Over the past few weeks, your social media feeds may have been flooded with musicians announcing the release of NFTs. You may have also seen fans expressing their disappointment with their favorite artists, and a lot of debate on the subject in comments sections. Some people are knowledgeable about the topic and have been invested in it for months, while for others, NFTs are a relatively new and foreign concept that is complicated to understand. I’m here to demystify NFTs and explain why they are so controversial.
NFT stands for “non-fungible token.” “Non-fungible” refers to something that has a unique value attributed to it, as opposed to something that is commonplace and ordinary, and therefore doesn’t have any unique value to it. For example, a dollar bill would be fungible—it does not have a unique value, and all dollar bills are worth the same thing. A token is something that represents another thing. NFTs are digital items that are unique, hold value, and can be exchanged for money. NFTs can be bought and sold on something called the blockchain, which is a system that holds records of every transaction ever made across a network of computers in different countries. This information can be viewed by anyone and is impossible to change, making fraud highly unlikely. The cryptocurrency-adjacent collectibles have already driven millions of dollars in sales for musicians such as Grimes, and they’re a great way for artists to make money. The Weeknd, Shygirl, Kelsey Lu, and M.I.A. are just a few of the musicians who have announced plans for selling NFTs–but fans are unhappy.
There is a major downside to NFTs that is rarely spoken about, and this lack of transparency is rather frustrating. The viability of NFTs is uncertain, and NFTs are rather destructive for the environment. Anything that happens on the blockchain is incredibly wasteful of electricity, which is still largely generated by fossil fuels. This contributes to air pollution and the globally threatening issue of climate change. The carbon footprint of the average single-edition NFT is equivalent to the carbon footprint of driving a car for 1,000 kilometers. An average single transaction on the Ethereum blockchain uses up 48 kWh of power. To put that into perspective, that is more electricity than what the average US household uses in a day. The underlying structure of NFTs is undeniably power intensive and harmful to the environment. With the increasing pressure to assuage the effects of climate change before it’s too late, cashing in on NFTs just isn’t worth it. They’re both wasteful and pointless, and musicians should avoid releasing them.