Pplpleasr, the artist behind Fortune magazine’s recent crypto cover and Uniswap’s V3 announcement animation, talks about her crypto journey and how NFTs are changing the game for creators. Show highlights:
- how not getting a job at Apple changed her life forever
- how the Pplpleasr-Uniswap collaboration came about
- what goes into her creative process
- how Pplpleasr got hired for the Fortune magazine cover
- why she chose to represent anon-avatars on the Fortune cover
- why Pplpleasr was surprised by Fortune’s response to her artwork (and crypto in general)
- what sort of crypto personas are represented on the Fortune cover and why
- how NFTs are changing the paradigm of monetization for creators compared to the traditional art world
- what pplpleasr is looking forward to in future NFT smart contracts
- why NFTs are still limited right now
- why institutions, like Budweiser and Visa, are suddenly interested in NFTs
- what Fortune is doing to grow its NFT collection
- how DAOs are changing art curation and collecting
- why Pplpleasr was surprised that a DAO (bearing her name) purchased the Uniswap V3 animation
- where Pplpleasr thinks the NFT space will go in the next year or so
Thank you to our sponsors!
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/pplpleasr1
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pplpleasr/
- Website: https://pplplsr.com/
- Fortune op-ed on crypto
- Her previous work for DeFi protocols
- Fortune cover
- OpenSea’s post-mortem on Chad sale
- Business of business write up
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Unchained, your no-hype resource for all things crypto. I’m your host, Laura Shin, a journalist with over two decades of experience. I started covering crypto six years ago and, as a senior editor at Forbes, was the first mainstream media reporter to cover cryptocurrency full-time. This is the August 31, 2021 episode of Unchained.
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Today’s guest is Pplpleasr, a digital artist who has dropped quite a few popular NFTs over the past six months.
Thanks for having me!
Let’s start with you telling us what it is you did before crypto, how you got into crypto, and what it is you do now?
Hi. I’m a digital artist. I specialize in sort of like 3d animation. I’ve been doing it for the past six years plus. Previously, I was working in sort of film and television and commercials. Starting last summer, I got into working with the collaborating with DeFi protocols and just working in crypto and also making NFTs. And so that’s what I’m doing full-time today.
Yeah. I love about your story. I don’t know if it was the precipitating event, but you had accepted a job at Apple and then that got rescinded because of the pandemic and basically after that you stumbled into crypto. And so your life, I think, would be quite different if you ended up with that job at Apple.
Would not have be having those conversation right now. I would probably just be rendering iPhones somewhere in Northern California.
And you would definitely not be allowed to talk about your work. I’m pretty sure.
So we can start talking about your Uniswap v3 video first. I know you had done videos before then… but I think that was the first one that went big. How bout you tell us that story about how that came about and what happened with it?
Starting from last summer, I was just collaborating with different DeFi protocols. Same thing. I would just make animated short-form videos or hype videos that were my visual representation of what I think the DeFi protocol represents and everything. And then in January, Uniswap had reached out to me asking actually they reached out to Tarun Chitra, who asked if he knew me and if he could put them in contact with me because they wanted to talk about something. So when they did, they asked if I would be interested in making an animation for them, for the v3 launch, which obviously anybody who was in DeFi at the time would have been like, this is the biggest announcement of the year, basically. So I was like, of course, I can’t believe you guys would put so much trust in me to basically help set off such a big announcement.
Conversations started kicking off around the end of January. And then I really started production on it probably sometime in February. And my process usually, especially with bigger projects like this, because they did give me a little bit more time. So I wanted to be a little bit more ambitious with it. I made a storyboard, and then we go over the idea, and I sketch it out. You can see this in my sort of behind the scenes video that you can find on Twitter. And then , we move on from the storyboard to like making what we call an animatic, which is just a very, very rough animated representation of what the animation might look like. And and that was also one when we kicked off a scoring the video as well.
I originally put in a piece of music from this underground musician that I really like as sort of like a reference. And then we found an actual composer. He basically drew the one that I put in as a reference. And then it was inspired by that. But yeah, I was doing the animation with the help of like two of my friends, because it was a lot of work. It was a 45 second long animation that overall, basically from start to finish, took about at least a month and a half to finish. And so yeah, I mean, that was a whole process. I was also obviously directing it, like giving notes on everything like, let’s say, from the music to just creating the whole vision really.
And then when it came out at the end of March, which is when they announced to v3, I mean, when they first tweeted out the video, it got like half a million views within 24 hours. I think everybody on crypto Twitter had probably seen that video at that point. And it was a really special moment. I think this is sort of like my Magnum Opus, I guess. Following that, I sold it as an NFT, which all went to charity. That’s sort of what put me on the map in the NFT community.
That was like the headline of it saying, oh, Pplpleasr raised this much money after selling enough NFTs because NFTs were all the talk at the time. Right. But to me, at least, the most special part was just when Uniswap tweeted out the video before it was even an NFT. And just to see everybody sort of react to that and just that my animation has an impact on people was so cool. And so, yeah, that was obviously like a project that has a very special place in my heart.
And that NFT, if I recall, it went for like 300 ETH. Were you expecting that or was that a surprise?
That was definitely a surprise. I was speaking with a dear friend at the time about what we think, what the piece would go for it. And I set like a range. I said, okay, I think, maybe on the low end of expectations, maybe it would go for single-digit ETH. And then high end of expectations would be probably a $100K which at the time, because specifically when I sold the piece, the dollar value of Ethereum was kind of low. I actually almost didn’t drop it that week because I was just like, the prices are so bad right now. I’m not sure if this is a good time in the markets to drop an NFT. In the end, I was just like, what, I’m just going to go with whatever I originally planned. So let’s just do it anyway. So yeah, that was the expectation, but obviously, it ended up like way exceeding my expectation. So that was cool.
I think it’s an amazing story. And I just love again, like I said, a year ago you thought you were going to be working at Apple and now you’re kind of your own brand and you’re connecting directly to your fans. So I think it is a really good example of how NFTs are changing things for creators. Before we get into a broader NFT discussion, would you like to tell us about one specific project that you are especially proud of?
I mean, I think I can probably talk about the Fortune one because it’s just like more recent and fresher in people’s minds. Basically, I think like few months back, Alex Masmej, like the founder of Showtime, he originally made the connection. Basically, he reached out and said that somebody from Fortune wanted to talk to me if I be interested. And then I said, yeah, sure.
That was a few months ago. I just thought that maybe they were just trying to do another NFT collaboration or something — I wasn’t really sure. But then nothing happened until like a few months later when their creative director, Peter Gruver, just cold emailed me and said, “Hey, do you want to do the cover for Fortune magazine? The next issue that we have coming out is a special one that’s covering cryptocurrency and DeFi.” They said, “We watched your Uniswap like behind the scenes video, and we thought that you would be really perfect for this.”
And then for me, I think right now, hopefully I’m trying to make all of my collaborations or NFT projects, something meaningful or something about like elevates the crypto community. And so this seemed like a perfect platform for it. I was obviously down, but it was a blank slate in the beginning. I didn’t have actually any ideas for what I would actually do for the cover. And it’s one of those things kind of similar to the Uniswap v3 thing where I’m just like, I think this is going to have a lot of eyes on it, so I better take it seriously, or I need to really make the most of it. And then I was chatting with Leighton Cusack, founder of PoolTogether, a little bit later. And then I was just sort of lamenting my woes about, oh, I don’t have any ideas for the cover and the sup a lot of pressure. I don’t know what to do.
And then he being a genius, obviously went home that night and the texted me the next day, he goes, oh, I was thinking about your Fortune cover. And I thought it’d be kind of cool if he did something like a portal or that represents like going down the rabbit hole of crypto and then inside there’s all these like crypto anonymous Twitter avatars or something. Because we had previously floated around some ideas because around the time there were some NFT projects that were either including like famous VCs or famous influencers, CryptoPunks, or something to sort of gauge engagement. And then Fortune was like we had Elon Musk on one of our previous like covers, and I think there were some legal issues with including like actually famous real or something.
And then so Leighton was like, look, if you did it with anonymous Twitter people, you wouldn’t have that. And then I was like, this is genius. And so like full credit to him for the idea. I still had to obviously to think about how I was actually going to visually present this and put it together. And so that’s pretty much what I spent all my time doing. I made a tweet that was sort of, I guess, you could say crowdsourced where I was just like without any context who are the most famous crypto Twitter anonymous profiles. And then obviously a lot of people commented and contributed. So in the future, if people want to know about things like this, they should look out in my tweets sometimes there’s alpha leak.
So sourced that together and put it together. I obviously spent the rest of the time making sure that the artwork looked polished and professional and presented in a visually pleasing way. Because that’s my job after all. And then I think, yeah, Fortune had been a really good sort of like collaborative partner on it. They were so willing and open-minded to learn anything more about crypto and DeFi. I was saying I’ll probably name these pieces Chad or something to do with Chad. And they’re like, what does Chad mean? And then then they started using the term Chad themselves. Like, it’s great. And then when I posted on Twitter initially for the first time, I think it shocked a lot of people, because a lot of people thought it was a joke at first. They were like, there’s no way this is real.
I also feel like it’s almost, I was like, I can’t believe they let me do this. It’s like I got away with murder or something. This is now allowed, haha. It was a pretty provocative tagline that they have on the cover: like crypto versus wall street. Cause most Fortune 500 companies mostly are sort of not that. The whole issue I think, meant a lot to me, myself because obviously crypto awareness is something that I care about. And I think the community as well. And so that’s kind of why this cover is currently still like sold out at all these stands because everybody just felt very like represented by this issue. And even just the articles inside were sort of educating you about DeFi. The cover art is merely just an initial thing of attraction, but the whole entire issue itself is I think a meaningful one. So yeah, I’m just glad that it turned out really cool.
Based on your experience, how would you say, with the way creators can make money with NFTs differs from how they made money previously? And how has that affected your life?
Previously, being a digital artist, I feel like sort of the direct path of monetizing your work is literally just posting, if you’re doing your work for yourself, then you post art on Instagram, hopefully get engagement and likes, and then through traction, attract clients, who then you do work for, if that makes sense. And otherwise, if you were sort of like going my route, which was, I was just trading my skillset to create other people’s visions. So for example, working on movies, TV shows, commercials, that kind of stuff. And so, NFTs obviously really changed the game for a lot of digital creators because other than maybe physically selling prints of your work, that was kind of like the only direct way to monetize your digital work. And so that’s where NFTs came in. Previously we were based, I think I tweeted this once, where it’s like in the old world, digital artists were helping Instagram make money while they were paying us in likes. But now with NFTs, you can actually have utility and value to the work that you’re creating. Not to mention that royalties are a thing now with blockchain and everything. So yeah, it’s been wildly different for me, especially like we said, I would just be still rendering iPhones right now if I didn’t get into NFTs or stumble into crypto. So yeah, that’s my take on it.
Great. Yeah, this is, it’s just been so fun researching this episode. All right. So in a moment, we’re going to talk a lot more about kind of the financial aspects of NFTs, but first, a quick word from the sponsors who make the show possible.
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Back to my conversation with Pplpleasr. So I am just so curious to hear your opinion on how the art world for NFTs is different from the art world for traditional artists. By that, it could be how collectors differ, or how the technology is changing the field.
So far it seems a lot of NFTs still very much rely on visual imagery to sell the work. I think that the general public, when they think about NFTs, it’s almost synonymous to them to NFT art or like visual art. And it’s gotten to a point where even like musicians or people who have previously been making creations or art in other mediums that are not visual, are having to sort of like reach out to visual artists. And it’s almost like having a visual representation is a vital part to anything being an NFT.
I hope that that changes in the future just because NFT is just the technology itself, right? It’s like if you’re trying to NFT a book, you shouldn’t have to also have a visual counterpart or something. The content is the content.
But that being said, especially with smart contracts, I think it’s created or opened so many doors as to what’s possible. And we are currently in the process of discovering everybody together. So just like an example of something like cool that I experimented with, especially with the recent Fortune cover NFT drop I did. I was like, look, if I’m going to do an NFT drop, I don’t want it to just be a drop of the cover. I think we have an opportunity to do something a little bit cooler here. One of the people who are the guys that are best at doing the smart contracts for a lot of this stuff right now is Manifold, which they’re like a smart contract NFT minting company.
They’ve collaborated previously with all the biggest artists. What we did with them, because of the cover of Fortune magazine that I did a feature with so many different crypto influencers as avatars and a lot of them what their wallet addresses being public, we fed into the smart contract to target their wallet addresses so that the artwork will actually — so I made special versions that basically feature them, let’s say really largely on the cover. And so for example, let’s say Laura Shin placed a bid, then it would just be Laura’s face like plastered all over the cover or something. It was just meant to be a fun interactive experiment, especially just trying to do something a little bit new with NFTs.
Even now I think the API is for a lot of the platforms are still a little bit limiting. For example, OpenSea was a little bit slow to like update their metadata. So in an ideal world, when somebody places a bid, it would immediately update. But in this case, just because that was just not ready on Opensea end. So it was taking a few minutes to update. So in a really intense auction actually, that wouldn’t have really flown by well, because then it’d be like Laura would place an auction and I’ll place one right after it — it doesn’t even have time to update to the Laura version. So that’s how we know we’re still early, I think, just because so many of these things are so lacking when we have the ideas and we can taste the possibility of it happening. But a lot of the platforms and everything are just slow to catch up.
OpenSea ended up having a lot of issues on their end, even just supporting the auction itself because there was like too much traffic, and then they got attacked. And so two of the pieces closed prematurely. There were all these issues with the auction itself, which was unfortunate. Like I said, this is just an indicator of how early we are. And so hopefully in the future when all of this kind of like, but these are things that affect it financially, right, because of these two auctions being closed prematurely due to the platform, they sold for, one of them sold for, I think, less than half of the value that it was supposed to sell for. And that is a real financial impact. And so just talking about like finance and NFTs, obviously it’s great that there’s this new way for us to monetize our work, but there is sort of a lot of other dependencies that factor into like the finance of things with NFTs, for sure. So hopefully, we’re working towards a future where a lot of these things go a lot more smoothly.
So one quick question before we move on. I really want to discuss DAOs soon, but before we get there, during the week this episode was recorded, Visa bought a CryptoPunk and Budweiser bought beer.eth. Obviously you have now worked with an institution, Fortune magazine, I was to learn where you thought this institutional interest would go. NFTs almost have two tracks, discords degens versus institutional players.
I’m sure without a doubt, a lot of it is financially motivated. Let’s be real, I mean, us being in crypto, we find the technology really cool and everything. In it for the tech. But what generates headlines is, at the end of the day, all the headlines that you ever see are just this NFT sold for this much money, or this company made this much money selling selling NFTs. And so I feel like maybe that’s what initially attracts a lot of these major corporations to sort of like dabble. I do think that there is a difference between the ones that actually are open-minded and willing to learn about what the space is really about.
Honestly, I really felt that with Fortune. After this whole experience, they were like, we’re going to open like a Fortune vault and a start just like holding NFTs now. I thought that was really cool. We helped them set up their first, the on-chain identity. They bought fortune magazine.eth. They have a hardware wallet now. Then I didn’t even think that they would want to start collecting enough NFTs, but they do. They’re holding their crypto.
So this is just an example, right. I’m just using this because I directly worked for them. So I can actually say this, or at least I know my information is accurate. And I’m sure there are other corporations who obviously after having these experiences, also sort of like open up their eyes to what is possible, like within the space. And it’s not just a come and do NFTs, cash out and go back to their old corporate lives kind of situation. Which I hope happens more and more because I think there’s so much at this point, I feel like it’s almost hopefully like undeniable that this is just a technology that will be so just existing in our lives constantly in the near future. And so the earlier a company can be onboarded, probably the better for them.
So a new trend that may that may compete with corporations is this trend in DAOs and NFTs — specifically maybe curation dowels, or I don’t know, all it different terminology for these different types of DAOs. But how do you guys see DAOs changing NFTs or art curation or our collecting, et cetera?
I guess the sort of elephant in the room that I should bring up at this point in the episode is that when I sold my Uniswap NFT in March, it like incepted the creation of pleasrDAO, which are now sort of like one of the big players in sort of what collector DAOs. And honestly, like I think that at the time it blew people’s minds because around that time, even though NFTs were such a big thing and then everybody was like buying and selling NFTs, but it was very much a collectors dominant, like whale collector’s dominant game, right? Like as in individual whale collectors. Anybody who’s dabbled in the NFT space knew that there were a few notable collectors who are famous within the space.
So when pleasrDAO was formed, not just with my piece, but really when they bought the Edward Snowden NFT, it kind of like woke people up to being like, okay, there’s a new sort of player in the game now, which is a DAO. Which at the time, like even with my auction, it’s like how do you beat a DAO when a bunch of people have sort of like a collected common goal, and then they’re just like, we’re going to stop at nothing to get this piece. It’s a very similar kind of like movement that you’re seeing what the whole wall street bets subreddit thing that happened. It’s just collective coordination and the power of that. Right. I think when I was like selling my piece, I honestly, for me personally, I envisioned hopefully some whale collector was going to bid on it and win the piece. So when people were telling me, oh, there’s this like DAO that’s being created right now, where people are pooling funds together to win the auction.
It blew my mind in the sense that people were down to collectively own something. And I think that’s what makes DAOs so powerful and sort of like, I didn’t catch onto this until way later, but basically somebody explained it really well on pleasrDAO. They were like, look, just imagine there’s like a future internet museum or something, but when you’re going to like all the people who visit the museum, they also own a bit of every piece of art that’s in that museum.I just think that’s so special and cool at the same time. And so that kind of like what they’re doing right now is. Obviously compared to like old traditional corporations, DAOs are so scary because you can do everything over the internet. You’re pooling funds on the blockchain.
With the Edward Snowden piece, they got together that $5.5 million within 12 hours, which is insane. And it just doesn’t happen to a regular company. And you’re like recruiting members. It’s just like it’s like a monster or like a machine of a startup that just expands and like recruits extremely fast. And like, no one can stop it. It’s literally an unstoppable force. So I think that obviously, like we’ve already seen this happen with like even subreddits. Subreddits honestly are like kind of a DAO they’re just like not monetize or they don’t have like tokens or governments, but it’s the same concept. Right. And it’s like, you can’t stop like the army of the many is how they put it. And so yeah, DAOs are a huge game-changer. It’s exciting to see what this is going to go.
So I’m so curious, based on this discussion, I did see someone tweet something earlier today and I don’t have the exact tweet, but it was something like: you could own one of a limited edition run of 500 of the same NFT, or you could own 1/500th of a single unique NFT. Kind of posing the question, like, which do you think is more valuable. And I was curious to hear your answers to this question.
I think that depends on the project itself. I feel like that’s just such an obvious answer, but like I can own like one CryptoPunk, there’s 10,000 of them, but owning that is going to be at least monetarily more valuable than owning like a one-on-one of an art piece that maybe doesn’t have that kind of like value discovered or determined yet and then selling for like one Ethereum, for example. And so there’s no right or wrong answer to this question. I think it just depends on the piece itself. At the end of the day, value is speculative or subjective, and it changes all the time. Obviously, for example, like the pieces that pleasrDAO, they hope are going to be pieces that everybody wants to own, like 1/1000th of something. For example, like the DogeNFT or any piece that they like acquire is hopefully like a very, very unique and significant one and one that is going to uphold its value down the line and that everybody wants to own a part of.
But at the same time you can like a Bored Ape, which is I think it’s 1 of 10,000, right. And then that has like a different set of values than owning a portion of something.
And out of curiosity, for Damien Hirst’s latest project, The Currency, in which he sold 10,000 NFTs of hand painted dot covered works on paper. And then each buyer can decide if they want to redeem the NFT for the corresponding physical art work, but they only have one year to do that. And if they don’t request the physical artwork, then it’ll be destroyed. I was curious how, what percentage of people you thought would choose to redeem the NFT for physical artwork?
Being a digital native myself, obviously I’m biased towards anything digital. I also just don’t like a lot of stuff. Right. So it’s like, to me, it’s that I can move artwork, like without any effort on blockchain, as opposed to having to carry something physically for me, which is like more expensive probably to do that. And so just from a practical standpoint, I would. But at the same time, I don’t know, like there’s still a lot of real people out there who aren’t like nerds who live in a cave-like me, so.
All right. Yeah. We’ll have to see what happens then. Okay. So last question. Where do you think the NFT space will go in the next year or so?
I have been saying those so many times that I am looking forward for it to be way bigger in the gaming space. I don’t know why it isn’t already. I think that it has something to do with the fact that our hardware technology has not caught up with what we imagined to be possible with metaverses and immersive experiences. At least for me, like I said previously as well with NFT being just like the technology and it’s not just art, right? Like NFT is not art. It is one subset of like what an NFT is possible for. I mean, we’ve seen like some sort of real-world implementations of NFTs already like that are beyond just art, but I hope to see way more of this trading of assets, in-game economies, which already happens and is a huge thing.
For example, I don’t know. I think obviously Blizzard has their own whole like ecosystem. Warcraft. Even like individual games that they have. It’s just like, there’s a crazy economy that already exists for that. Hopefully in the future with the metaverse, it’s like not only cross-game, but cross-platform. It doesn’t have to be like Blizzard currency is only used in Blizzard games or like Riot — it’s like maybe in the metaverse like all of those assets are transferable. Cause for example, like 3D assets are, at the end of the day, kind of all made the same way more or less. And so there’s a reason why, yeah, it could be like cross transferable, like in platforms in games. And I hope to see way more of that in NFTs.
All right. Well, where can people learn more about each of you and your work?
I’m mostly spending my time on Twitter. I’m just @pplpleasr1 on Twitter.
To learn more about Pplpleasr, check out the show notes! Unchained is produced by me, Laura Shin, with help from Daniel Nuss, Anthony Yoon, and Mark Murdock.