The old adage it takes money to make money is cranked to eleven these days when it comes to the recent costs of releasing Ethereum based crypto art.
If you are unfamiliar with the process of releasing an artwork on the blockchain (a process often referred to as 'minting'), then you need only understand one concept relevant to this article.
The concept applies to several cryptocurrencies and their respective blockchains, and usually represents a unit of measurment that is a fraction of the cryptocurrency itself. In the case of Ethereum, this is expressed as the notion of so-called gas.
You see, in order for you the artist to get actual computation or real work like minting a non-fungible token (NFT) art token on the Ethereum blockchain, you must first pay some gas for the transaction that results in your shiny new artwork.
This gas is paid to miners in a fractional unit of ETH known as Gwei; the miners then confirm Ethereum transactions on the blockchain in exchange for this Gwei.
A down-and-out icon panhandles for gas amidst the filthy and dangerous streets of crypto art. This fantastic piece by a crypto art OG sums up the grimy feeling that everyone in the scene is getting from the high gas prices.
Lately, the amount of Gwei needed to mint art has hit all time highs and is putting intense pressure on the art community (among others like ETH based games) when it comes to the costs involved in minting art tokens.
As charmingly depicted by the wonderful pixel artist VJ Entter, one can think of the gas as truly being sold at "unholy prices".
This issue affects the whole Ethereum ecosystem, including NFTs from crypto art, games, and more- if you watch the adoption and usage metrics around the various dApps you will notice a severe downturn in usage that correlates with the increase in gas prices that became most apparent beginning back in June of 2020.
"SELLING GAS AT UNHOLY PRICES"
The gas price increases when the Ethereum network has higher rates of use and because of certain kinds of use. For example, more people performing transactions like transferring tokens, contract interactions, trades on distribute exchanges (DEXs), or because of transactions with decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms.
The hot takes from artists and others at this point art virtually limitless.
"Eth gas prices are the best curator, artists will now probably only tokenize their stronger pieces" — Moxarra
In contrast to the $38 worth of ETH to mint one piece of crypto art, it was as low as $0.30 just months ago. This does not bode well for the future of crypto art or similar asset classes.
So, what is an artist or collector to do about all this?
Most proposed solutions to the issue of high transaction fees involve choosing alternative blockchains to mint art on. It is not uncommon as a crypto artist to make a showing on multiple blockchains. Of course, this comes with the mental overload of learning the ins and outs of each new ecosystem.
Here are some alternatives which have been proposed in previous discussion on this topic.
Mostly, this relates to the Enjin ERC-1155 token, which some collectors in the crypto art space have in no uncertain terms, referred to as pure trash.
For example, there is pixEOS on the EOS blockchain, with art collectible and tradable in the pixEOS Gallery. The upside here is that the transaction fees for minting new art are reasonable at less than 2USD compared to current ETH minting prices which reach upwards of 47USD and more.
The downside is that the blockchain has low adoption, is not taken very seriously by some creators on other blockchains, has a colorful history with controversial participants, and is ultimately avoided on those grounds by some. The pixEOS system is younger than ETH equivalents and the gallery itself shows rather modest participation statistics.
- Total artists: 111
- Total artworks: 848
- Total sales: 2352 EOS, or about 7800 USD
The Worldwide Asset eXchange (WAX) touts itself as "The safest and most convenient way to create, buy, sell, and trade virtual items - to anyone, anywhere in the world."
There are always neat new blockchain developments happening, so perhaps some other art-friendly chains or projects will appear on the horizon soon?
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