Successful NFT artists weigh in on if traditional artists should pivot to the digital space

Successful NFT artists weigh in on if traditional artists should pivot to the digital space
"Computer Hell" by Mark Sabb for Felt Zine.Felt Zine
  • Artists like Mike Winkelmann of Beeple have made millions of dollars off of their NFT artwork.
  • NFTs give artists more autonomy, but the space is becoming more competitive.
  • We asked NFT artists if it would be strategic for "traditional" artists to pivot to the digital space.

NFT artists are now making millions of dollars from their work. But if you're a traditional artist looking to enter the growing space, pivoting solely to NFT art may be more difficult than it seems.

As an artist, there are several benefits to pursuing NFT art. For one, it mimics the global shift towards remote work during COVID-19.

Unlike the 1980s when artists used to cluster in major cities like New York, NFT art has made it possible for artists around the world to achieve financial success, Sergio Scalet of Hackatao, an Italy-based NFT pop art duo, told Insider.

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Read more: The $64 billion art market is embracing blockchain and cryptocurrencies to sell paintings worth millions of dollars by the likes of Picasso

Overall, NFTs have given artists more autonomy, allowing them to both produce whatever art they'd like, and select where the art will be sold. To the latter point, selling NFTs inherently presents a financial advantage that can't be found in the "traditional" art world: artists can receive royalties when their work has been resold.


Right now, the standard is a 10% royalty, Mike Winkelmann, also known as "Beeple," told Insider.

"I think that's definitely a huge selling point," Winkelmann said. "If this stuff takes off, you will be compensated well."

Just how "well" is well? In October, a Miami art collector shelled out almost $67,000 a 10-second video art clip created by Winkelmann, Reuters reported. In February, the same video resold for $6.6 million, of which Winkelmann received a 10% cut.

Successful NFT artists weigh in on if traditional artists should pivot to the digital space
"On-Chain" by Mike Winkelmann of Beeple.Beeple

However, while NFTs present artists with the chance of financial success, flourishing in the space may still be "tough," Winkelmann says.

"There's a reason 'starving artists' is an accurate term in a lot of ways," Winkelmann said. "I think it's going to be hyper-competitive because at the end of the day, who wouldn't want to just make whatever the hell they want and have people pay them for it."


As a result, Mark Sabb, founder of artist collective Felt Zine, doesn't recommend pivoting to NFT art while abandoning other streams of income.

"Do everything," Sabb said, whether it be commissions, shows, or selling prints. In the end, a diversification of income will help raise the value of an artist's NFTs. And in turn, this can give artists the power to turn down "bad clients."

"If you have the time to do it, I say do it," Sabb said. "NFTs have given [several people I know] the ability to become artists full-time. Now, digital artists are empowered to actually negotiate more because we have more options to make money."

However, the success an artist could achieve in the NFT world may depend on prior connections to the community. For example, figures who are tapped into "digital art, underground cultures, and crypto" - like Grimes - may prosper in the space, according to Sabb. But if you're a artist with no ties to crypto or digital art, you may be out of luck.

"This is a space where equity is important, and underground cultures or people who are on the fringes are actually being embraced," Sabb said. "That's part of the crypto ethos."