and the meme persists. sigh

So now we have this situation where artists are turning away from a potentially game-changing source of income because of bad data and the viral power of convincing-sounding memes. I’ve been more than frustrated about this recently, sometimes engaging in twitter disputes on the topic (not fun) which often feels like trying to push back the ocean.

Then something occurred to me… what if this “controversy” is actually an opportunity?

Speaking again as the founder of Resonate, I have to say that I’m MUCH more worried about the potential for exploitation from Silicon-Valley-powered-startups selling NFT tools to artists, where the same dynamics we’re trying to avoid as a music service are guaranteed to pan out… startups getting acquired by bigger fish (i.e. Spotify buys out Zora), projects go bust (leaving artists with no more control or access) or even garden-variety scammers serving up NFTs with half-baked tech.

What is the opportunity in all this? Recreating the same logic and methodology as NFTs (sans blockchain) but under the management and collaborative potential that can only come from a democratically-empowered platform like ours!

We’d be able to instantly counter the carbon arguments completely while bringing to light venture-backed platform dynamics. Accomplished with a combination of the Credentials tech Nick mentioned above, while building in the essential logic that NFTs provide… shared royalties, provable ownership, limited editions, etc.

If anyone is interested, drop a reply. Thinking of forming a working group on this… :wink:


I’d go even further : Recreating ANOTHER logic and methodology than NFT (sans blockchain) but under the management and collaborative potential that can only come from a democratically-empowered platform like ours!

Because as you say, NFT provide stuff like “provable ownership” (which I only marginally care for as a leftist), limited editions … except artificially limited since they’re not really limited they’re just fake scarcity, which, again, as a leftist should raise an eyebrow, or both, because it’s a disgusting concept.

Because yes, I’ve talked at length about NFTs on other forums so I’m a bit tired if I have to do it all over again, but all the artists I’ve seen criticizing NFTs are not just criticizing the fact it’s using a PoW blockchain to sell them (it’s also an issue, even if PoW isn’t consuming an entire country’s worth of electricity, it remains an issue for several reasons, but it’s not the only issue) they’re criticizing the very concept of NFTs, which is to bring digital assets into the logic of the Art Fair world. And the Art Fair world sucks, is as right wing capitalist garbage as it gets, and we should strive to destroy it, not replicate it in the digital realm.

Why on earth would I dream of a society that creates fake scarcity out of endlessly replicable digital files? The only answer to that is “to make those digital files financial assets”. At least with physical goods, one can claim an emotional bond to the thing one buys. It gets slightly damaged, it ages in a way that’s unique, you store it somewhere in your living room, what’s unique is your sensory experience of it. If someone has a “unique NFT”, and loses it (like, it got stolen), he lost nothing of the sensory experience, because he can still enjoy the art in exactly the same way, it’s still there, it’s still the same exact piece, just the name under it doesn’t artificially claims he “owns” this thing because he was the highest bidder in an online auction, and that’s the only thing he paid for.

This to me, and NFT in general, (and the Art Fair world as well) is the most extreme dystopia I could envision for the arts. I don’t want any of it, and the only reason it’s getting the kind of attention it has recently, is litterally just because workers of the art world are being squeezed to death since decades, and any mention of rich people handing a few of them a shread of the money they make from exploiting the whole of them (and every other human being on earth) seems like a revolution and therefore shouldn’t be conceptually questionned in any way. Except a lot of artists still question it, they didn’t become artists to beg billionnaires, millionaires and tech bros to give them a few thousand dollars so they can attach their name to it and brag about how they own the work we put years of our life and labor and love into creating, and then possibly speculate on it if they so wish.

Sure because NFT is conceptually basically a scam (they buy something but own nothing in fact, just a receipt that says they “own” a thing that anyone can actually own with a copy paste), it might not seem like such a big deal, but it still catters to an ideology and a kind of behavior that ultimately will only be harmful and detrimental to the art world, and the proof we have for it is that it’s exactly the way the art world has functionned for a few centuries already.

As a broad answer, @peter : Resonate might have a direct lineage from “driking the crypto kool aid”, and there might be good things to achieve with “another form of blockchain”, but the fact remains Resonate is a conceptually and intellectually much greater and revolutionnary concept than NFT for the arts, because it thinks about humans, and fairness, and collectivity first, rather than about “the art object” as a thing in and of itself that should be valued for its scarcity, its uniqueness, rather than as merely the possibility of a link between all people, who desperately need as many ways they can to communicate and empathize with each other.

Just because NFT makes money and excites journalists and cool digital art people who used to make cool looking shader art for big brands and are now making cool looking shader arts directly for the shareholders and CEOs of these big brands instead, doesn’t mean it’s a better suited concept for the future and that we should want it for ourselves.

Resonate’s path will undoubtedly be tougher than that, but maybe (a little like Bandcamp managed while still baring the cross of being a private owned company with all the limitations and problematics that this entails) it can grow more slowly, steadily, and fairly. There will likely never be a moment where, in the blink of an eye, a few thousands people will amass dozens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a month from wealthy patrons, but that’s something to be proud of, if we’re to build a system that lives outside of the predatory behaviors of capitalism.

Hope this didn’t come as agressive toward you, and in fact I’d be more than enclined to build a non blockchain alternative to NFT, but if you think people critical of it are not thinking about that already I think you couldn’t be more wrong. We are actively thinking about alternatives, just alternatives to the entire ideology and prerogative of NFT, not just to its technological implementation.


Terrific contribution @LLK!


Wow, fantastic reply @LLK. Literal goosebumps. Sooo many comments I’d love to highlight and comment on, but time being always limited I’ll simply summarize by saying THANK YOU. Your perspective on what this whole thing about… your engagement and commitment makes all the years of sacrifice totally worth it.

And everything you said is exactly why you need to be involved! Absolutely lets deconstruct all of it… the silicon-valley-startup systems, the BS of the predatory art world, glorification of wealth/access, capitalist dynamics, etc.

Just one specific thing I’d reply to:

At least with physical goods, one can claim an emotional bond to the thing one buys.

I’d argue that NFTs create the first chance to attach emotional meaning to a digital object. While I still treasure physical representations of music I purchased over the years, I’ve often longed for a similar feeling in the digital world. In fact, I think the transience of digital was just as much a wrecking ball on the industry as piracy. The “weight” of meaning felt like it disappeared almost overnight. So for me the purpose of an NFT-like “product” is simply to foster new pathways for expressing the love and dedication a fan feels towards an artist. If we can do that ethically, practically and ecologically, that sounds like a win, ya?

Will send invites to a new discussion forum soon as we sort out some internal logistics. :slight_smile:


Timestamps have likely been evocative emotionally since antiquity.


My point being we don’t need NFTs for that, they’re just a parasitic form of ownership added on top that makes the false pretence of being “the form of attachement” itself. What I meant by “emotional bond” was something factual not just psychological, the emotional bond isn’t born out of a virtual “reciept”, it’s made by the fact you physically have to deal with the artpiece. Which means the artpiece can get damaged, bent, improved on (in your opinion), tempered, destroyed : you can do things with it. I think we could totally try to find ways to add more of that flavor to digital art, but NFT is not in any case the way, it even removes the digital art itself even further away from the buyer since it locks him/her out of its code, of its original asset file, of its very nature, to only connect him/her through… ugh the worse thing in the world actually : the moment he payed for it.

You can’t do anything with an NFT except contemplate your receipt, you can do things with the jpg/gif/mpg it’s claiming you own, but then once you’ve tempered/modified/transformed it and actually even before that (if like, you simply want to simply “download it” !) well you’re in this weird situation where you won’t own what you’ve downloaded, because crypto has this nag for turning things upside down and calling them “complex” when they’re just meaningless. To really “have” what you own, you need to pirate it.

Personally, long before that I already had a strong emotional bond with the digital art I buy, I buy a lot of small games, I buy physical and digital records on bandcamp, I buy small runs of prints from all the visual artists I enjoy, some on their own setup shops to bypass “middlemen costs” (fun fact, I bypass middlemen there much more than on any NFT platform right now), and I support those who only do things online with Patreon subs so that I can still support them. The thing is, there is an emotional bond there and it’s rich and experience and fluctuating and based on human interraction, it’s rich by essence, not because of a stamp that says so. I find extremely scary of a political proposition that somehow the money I’ve spent on those things should be considered “less of a comitment” just because there isn’t a “tempered proof” ledger saying I bought them somewhere. The fact is there is a ledger saying I bought these, sure it’s not cryptolocked, it’s not stored in magic amber so that someone in 2239 can see how I bought this album in 2018, I’ve only got normal receipts of all my purchases, the system through which I paid has normal informations relative to the transactions etc. These are not the problems that needs to be solved.

NFT solves the problem of making transactions scarce (which is more generally a cryptomoney advocates obsession anyway), which is the opposite of what I want.

The only net positive of NFT is it raises the question of “what do we value?”. And this is, indeed, a fundamental questions. (actually about that, I think you should read the looong discussions I had with @Sam_Martyn in the The Riddle of Streaming for Jazz and Classical topic, since it’s also a question that we can’t avoid about Resonate)

I agree that anything that foster pathways for expressing love and dedication to artists is great. Let’s imagine for a second what would be the specific of an “ethical” NFT alternative :

  • No scarcity (anyone can buy a digital thing because that’s the greatest thing about all things digital).
  • No speculation (because speculation itself is inherently bad, and the art world should wnat none of that) but not only no speculation > a structure that specifically and structurally inforce the impossibility for speculative behavior to, instead, foster at its root redistribution. Otherwise it’s just trickle down economics applied to the artists (“if a few make a lot, eventually for some reason surely, all will benefit!” said the capitalist with no proof of that ever happening anywhere).
  • Contracts that take into account the laws of the real world that define precisely what you own (is it the jpg? is it a right of access to a download link where you can donwload the jpg forever? is it the right to alter a jpg to make your own jpg with it? etc.). Possibly, you could even have an interface that lets the artists specify what exactly they sell. This contrat costs the same price to anyone who buys the art.
  • “pay what you want” system, except anything above the asking price is strictly considered a donation and doesn’t grant any special rights to the patron.

Etc. that’s just a few on the top of my head. You quickly start to notice that it doesn’t look anything at all like NFT, which is because NFT is a bad idea to start with.

The only good idea is “digital art is work and craftsmanship and should be paid for”. It sounds so boring to capitalist press to say things with those weird words, they like much better “magic wands make moneyz !”, but it’s the only truth we know : it’s an awful lot of work and craftsmanship, and we should be made aware of it and pay for it in a fair way.

Also notice how this ideal NFT website looks an awful lot like Bandcamp “but for visuals and digital art”, that’s because in essence, NFT websites are just exactly that, Bandcamp “but for visuals” except you only sell your thing once to the highest bidder because some people decided if anything exists in more than 5 exemplary, it’s not worth spending a lot of money on it, and also (that’s always my favorite aspect) contrary to bandcamp, you do not even own the actual art you bought, you just own a super-mega-hyper secure reciept saying you own a hyperlink directing to some place where it’s showcased. At least with Bandcamp the transaction is simple, you buy permanent access to a link that lets you download the art you bought easily, in any desired format, and illimited acess to streaming anywhere you want from the app.

And then (like all the tech-savy bros of the cryptoworld with their super expensive profile page) on Bandcamp, anyone can show off his love for musicians, and display his collection, it’s even kinda funny that the “collection” interface of Bandcamp looks extremely similar to the ones you find on withfundation, Super Rare, Nifty etc. Actually it also works the same on, but it makes sense it’s kind of the bandcamp for indie games.

There, you have it, all done with fungible tokens.

The thing is though, there are things we could improve about Bandcamp, and that’s in part why Resonate has room to grow, and also there would need to be specifics to figure out for Digital Art for sure, would it only be to make the experience of buying it a little more exciting to the buyers than having a dedicated “scarce” instagram feed, and be able to brag “I’m rich enough that I spent a lot on this and you can check exactly how much because that’s not at all disgusting to look at if you’re struggling for food this month !”

Anyhow, thank you both for your kind words and taking the time to read everything I had to say.

This all matters a lot to me, not even that we succeed, that would be beautiful for sure, but more importantly, that we don’t fail to really pinpoint and establish what we want to be succesful at. Because if we manage that the best we can, I’m sure not only we’ll get a following, but we’ll get a lineage of ideas of our own, and that’s even better.


This thread is awesome. Thanks to all!

This part summarizes where I think we should stand. We don’t want to create another way to produce scarce goods. We want to create a way for others to bond, connect and interact in a rich and human way.


@LLK @NachoB this reminds me of the great John Berger…

"For critics and the managers of art salerooms, value is monetary. A painting becomes more significant as its price rises—artistic and market value are one and the same. For Berger, as a Marxist, art’s value is very different: “Art, when it functions like this [making sense of what life’s brutalities cannot], becomes a meeting place of the invisible, the irreducible, the enduring, guts and honour”.

I want to be in that meeting place.

We can look after each other in the long run. With solidarity and mutual exchange, but without speculation.


First of all, fantastic replies everyone! Wow.

I’m so glad to see all of this discussion and it’s all super interesting to read. I hope my initial post didn’t come across as too antagonistic, and I’m glad to see the insights and conversation everyone has replied with. Reading through this thread gives me hope for the future of music and music communities.

Second, I want to share a very well-researched and entertaining video that Benn Jordan (aka The Flashbulb) recently uploaded about NFTs, and how there are actually some good ways to use NFT technology that are millions of times less wasteful for the planet and that don’t give money to unnecessary intermediaries looking for a quick buck from artists:


For me, this was emails. I got fond memories of email replies I got ~20 years ago from tiny people like Brad Sucks and from less than tiny ones like Chumbawamba. I downloaded some stuff and I got some CDs (which I don’t have anymore)… but all of the emotional meaning for me associated with these objects, back then and today, is in the fact that the people whose music and words I was enjoying took a few minutes to reply to me.

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Yes exactly! It was the fact that you received that email from an ‘issuer’ you trusted, and that’s a event of emotional and social value in return for the decent price you paid for the work and the appreciation you showed. …

Maybe you chose to share that treasure with others, adding your narrative of what it means to you… That’s how powerful movements can form and how ideas can shape, in a commons of expression.

Nowadays we have many, more useable crypto tools (not just blockchains or NFTs) to protect and make your treasured event proveable and secure, with selective disclosure of only the parts you wish to share.

It’s between the issuer (the artist) and you the holder (recipient of the treasured communication or personalised media) … and a verifier (any other third party you want to prove it or share it with). That tech is called ‘verifiable credentials’ and you don’t necessarily need a blockchain at all… especially one that costs the earth to do it… or, in some cases, irrevocably place personal info on them.

That’s why we are using the VC web standard, open source, to do our Community Credentials project, not a proprietary blockchain.

Now, if we wanted to create an internal marketplace for art or music or information objects so we could sell and trade those precious trusted moments in exchange for money, a blockchain based market and wallet system is indeed great for those who can access it and play in that economic system.

But do we really want to do that?

That economic system is about capital speculation and accumulation, where generally people with money, buy stuff to sell in order to get more money. I think there’s quite enough of that sort of system in the world, and plenty of markets already, many of them scams, where art is tokenized and monetised, made scarce and put in a marketplace for display in collectors private gardens.

I think we need to focus on our core mission of providing a decent reward to artists for their work and contributions. Proofs of authenticity (protecting artists from rip offs and impersonation) and of purchase (digital receipt of decent reward) can all be part of that.

It’s about human rights and the commons, rather than property rights.

Nathan Schneider puts it very nicely…

."…many of the visions for this emerging technology take us straight down the road of dystopia, where everything is for sale and nothing is shared."


I’d like to thank everyone for sharing thoughts on this.

Also been thinking along similar lines a lot lately. There is so much potential to create a system that values things other than speculation, trends, a small number of artists making the largest amount of the $$$ pie, all things that are already well available in the existing systems.

Literally anything we dream up could be created in software (blockchain or not), but what happened? The speculative IRL art world was simply emulated in the digital space.

Sometimes the lack of imagination is just astounding to me.

I think it’s important to start from first principles and think about what we really want in the digital space, instead of just trying to copy what exists in the real world. After all, its a big opportunity to start from scratch.

I felt very similar about the rise of streaming music in 2020 during lock-down. There were so many attempts to emulate real life in VR or what have you, when this is really an opportunity to do things in a different way, maybe even do things that you can’t do in real life, instead of trying to imitate the real life experience.


Had to save this. Pure inspiration for me @LLK.


I find this article of public necessity so I’m sharing it here.


Thanks @LLK : “Everything about this is run-of-the-mill, banal, predictable capitalism.” :wink:


Lot of good work there.

Would like to see a more thorough consideration of hicetnunc2000 / FAQ.

The argument offered was a link to a three year-old article behind a paywall. WikiPedia gives some insight to the governance issues Tezos was facing 2018-20. (The article cited was written by one of the claimants in legal dispute over administration of the project.)

My understanding of Tezos’s Liquid Proof-of-Stake suggests different economics (much lower entry) than Ethereum’s staking.

Full disclosure: some friends are doing ok making friends and having fun selling art on hicetnunc2000. To be sure, they are hustling to make up for lost touring income, they have great facility with visual art and they are not imagining any great structural transformation in the economy resulting from their practice.

So far as I can see, any such claims [of transformation… edit] have no evidence to support them.


I’d argue the problem with Hic et Nunc is that so much about their design is trying to fight AGAINST the very principles of NFT (ie. To make it ethical!) it doesn’t even makes sense anymore in my view why they use NFT at all. It’s just a glorified instagram feed with a “buy” button, in which case, why use cryptocurrency / blockchain tech at all? I think the reason she doesn’t focus too much on hicetnunc is the case she makes stands for all platform regardless of which blockchain tech they use.

I too have quite few people I know making marginal amounts of money from these platforms but 1/ this is the big hype cycle moment and they’ve only made max 200€ to 1k (in most cases without taking fees into account), which isn’t very exciting about the future. 2/ most of the other people I know made nothing and spent a lot of money on Gas fee and are now sitting on NFTs nobody want to buy and are already considering selling them all at a loss.

To say nothing of non “visual art fluent” people, the cases mentionned above are stritcly people working in tech and graphic art. We’ve argued a bunch.

Again, nothing about the rare good things NFT brought require blockchain or scarcity, real money would actually be WAY easier to use and would allow for way more variations on the idea of selling digital art. Which in effect means nothing good about NFT comes from what NFT is, it just comes from what investers believed it to be for a few short weeks where some lucky few benefited. It could never scale, it could never be a long term solution, and it could never be democratic and fair.

Edit: about the “making friends and selling art”, do we really believe this has anything to do with NFT as a tech/concept? The only thing I see possibly uniting people is the prospect of making money when times are so hard, which then in old capitalist fashion means we’re exploiting people’s despair and weaponizing it to make a case for a concept that has nothing to do with them (in this case Cryptocurrency) and then claiming this concept fosters/creates community when in fact it’s just aspiring it and harnessing its power to benefit a few people.

If some other thing/tech/platform that has nothing to do with NFT comes along and says “here artists get rich!” abd medias are gulible enough to repeat that claim with little to no proof and a few heartwarming stories, you’ll see a community build on that too no matter what it is, and you’ll hear of a few people benefiting from it no matter what it is.

It happened with Myspace, it happened with Tumblr etc. And in a sense I think myspace was much more revolutionnary and fostering community than NFT currently are.

Edit 2: more specifically about hicetnunc, if ethics is their goal it wouldn’t hurt if as an answer to the article and a proof of their good faith, they’d just release all the raw numbers and made their API open for other people to check them easily. I for one would welcome good datasets shared by the people who claim to be all about artists first.


Started a thread here to explore whether we could use our soon-to-be-released Community Credentials tech to create something similar to NFTs.

Idea is to have a debate about whether we could or should, then look more at details if desired: INTRODUCTION - could/should Resonate sell NFTs?

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Been a while since there was activity on this topic, but wanted to add this to the thread. Great piece about an NFT market based out of Brazil. THIS is the kind of community we’re aligned with…

“We are responsible for using technology according to our political visions,” Flores explains. “You don’t stumble into this sort of community feeling; it has to be actively shaped in a micropolitical way.”

More writing on web3 including NFT’s… pragmatism from Moxie and a report on his experience of marketplaces: "The people at the end of the line who are flipping NFTs do not fundamentally care about distributed trust models or payment mechanics, but they care about where the money is. "

Nice observations at the end: use “cryptography (rather than infrastructure) to distribute trust” and try not to make it harder to make and manage software by distributing it when you don’t need to.