Unlocking the magic box: The future of NFTs and XP with Joel Comm
Nobody can fill a room with charisma and energy quite like Joel Comm. The speaker, best-selling author, podcaster and entrepreneur not only helped emcee last month’s NFT.NYC, but also put together a crypto-meets-comedy educational session for NFT newbies (right after a Q&A with filmmaker Spike Lee). Joel’s crypto-fluency and tech experience made his message feel logical as well as optimistic.
Joel has always been on target when it comes to “the next big thing” in tech. He launched a website at the dawn of the internet, created a #1 iPhone app (click if elementary school humor is your thing) in the early days of the App Store, produced the world’s first competitive internet reality show and was an expert in online video marketing before social media took off. Joel and I originally met several years ago while nerding out over escape room technology. Now he’s looking ahead to the untapped potential in the world of cryptocurrency and NFTs.
NFTs are often associated with art, but as detailed in our XP Land Field Guide, these digital certificates of ownership are also shaking up the experiential world. I met with Joel in one of the many busy (nay, chaotic) exhibit halls of NFT.NYC to discuss how NFTs will change events, from tickets and memorabilia to fan perks and digital memberships.
Nick Lawson: How will NFTs affect the future of events and experiences?
Joel Comm: NFTs are such a perfect fit for events and experiences because owning a ticket, owning a membership, owning access to a community or an event — they’re all one-offs, right? So when you go to a traditional concert, these non-fungible tokens are your entry into that concert, but now they’re also collectible in and of themselves. In the old days, I used to go to a concert and there would be these little ticket stubs; they would tear your ticket, and you’d keep half of it. That half was your collectible, your memory. Now we just go boop off our phone on a QR code, and there’s nothing to collect. Certain artists will now upsell a collectible ticket on top of the real ticket, which they then mail to you to prove later that you were there.
Well, with NFTs, that all changes. Your NFT is your entry, and it also is your collectible. Now, as a band, as a musician, as any kind of performer, I know who my fans are because I can identify them from what’s being held in wallets. I can airdrop them a bonus NFT — another collectible — just for them. I can send them a discount on a future event. I can let them know when I’m coming to their area if I’ve collected that information. And that’s just concerts. When you’re thinking about an NFT as an entry point to any community, it is the ultimate loyalty card.
NL: What challenges and concerns come with incorporating NFT ownership into IRL experiences?
JC: Making sure that people aren’t using fraudulent entries. The blockchain doesn’t lie. We can verify the provenance of every item, but even today there are people buying fake NFTs on Opensea because they’re not educated in how to look for fakes. I think we’re getting better, but there are still a lot of scams out there. So as long as those taking the tickets are aware of how to spot what’s authentic and what’s a fraud, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
One of the other problems is traditional theft, people get scammed into giving away their crypto and NFTs out of their digital wallets. That’s still a problem. If it’s not in your wallet, it’s not your NFT. It’s really important that people learn how to batten down the hatches and be secure with their digital assets.
NL: In your opinion, do NFTs with IRL benefits hold more value than those without?
JC: I think the value is in the eye of the beholder; an NFT is like a key. It’s a key for what I like to see as a magic box. Well, what’s in the box? Whatever the creator wants to put in it. The creator can put in a never-ending supply of digital assets, physical goods, IRL experiences, membership, or community access. And so whoever’s buying that NFT is going to be the one to decide where that value comes from. If the creator piles on value on top of value, that’s certainly going to be better for the holders of the NFT. The beautiful thing is: you never have to stop piling on value. Once that entity is in somebody’s wallet and they’re a member of whatever that club is, the creator can just keep adding value in perpetuity.
NL: How can experiential professionals and creators help expand their reach with NFTs? What can we do to be a part of this community?
JC: One of the things you’ll see a lot of people here at NFT.NYC doing is giving away something called POAPs. Scan a QR code and you get a POAP. POAP stands for Proof of Attendance Protocol (it’s also the name of the company that makes them). So a vendor here might say, “Hey, scan this QR code and claim an NFT that indicates you met us at this event.” It’s free to create them and free to claim them. And people love free stuff. I just bought this new card that POAP has. I can upload any number of my NFTs to it and have somebody scan it on their phone so they can claim they met me at this event or that event. Or I can put my contact information on it. It’s going to be big.
NL: Is there anything else you want to say to break this down for those of our readers who don’t have experience with crypto?
JC: First of all, don’t be afraid of it. But also, don’t be sucked into any scams. Wherever there’s money and new opportunity, education is needed. And there are a lot of people out there who will try to take your crypto. Learn about it. Go down the rabbit hole. Listen to The Nifty Show or The Bad Crypto Podcast, because I might be the co-host of those. Or find other content online. Avoid the hype and educate yourself. It looks really intimidating at first, but I’ve watched people come along from knowing absolutely nothing to minting their own NFTs and having successful collections. You can do it, too.