Houston’s NFT Strong Players | Houstonia Magazine

technological progress unfolding before our eyes – at least in the world of cryptocurrencies, digital art, and their perception as tangible assets. Houston is a city at the forefront of innovation, and we are witnessing this digital world seeping into the city through several different mediums such as NFTs.

NFTs (non-refundable tokens) are collectors’ items, but digital—”one-of-a-kind” artifacts can take a variety of forms, including digital images, videos, and songs. NFTs, often sold online through users’ crypto wallets, give the fond ownership of a unique virtual item. Generally, the purchase of an NFT gives its owners exclusive rights for personal or commercial use.

While the concept may seem like a temporary trend, data reveals that NFT dealers drove the market to $17.6 billion last year. On top of that, the NFT Marketplace Open Sea, where users can buy and sell NFTs, hit an all-time high in January 2022 with $5 billion in monthly NFT sales.

Houston-based business bosses are immersing themselves in a similar virtual space by buying a stake in the digital currency. Tilman Fertitta has launched a Bitcoin rewards program for Landry’s hospitality group, and personal injury attorney Tony Buzbee has accepted virtual currency for his former River Oaks property.

In turn, NFTs open the door for wider access: artists can create and sell their work online, and consumers can invest and buy digitized properties while owning all of their purchases. And over the past year, Houston’s NFT landscape has grown, from the Chopstars’ “slopped not chopped” song remixes to the reimagining of the Houston Texans’ first franchise win against the Dallas Cowboys in 2002.

Jose Cervantes says NFTs have the power to change the world as we know it. Cervantes is the creator of Astroworld DeFi, the world’s first virtual amusement park developed on the Ethereum blockchain, modeled after Houston’s outdated theme park.

“I think we can become one of the cities on the world stage with the adoption of NFT and cryptocurrencies,” Cervantes says. “Houston is well positioned to lead the NFT and blockchain space.”

When Cervantes discovered the world of NFTs, creating a virtual Astroworld wasn’t easy for him. The game offers him nostalgia, both as a creator and as a player. Launching this summer, Astroworld tokens will program the 3D open world browser. Tokens will allow users to access the theme park, games, and rides by purchasing the park’s game season passes or a $3,000 lifetime pass.

Entering the digital art world isn’t that linear for some. Erick Calderone was in the ceramic tile business for years before he started experimenting with generative art by discovering Larva Labs’ Cryptopunks project in 2017. Interactive, coded artwork was his creative outlet from his day job until he decided to focus entirely on his passion and built one of the most successful NFT platforms to date.

“I have always had a passion for art and technology and have been interested in exploring how the two intersect. “After discovering the Cryptopunks project, I realized the incredible potential of the technology behind NFTs.”

As a prolific art pioneer, Calderone’s Houston-based company Art Blocks is an online community where users can buy, sell, and trade pieces that are static images, 3D models, and interactive experiences. But what sets Arts Blocks apart is the process: Once the NFT is purchased, the final product is delivered. Buyers choose a generic style they like, buy NFT, and an automated version of the work is created by the Art Blocks algorithm and posted to the collector’s Ethereum account. In this sense, the receiver is part of the creative process – art cannot exist without them.

In addition to NFTs, which have created a space for mixed media, independent artists have found alternative ways to find investors through the digital universe.

Compared to listeners who stream or purchase music on a platform such as iTunes, where end users only have a license to listen to music, musical NFTs allow artists to establish a closer relationship with their fans, giving them legitimate ownership of music created by specific artists. Houston producer Apex Martin leads the pack. Martin, whose production credits include Maxo Kream, Kanye West, and Travis Scott, has partnered with Mint Songs, an audio NFT marketplace. Apex What We Do!? is a seven-part EP that seeks 33 Ethereum coins as an advance to create the project in which he trades 40 percent of the royalties to his investors and gives them partial ownership.

“My goal is to eliminate the need for big brand support,” says the platinum-selling producer, explaining the use of NFT in the music industry. “This way, I am in control of the music within the ensemble and within myself.”

Users who support the project through the cryptocurrency Ethereum receive collectible NFT Apex tokens. The highest bidders on the project receive additional privileges such as one-on-one album art NFTs, priority viewing of music videos, and early notification of future NFT releases from the producer.

While these three adopters of NFT approached tech assets in different ways, each shared a similar sentiment: Bayou City, a progressive conglomerate for creators.

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