By Sean Moss-Pultz
Jamie King & I met about three years ago, introduced through a mutual friend, one of the founders of BitTorrent Inc. Jamie had distributed his documentary STEAL THIS FILM via the Bittorrent protocol, and gone on to found VODO, one of the first distribution companies based on P2P tech. I just started Bitmark, and was looking for new distribution channels for artists.
Right from the start, it was clear something interesting could happen.
Over the next year or two, Jamie and I discussed different ways that Bitmark could support people creating all kinds of digital work — music, photography, video and writing. The “ah-hah” moment came after we found out, separately, about Rare Pepes — a platform using blockchain to create scarce assets from memes. Having both decided that blockchain-based, digital trading cards would be the wave of the future, we decided to work together and build a new platform: Totemic.
Totemic is a digital trading card exchange in which artists can issue limited edition digital card sets for their fans to purchase, sell, and trade. One of the things I like about trading cards, is that they can allow artists to re-use bits and pieces of their original works. They’re not having to create whole new assets to get access to this valuable new revenue stream. And for fans/collectors collectibles trigger this kind of immediate nostalgia. To this day, I can remember opening up baseball cards with the stick of gum. You never knew what you were going to get. Even the duplicates created more fun — you could easily trade those with friends for cards you did not have.
Where Totemic stands apart for buyers and collectors is that card ownership is completely decentralized. On any other digital collectibles platform, a company owns your collection. By using the public Bitmark blockchain, however, Totemic makes sure your cards are truly yours, forever. Ownership of a card and its ownership history are always maintained independently from any third-parties — even including Totmetc and Bitmark Inc.!
An important part of Totemic’s raison d’etre springs from Jamie’s insight, from both his own experiences as a filmmaker, and distributing other people’s work at VODO, that artists increasingly don’t make money from their artwork directly. Popular new platforms like Patreon, for example, are based around indirect ways of monetizing the creative practice. This can lead to skewed incentives and peculiar projects endorsements that don’t really create value for their fans.
In contrast to other platforms, which pay creators through one-time licensing fees, artists who publish trading cards via Totemic profit from their cards’ appreciation. When fans sell and continue to trade cards they are extending the value, funding and visibility for the artist who created that card. This in turn motivates creators to offer unique and compelling experiences within each card to their fans, like adding giveaways, concert tickets, videos, etc. And fans can feel like they are participating in their favorite artists success, plus they gain value from the cards themselves. Totemic becomes a jumping-off point for a deepened relationship between the artist and supporter — a dynamic missing from crowdfunding and digitized campaigns like Pateon, Kickstarter, Behance, etc. We think Totemic is one of the first platform to align creator and fan incentives, creating a valuable new channel in digital arts.
Totemic has been through a number of different prototypes and iterations already, and it’s now in testing with the very first, live sets of cards from a few invited creators. Soon we’ll be opening up the platform to more artists — we hope you can enjoy creating and collecting cards! Join the site here.