How to Make an NFT (No High-Power Team Required)
Sara Simms and Melleefresh
Music artists who drop NFTs are generally high-profile names with a strong team supporting them. They are invariably connected to equally high-profile digital visual artists. This mutually beneficial collaboration taps into both parties’ thousands (and in some cases millions) of keen fans who outbid each other to drop big coin on these products.
What about other musical artists who have a solid, if not yet fanatic following? Those who don’t have a grip of power players helping them with every move? Are NFTs an option for them? How can they make their own NFTs and take advantage of this income avenue, one that is not stifled by scraps from streaming or the inconsistency of touring?
Sara Simms tackled all these questions when she dropped her gorgeous NFTs in connection with her most recent release, the self-described “techno/drum 'n' bass" track “Kreator.” The Toronto-based DJ/turntablist released “Kreator”—a collaboration with Play Records’ Melleefresh of freshmau5 (the Juno-nominated project with deadmau5) and produced alongside John La Magna—on her own Simmetry Sounds label. The music part of it was familiar territory for Simms, the NFT part, a steep learning curve.
“I came into this knowing nothing,” admits Simms from her home in Toronto. “Nothing about cryptocurrency, how to buy it, how to trade it. Nothing about how to produce an NFT, or how to get started. I didn’t even know where to find NFTs. But I think it is important to look into anything new that comes along. NFTs seemed really different and interesting, like they could have a positive impact.”
Simms reached out to a company that made NFTs about making some for her. After she didn’t hear back from them, she decided to create her NFTs on her own.
Unlike the personality-free NFTs of some of her contemporaries, Simms’ NFTs are of juicy red lips, sparkling with glitter and impossible to look away from. She has dropped two. Both are short MP4 videos, Sara Simms & Melleefresh - Kreator (OBJKT One), a 32-second clip and Sara Simms & Melleefresh - Kreator (OBJKT Two), a 56-second clip. The ideas for the clips come from the video Simms had in mind for the song, based on hers and Melleefresh’s love of red lipstick.
Says Simms, “The concept was very simple: the lipstick to be applied, showing the glamourous side of lipstick and, maybe, the glamorous side of dance music.”
Simms found the make-up artist for the videos, Tutushka, on Instagram. The Ukrainian-based Tutushka stepped up to not only do the makeup, but also source the models and an editor—a huge help mid-pandemic, when creating the videos in Canada was not a possibility. Besides the two shorter clips, they also created a conventional video for the song, which will possibly also be released as an NFT, at a later date.
Once the digital art was created, Simms’ research revealed what is now common knowledge: popular cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum and their blockchains are very energy-intensive. She looked into eco-conscious ways of producing her NFTs that use proof of stake rather than proof of work, which takes far less energy and is easier on the environment. She settled on Tezos as her cryptocurrency and the difficult to pronounce, but environmentally-friendly Hic et Nunc (Latin for “here and now”) platform.
“I searched eco-friendly NFT sites and there wasn’t a lot of stuff coming up, less than I can count on 10 fingers,” Simms explains the decision-making process that brought her to Hic et Nunc. “Some sites were not very well put-together, others didn’t have the right type of artist vibe to them. Some of the sites were also dealing in Ethereum or had some connection to that network, which I wasn’t interested in. Hic et Nunc have all their NFTs available for purchase in Tezos. They have a really cool artist vibe and it seemed relatively user-friendly to set up.
“Hic et Nunc is a site I need to direct traffic to instead of the site being able to feature me,” she continues. “I’m okay with that starting off. What was important to me was that I was able to drop these NFTs in a way that I felt good about and that wasn’t going to be using up more electricity than it needed. Making a million dollars wasn’t the goal for this project. I perhaps could make more money if I launched on Nifty Gateway or OpenSea, but I wouldn’t feel good about that decision.”
Before minting her NFTs, Simms had to establish a digital wallet for her cryptocurrency. This is similar to setting up ApplePay or PayPal, except instead of being attached to your banking institution, it is attached to your cryptocurrency’s blockchain. Finding the crypto digital wallet best suited to her needs was, in itself, another research project for Simms. There are numerous types of digital wallets: online, software, hardware, with varying degrees of usability. She created a software wallet, and went a step further by establishing and attaching a physical hardware wallet to it. This is an additional safety measure so her cryptocurrency is not stored online.
Learning to set up her software and hardware crypto wallets and then learning how to operate them was another lesson(s) for Simms. The former can be set up through cryptocurrency exchange platforms such as Coinbase or Kraken or Binance. The latter is set up through platforms such as Ledger or Trezor or KeepKey. Says Simms, “I suggest checking with the website you want to mint NFTs on to see if they recommend specific software wallet(s).”
Once she learned how to set up and use her wallets, the next step was to load the wallet with Tezos. Simms had some Tezos gifted to her, but all cryptocurrencies can be purchased with a credit card through any of the abovementioned cryptocurrency exchange platforms. Once Simms had her wallet filled with the amount of Tezos she needed, she synced it to Hic et Nunc.
Hic et Nunc supports new artists by providing enough Tezos to them so they can mint their NFT, you simply have to ask for it. All platforms charge gas fees for each operation on the blockchain. At roughly 30 cents per transaction, Hic et Nunc’s gas fees are significantly lower than sites that operate with, for example, Ethereum.
“It’s very simple,” Simms says of the actual minting process. “You decide on a title, a short description and a couple of tags so people can find you. You upload your item and press ‘mint.’ Your digital, or hardware, wallet should already be synced to the site and have enough Tezos in it to cover the fees. The minting fees on Hic et Nunc are 0.08 Tezos. Whether you’re minting one NFT or you’re minting 1,000, or a larger number, the cost would be the same 0.08 Tezos.”
At the time Simms made her NFTs, .08 Tezos was the equivalent of approximately 50 cents. At the time of this article’s publishing, it was the equivalent of about 25 cents. Hic et Nunc retains a modest 2.5% of the items minted on the platform.
“Every time you have a transaction on the blockchain, you need to pay a gas fee for the operation to take place. Some creators mint 50 editions thinking they’re going to make a million dollars. On Ethereum the gas fee is quite a bit higher [they fluctuate constantly and can be monitored at gasnow.org]. If you make a bunch of NFTs, and they don’t sell, you’re unfortunately in the hole. If you want to make a collectible item that has multiple copies, Hic et Nunc is a good platform to experiment on.”
Simms thought she was at the finish line, but her NFTs weren’t priced yet. “I started the minting process on Wednesday night,” she says. “I was able to mint both NFTs on the blockchain. On Thursday morning, I couldn’t figure out how to put a price tag on what I had created. It took a bit of time to figure this out.”
Unlike other platforms, Hic et Nunc isn’t set up for an auction-type sale where the purchaser determines the price by bidding. The seller has to price their items. “I did a lot of accounting,” Simms says of how she determined her price. “I looked at what Tezos was worth at the beginning of the year and the end of last year. Cryptocurrency goes up and down right in front of your eyes. I didn’t want to set the price so low that if my coin drops down all of a sudden people are able to buy my NFT for nothing. I didn’t want to come off with a huge price, but I believe in the value of my work and I wanted to set a reasonable price so that music and art collectors and my fans who are interested in investing in my art are able to purchase my NFTs.”
Simms has minted 25 editions of OBJKT One priced at 50 Tezos each, and 50 editions of OBJKT Two price at 60 Tezos each. She has set a 25% royalty on the former and a 20% royalty on the latter. The idea behind the royalty is that as Simms’ popularity grows and her NFTs increase in value, she is able to earn a portion of their future worth in perpetuity. This royalty option is, arguably, one of the greatest characteristics of NFTs which ensures the original artist always benefits from their work.
From idea to drop, including all the research and education, it took Simms two months to have her NFTs minted and priced on Hic et Nunc—this is not counting the time it took to create the videos. Besides her time, the entire process cost her less than two Tezos. This includes the cost of the learning mistakes she made by doing multiple transactions.
Her NFTs do not have an expiration date as of yet. Additionally, Simms’ full music video for “Kreator,” which she might drop as an NFT, has a file size larger than Hic et Nunc’s current capability so she will have to find an alternate platform for it.
In the meantime, Simms has to educate her audience about the cryptospace for them to be able to purchase her NFTs. “People are curious about it,” she says. “I have posted on my socials to DM me for details because I want people to ask me about it. It’s not for everybody, but that makes it more like a cool, exclusive club for your core fans. If you’re a magnetic artist, people are going to want to get what you have no matter how hard it is to get it. These are the same people that drive days to see you in weird places when you’re touring. They’re going to try and figure out how to get these NFTs."
Simms also emphasizes the education aspect for the creators. “It’s not just, ‘Let’s create an NFT,’” she says. “There are all these steps to go through and learn and become savvy about, including transferring cryptocurrency to fiats, or the tangible currency we have now. Cryptocurrency is a futuristic way to operate. I especially see the music world becoming more integrated with cryptocurrency. We’re on the brink of cryptocurrency becoming more mainstream and NFTs are bringing that one step closer.”