An AMEinfo exclusive
Late last August, NIFTY Souq announced the launch of a dedicated marketplace and platform where artists and collectors in the MENA can create, buy and sell NFTs.
Blockchain technology is one of the most talked-about digital topics in recent times while NFTs have revolutionized the way art and pop culture are bought and sold. NFTs created a dynamic new market for creators and fans alike with purchases 100% secure using blockchain’s decentralized records and smart contracts that prove ownership.
NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, are essentially digital contracts built on blockchain technology which – since their creation – have been used to buy anything including emojis, artwork, music, signed celebrity paraphernalia, and cars.
Famous NFTs that have been sold include a digital artwork for $69 million from Beeple, while Twitter founder Jack Dorsey sold his first ever Tweet for just under $3 mn.
The team behind NIFTY Souq has comprehensive cryptocurrency experience and is passionate about technology, art, and music. They are led by Nabil AlSayed, founder and CEO of NIFTY Souq, and a serial entrepreneur with over 22 years of experience in tech startups.
The following is an exclusive interview AMEinfo conducted with Nabil to delve further into this new marketplace and the strategies behind it.
“We certainly are the first Arabic-first platform with a focus on MENA artists. We have letters of intent and signed Arabic artists from the region who are launching NFTs of their work. We have singers, musicians, writers, designers, illustrators, and pop artists, who are ready,” Nabil told AMEinfo.
But is the MENA region ready for NFTs?
Some sectors and individuals are ready, according to Nabil, but for the most part, people are not used to this in the MENA.
“However, we are ready to face it. Before selling NFTs, our bigger role will be to educate, create awareness and introduce this new model aimed at empowering artists to own their work and make money on the spot, as opposed to galleries making most of the profit, or streaming platforms that refund artists at the end of the year, without clear visibility on how it is done,” Nabil said.
“Upon launch, we received a lot of local inquiries, an indication the market is huge, and we want to expose it to international collectors, so we made our site bilingual, English and Arabic.”
NIFTY is free to list, for now
Nabil said that for NIFTY, there was no NFT platform to benchmark against in the region where culture is different than in the west. In places like the US and Europe, artists are more familiar with NFTs and the fees associated when creating them.
“The way we approach things is different, and the way we are willing to spend our money is also different. Telling people to go buy music on the Apple store is not as easy as in the US, and even subscribing to Spotify is not common here,” Nabil stated.
“For now, I am not going to charge anyone for minting or listing fees. The only charge is a 2.5% commission on the NFT sale. We even have not discussed royalty on the NFT token resale. We are onboarding artists and spending time just explaining what NFTs are.”
Call it marketing cost for the time being, but free fees will not last forever.
“Onboarding the artist could be a service on its own in the future where if we onboard, we take a percentage or a cut. We could in the future charge royalties on the resale of the NFT, whereas today it is a flat 2.5% on the original sale. We can include certain rules for a project using smart contracts,” Nabil revealed.
“We can use NFT as a service (NFTaaS). This arm of the business can in the future create the artist’s wallet, his/her marketing, and other services. for a fee, percentage, or royalty.”
Copyright and NFT ownership
Upon an NFT sale on NIFTY, it is the creator or artist who will determine if the copyright of the work is also part of the sale or not.
“For musical works, IP ownership most likely won’t be given, but rather a sale of an NFT musical creation will reflect ownership of bragging rights, maybe representing having the first new or early release of the work, or perhaps giving the owner the ability to allow hearing the release only via his NFT, or other collaboration deals like buying the NFT will give owners the right to a phone call or a private meeting with the artist,” Nabil explained.
There are, in fact, hundreds of different NFT applications. They could be used to give access to private artist Q&A sessions or to be used to sell one-of-a-kind pictures to collectors with encrypted content behind the pictures. The sky is the limit.
“We can play the role of advisers but creators can make their own unique offerings and that’s the beauty and huge potential behind NFTs,” Nabil said.
Watch the NIFTY Souq teaser video
Raising funds for Indie artists
The idea behind launching NIFTY came when Nabil started Arabic Indie.
“Most of our contacts in the music and independent scene started with Arabic indie, something I did on the side for fun because I love independent, decentralized art, and believe in the artists’ story when talking about topics not accepted in mainstream media,” Nabil said.
“The idea behind Arabic indie, a now very well-connected community, is that we wanted to help sell their merchandise and generate income by allowing them to keep the majority of the profits instead of label companies ending up making them, and this gave rise to the idea for NFTs and giving artists the power over their music or artforms.”
With NIFTY, indie artists no longer need to rely on crowdfunding platforms to fund their next project, nor sign with a label anymore. Their true fans will fund their upcoming work willingly by buying NFTs with special content or access attached to them.
Marketing NIFTY and the artists
NIFTY Souk will not manage artists but will promote them using Instagram and other social media platforms.
“We are not just talking about NIFTY and NFTs. We are talking about the artists, putting a lot of their work for them, of course after getting their consent to do so,” Nabil said.
But marketing NIFTY started this September with a focus on music, digital art, and photography.
“Now we want to start tackling mainstream artists, galleries, art custodians, and essentially anywhere that NFT can create partnerships and onboard new artists. The potential is big,” Nabil asserted.
He indicated that the business is so far self-funded between himself and one other partner.
“We so far skipped seed and angel funding and, if anything, we will go directly to Series A in October with a full-fledged platform and staff on board, ready for the next level and going big,” Nabil announced.
Staff is 7 employees at the moment, including project managers, relationship officers, product owners, designers, and content writers.
“Our next target is 32 employees, to include legal compliance, governance, and customer support, among others,” Nabil said.