Brian Eno On NFTs: “Now Artists Can Become Little Capitalist Assholes!”

Brian Eno contemplates his £20K turntable….

Cryptography resource site The Crypto Syllabus has published a new interview with producer, composer, artist & provocateur Brian Eno, discussing the opportunities for artists with NFTs.

NFTs (non-fungible tokens) is a unique and non-interchangeable unit of data stored on a blockchain, a form of digital ledger. What this means for artists is that digital file can essentially be signed as NFTs, and ownership can be sold. There’s a tremendous amount of experimentation going on now with NFTs, because they offer artists a potential source of income and investors a new platform for speculation. A digital artwork by artist Mike Winkelmann (known professionally as Beeple), recently sold for US $69.3 million.

In the interview, Eno discusses his thoughts about getting asked to make NFTs:

“I’ve been approached several times to ‘make an NFT’. So far nothing has convinced me that there is anything worth making in that arena.

‘Worth making’ for me implies bringing something into existence that adds value to the world, not just to a bank account. If I had primarily wanted to make money I would have had a different career as a different kind of person. I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be an artist.

NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialisation. How sweet – now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”

Eno’s perspective balances the opportunities of NFTs for artists against the overhead of the technology, which some have argued is an ecological nightmare pyramid scheme:

“Can NFTs be a contemporary form of Robin Hood-ism? Is it possible that artists can use these tools to divert some of the global trillions off into some more productive and humane directions? This is what I would like to understand, though it presents the interesting moral question as to whether clean things can be done with murky money.

All the foregoing doesn’t mention the biggest issue: that in a warming world a new technology that uses vast amounts of energy as ‘proof of work’ – that’s to say, simply to establish a certain badge of exclusivity – really is quite insane. All that energy is making nothing that we need. I know there’s ‘proof of stake’ but I don’t know if that can actually work unless everybody changes over to it. And even if it did, it doesn’t address the other issues that bother me.”

Are NFT’s an opportunity for artists and musicians to get a share of the global trillions – or an ‘ecological nightmare pyramid scheme’? Share your thoughts in the comments!

77 thoughts on “Brian Eno On NFTs: “Now Artists Can Become Little Capitalist Assholes!”

  1. You gotta love these champagne socialists. I can’t wait for a proper platform where I can mint nfts without the high gas fee on Ethereum. I will be that capitalist asshole. Also proof of work is becoming greener everyday this argument about it being bad for the environment is absolute nonsense. Simple research debunked this foolishness.

    1. All the crypto brothers and sisters have is hot air.
      A pyramid scheme that’ll come tumbling down the moment the Digital USD is released.
      You think governments are going to buy your expensive Ether and XRP instead of minting their own?
      Har har.
      Look at China, look at India.
      Unofficial digital currencies have exactly no chance of making it mainstream.
      The financial authorities have been warning us for a while now that you risk losing all your money if you invest in the them.
      And they’re warning us because they make the rules that determine if your digital currency sinks or swims.
      I’ve watched the XRP youtubers pumping up their own mined assets. They’re the kind of snake oilers that lead us to need financial regulation in the first place.
      Y’all wanna get rich sitting on ya arses.
      Such heroes.

      1. You can’t even mine XRP. Shows how ignorant you are. The entire point of a cryptocurrency is decentralization.Nobody wants a government-controlled digital USD.

        1. “The entire point of a cryptocurrency is decentralization”
          No, the entire point is to get rich quick. (oh the XRP sellers tell you it’s to help Grandma X send some money across the world to Grandson R without paying P a big commision)

          “Nobody wants a government-controlled digital USD.”
          No, you and the XRP snake oilers don’t want it.
          The man and woman on the street actually want a functioning currency who’s value is stable, which can be exchanged for goods and services and that can be used as a reliable store of wealth.
          You’ll get that with the digital USD, you won’t get it with an unofficial crypto currency like XRP, Bitcoin etc etc

          Everything about XRP is snake oil tastic.
          It’s value is driven not by it’s usefulness, but by speculation.

          Pump and dump.
          I’ll give you 12 months before it blows up.

          You’ve been warned by the financial institutions.
          Who the hell do you think you’re playing with?
          You think the rich and powerful are going to let crypto currencies upset their happy apple cart?

          How’s crypto sales in India doing?
          Or in China?
          They aren’t are they. Because the crypto oilers ran outta time. The governents didn’t want to give you theirs and their friends’ money and power. They shut your shop by force, ran you out of town. Don’t worry though, there are plenty more places to sell your snake oil.

          Pump and dump.
          Get rich quick off the next greedy chump trying to get in on the action.
          Such honour you have.

          Get out before you’re legislated against.
          And you think nobody wants a stable currency?
          You think the boy and girl on the street want a decentralised currency to stick it to the man.
          You think Tom, Dick and Harry owe you your life of luxury earned by sitting on your bumsie and pumping up your crypto currency?

          “You can’t even mine XRP. Shows how ignorant you are.”
          Man, when I start reading up on these currencies I get bombarded with a shower of horse poop.
          Apparantly lots of people think I should buy their crypto currencies and they don’t mind telling me how awesome they are.
          Would you believe that the articles that explain how these ‘assets’ work are actually sales pitches!!!!!!
          Someone ought to do something about it.

        2. I wrote a lengthy reply. It seems to have been lost in the post.

          “Nobody wants a government-controlled digital USD”
          No, you’re wrong. Crypto oilers don’t want it. The man and woman on the street actually do want a functioning, reliable currency that can be used everywhere, is regulated and stable. They want to use it to exchange goods and services, they want it to be a store of wealth.
          They don’t want its value to fluctuate due to enormous amounts of speculation.

          “The entire point of a cryptocurrency is decentralization.”
          No, the entire point is to get rich quick. Its decentraliztion is a feature that is of no use as a currency in a stable society.
          Its decentralization is what allow crypto oilers to do what they do.
          That is, until governments like China and India ban them.

          “You can’t even mine XRP. Shows how ignorant you are.”
          Almost all articles about XRP are sales pitches.
          Imagine that!!!!!!

        3. I have now read an article on XRP. (How to mine Ripple XRP in 2021 on Cryptopolitan.)
          XRP is being mis-used and abused by speculating with it.
          But Ripple, the miners / creators of the 100 billion units, don’t seem to mind 😀
          It’s a bit like a new kind of lubricant. They manufactured the lubricant, they own it and store it all.
          They lend it out (sell and buy back) to help grease a SMALL PROPORTION of international transactions.
          That’s its job. It relies on fiat currency in order to exist. It cannot be used for anything else.
          They are, however, willing to sell this lubricant to Joe Ppublic.
          Joe Public can’t use it for anything.
          Joe Public hopes that by buying in and raising awareness of it then its price will rise.
          Ripple are keeping about 50 billion units back from Joe Public so that they can influence its price by scarcity and then cash in by releasing more at a higher price.

          You can tell it’s a scam by the source and nature of the articles discussing it.
          You can tell it’s a scam by understanding what XRP is and what its use is.
          You can tell it’s a scam by the lack of information about its market share in the international transaction market (10% of Swift’s in 2020) vs the amount of information telling you about its growth in price.

          “You can’t even mine XRP. Shows how ignorant you are. The entire point of a cryptocurrency is decentralization”
          Someone else has mined it all, owns it all and will sell you some if you like.
          XRP is entirely CENTRALISED. So why are you implying it is decentralised?
          It shows how deep your understanding is, and / or how willing you are to distort reality to pump up crypto.

  2. Says the man selling a $27,000 turntable…

    Give me a break. What’s the alternative for artists to sell music digitally. $0.0001 per stream?

    Admin: Personal attack deleted. Keep comments on topic and constructive.

    1. I saw that gig! It was mindboggling, While you ended your gig by throwing rotten eggs on the audience Little Capitalist Assholes threw dollarbills at us! Those Bastards!

  3. but 20k turntables are art ! productive and humane and built out of very friendly and recyclable eco materials
    not a fan of nft, but at the same time spotify ,apple and all the others are probably just the same resources hungry ( and certainly not artists friendly)
    how would he have build a career today …. he is of a generation ( like me) that had it quite easy in the music world and business , lets not be “old” assholes (that also found a late eco conscience) in judging the present

    1. I think all of you.. don’t get it

      As humans become cyborgs… they are wanting their world to be ready for the transition. What normal human being would want to spend 1000s of dollars on something you can copy paste to your desktop.

  4. Considering the current quality of reproduction, I don’t see how a work authenticated as original by nft is more stupid than a Picasso work authenticated by experts. But maybe Brian Eno has been such a capitalist asshole for so long that he doesn’t see how this is the same speculative phenomenon?

    1. Absolutely. Has anyone seen a currency fluctuate like +/- 50% a day? Is that really the currency of the future as so many BTC folks clam?

    1. A junkie could tell you that drugs are bad.
      A rich person could tell you that money doesn’t make you happy.
      A conservative spokesperson could tell you to not have work christmas parties.
      A bespoke, illuminated record player maker could tell you NFTs are money grabs.

        1. But that’s not the point.
          The point is: the truthfulness of a message is unaffected by the means it is communicated.
          If a poor person tells you that money doesn’t make you happy…..
          If a conservative spokesperson tells you it’s fine to have a party in the midst of lockdown……
          If a bespoke, illuminated record player maker tells you NFTs are fine investments…..
          The truthfulness of a message lies deeper than its means of communication.

  5. A big capitalist asshole that calls others little capitalst assholes. Simple like that!

    Had genuine ideas in he past but obviously is a rotten personality now.

  6. “right now I mainly see hustlers looking for suckers”

    At least with tulip bulbs you could potentially grow some flowers.

    Though NFTs can also be used for money laundering, similarly to physical art works.

  7. Despite how much I love all of Brian Eno’s work, I beg to differ. Of course NFTs at the moment are bought and sold by rich capitalists, but all art always has been, and it may evolve to some other viable market for artists to sustain their work.
    I see his point though: you can experience and play physically with the 25k pounds lighted turntable, so as you can in virtual wolds (Djehan Kidd built a whole city in Second Life on five serves, which is huge and overdetailed and constanltly evolving: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qS8ZONjbsc ).
    That said, artists that sell their art become inevitably part of the art market, as critic Achille Bonito Oliva calls it, and it becomes something with economical value, so the point where artists can get capitalists is debatable: some already are. Some artists buy back their art, when a big collector is selling it, just not to make the pieces value drop, just like a company buys back their shares when shareholders sell them.
    I personally think that ways that help artists to survive, and even become rich, are not inherently bad, and NFTs in the future may be another way.

    1. what’s the point?
      if you push cash or some crypto currency around doesnt matter
      NFTs are a solution for problems that dont exist. its junk.

  8. Without capitalism you wouldn’t had any records company , any streaming company any museums , any universal known artists . Just nothing . You might dislike NFTs , for me it is a nw way of showing and maybe selling you art or music with a chance to get a percentage at each resale . it is as well an opportunity to make money with a small investment which an opportunity to unknown artist to make some money . Nobody is forced to use it .
    Just ignore it if you prefer to have your music on streaming platforms with very low royalties income , go for it .
    I think any new ways to have your art displayed and available is good to take . Maybe some well known artists can afford to ignore nfts with an outdated and hypocritical left oriented political stand ,for sure i am not one of them .

    1. “Without capitalism you wouldn’t had any records company..”
      Without empathy you wouldn’t have anything worth listening to. (Capitalism by definition is devoid of empathy. However, at the heart of socialism lies empathy.)
      We find a merry meaningful middle ground. I mean, who wants to hug an extremist?

      “…Maybe some well known artists can afford to ignore nfts….”
      There’s a common thread of exclusivity between merch and NTFs, yes. But, if you can’t make enough money to pursue a music career without NFTs then there’re probably bigger issues surrounding your creative output to deal with first.
      And besides there’s a catch22: your NFTs aren’t going to sell too well if you’re unknown. And you’ll be largely unknown until you make enough money to support your career. So NTFs seem a way just to make more money off your popularity. I’m so glad we’re all in this for the right reasons.
      Or are you saying that NTFs are a way for struggling artists to take back control?
      I think you’ll find that artists are divided and conquered by streaming companies, and, let’s be honest, there’s an over supply of music.
      So maybe some sort of collective bargaining would be helpful?

      “…I think any new ways to have your art displayed and available is good to take…”
      Since when is an NFT a way new way to display your art? It’s a new way to look desperate, greedy and self-important for sure. And besides, isn’t this the argument for giving your output to the streaming services in the first place?

    2. Granted, capitalism is a mixed bag, as are most other systems. But to say there would be nothing without capitalism is at best unimaginative.

      Without record companies, streaming or otherwise, you could still have live music on homemade instruments for smaller more localized audiences– as it is in some parts of the world. This is a perfectly valid cultural expression. People sharing fun music. As to how people would eat or have a safe place to live, that is another matter.

      Crypto is cryptic. My lack of a grasp of things crypto doesn’t invalidate its potential usefulness, any more than your lack of understanding of the word “hypocritical” invalidates the left.

  9. I agree with him, but it’s a bit ironic he is saying that when selling a record player for 20k. Not the same, but still a “little capitalist” move in my opinion

    1. “Brian Eno’s net worth…”
      Largely irrelevant to the discussion…..

      You make this claim as if you were his accountant.
      I wager you’re not his accountant.
      Is it too much trouble to post your source for us to assess its reliability?

      Eno’s not exactly known for being a sell-out is he?

      1. Probably not the most reliable source, but even if it’s off by 50%, he’s quite wealthy. https://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/brian-eno-net-worth/#:~:text=Brian%20Eno%20net%20worth%3A%20Brian,net%20worth%20of%20%2460%20million.

        The point of my comment is that capitalism has worked out quite well for Mr. Eno. It’s a shame that he’s being so unkind to others who are likewise trying to make a living creating art (often with much less success).

        1. There’s absolutely no methodology in that link. They may as well have plucked the figure from a cucumber.
          Hard work, boundless creativity and towering intellect have worked out well for Eno in a capitalist society.
          No surprises there.

          He’s brought immesureable joy to millions of people and inspired thousands of artists.
          Clearly it would be shocking if he hadn’t made a lot of money.

          NFTs are a joke.
          Just make some better art for god’s sake.

  10. people are ignorant, as if the turntable he is selling is relevant in any way what-so-ever besides the dumb fact that people want to know what Eno is doing with a turntable…. as if people don’t even have the capacity in their tiny brains to differentiate between his turntable and the argument he is making against NFT’s….
    People are just stupid.

    1. I think Brian is making an argument regarding how “art can be sold to capitalize”. NFTs capitalize on the fact of creating scarcity and the necessity on a “unique token” that nobody else has. On the way I see it, the turntable from Brian Eno does pretty much the same, with the difference that is a physical object.
      I’m not saying Brian Eno is a bad person, and I’m glad he is not pro NFTs, but to me it seems that with that turntable he is in the same capitalist game as people selling NFTs.
      Just my opinion.

      1. “with the difference that is a physical object.”

        Yeah, but that’s a really big difference.
        The scarcity of the illuminated record player is not arbitrary, it’s dependent on time, effort and resources.
        Its existence is tangible and it is useful in itself.

        NFTs are an abherration to the digital world. A world of intrinstic reproducibilty and lightspeed transmission, of equality.

    1. And a quote from a quote in a comment in that article:


      NFTs are a massive scam but they are also a beautiful anthropological device that demonstrates the fact that private property is, and has always been, a social construct
      — obnoxious transexual hacker (@beka_valentine) December 19, 2021

  11. If NFTs worked, they’d already be getting used in “adult entertainment” – those folks are always at the forefront of new technology that gets people paid for their work.

  12. Eno has the luxury of criticizing because he himself does not need anything, but if he put himself in the shoes of an up-and-coming digital artist trying to find streams of income he might think differently. and how does he think his 20K turntable is any different.

    this is also surprising because Eno has always been someone utilizing technology, does he know the energy footprint of all the things he has created over the years? including records that get pressed that turn into tours that have bands flying around the world to play stadiums that sell drinks in Styrofoam cups and the gas people used in their cars to drive to the concerts. he may not want to discover his own footprint.

    but with that said, he has a great point in asking if the creating of these digital badges of exclusivity need to be so power hungry, i think that’s a great point and definitely seems like a better way could be found.

    1. Eno’s point was that he didn’t see the worth in an NFT because it didn’t create anything meaningfully new.

      We all oscillate somewhere on the specturm of hypocracy. Does what Eno has done, does, and will do have anything to do with the points he makes? Obviously, no.
      But even so, the vast bulk of Eno’s work has been in a medium that is emminently copiable, easily accessible and at an affordable price.
      He is not advocating that capitalism is inherently bad, he’s recognising the extremes that NFTs stretch the art / value system.
      Most art is social in nature and a suprising amount is funded by governements and philathropists.
      True art has virtually nothing to do with money.
      Most professional digital artists make their money sucking up to corporations or producing disposable media drivel. At least Youtube has allowed some of them to escape those shackles.
      Incredulously, a proportion of artists, certainly in the musical domain, seek wealth, adulation and power from their creative endeavours. Imagine that!

      I can’t really see how a further unleashing of capitalistic fundamentalism is going to improve the music of the world. It could proabaly be argued that captialism has got music into the lamentable position it’s in now.

      Anyways NFTs aren’t going away any day soon.
      Let them, at least, be a reminder of how much spare cash some folks have.
      And that excessive wealth be an incentive to support anti tax avoidance legislation.

      The average income to house price ratio has been allowed to drift to an incomprehensibe level in the UK.
      How can anyone create if they are fighting a gig economy to keep a roof above their heads?

      1. “Eno’s point was that he didn’t see the worth in an NFT because it didn’t create anything meaningfully new.”

        …and he’s completely wrong about that.

        “But even so, the vast bulk of Eno’s work has been in a medium that is emminently copiable, easily accessible and at an affordable price.”

        It is both funny and ironic how wildly you swing back and forth in your own arguments that you seem to think are against this concept that you clearly don’t fully understand. The entire point of NFTs is to transfer some of that financial power back to the artist, so that they get compensated for when their work transfers hands. An artist doesn’t get any money when their album is re-sold at a used record store, for instance.

        “Most professional digital artists make their money sucking up to corporations or producing disposable media drivel.”

        Because that is either the easiest way, or for many, the only way to make a living while still creating art. Matt Mahaffey of the band “sElf” is a prolific musician who achieved moderate success in the 90’s with a couple of radio singles and even a hit song on the “Shrek” soundtrack. But thanks to lazy record executives and corporate label buyouts, he couldn’t release 2 full albums worth of music because the labels just sat on it. Matt has worked with artists such as Beck and has done various TV jingles, like the old “Expedia! Dot-com!” jingle, and scores for TV shows such as Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Does the fact that his work now mainly consist of scoring television shows mean that it’s just disposable media drivel? You might think so, but if that’s the case then you need to watch Matt do his work and tell me that what he’s creating is “disposable media drivel.”

        “Incredulously, a proportion of artists, certainly in the musical domain, seek wealth, adulation and power from their creative endeavours. Imagine that!”

        So why is it any different when NFTs enter the picture?

        “It could proabaly be argued that captialism has got music into the lamentable position it’s in now.”

        Only if you’re one of those people who recklessly abuse the word “capitalism” as a way to describe the corporate cronyism that we’ve been living with for over a century now. Government interference is the opposite of capitalism, FYI.

        “How can anyone create if they are fighting a gig economy to keep a roof above their heads?”

        Again, this is where the NFTs come in…

        1. “…and he’s completely wrong about that.”
          You haven’t backed that up with any arguments.

          “It is both funny and ironic how wildly you…..”
          You are mis-understanding my comment. Please re-read it. I was replying to FS’s first paragraph.

          Which capitalism don’t I understand?
          The capitalism or the capitalism?
          You seem to want to define it in such a way that lazy crypto oilers are honourable folks and that lazy record executives are evil bar stewards.

          “Government interference is the opposite of capitalism, FYI.”
          Have you been paying any attention over the last couple of decades?
          Honestly have you?

          Government interference has been the life-blood of capitalism.
          ‘Too big to fail’, ‘Furlough’ not ring a bell?
          ‘Quantative easing’?

          “Again, this is where the NFTs come in…”
          No, this is where you stick another crypto oiler soundbite in.
          And then don’t provide any argument to back it up.
          Again.

  13. He seems to be missing a fundamental point – it’s about adding value to the ‘virtual’ world. Artists have been having a hard time of it lately, don’t begrudge them any opportunities.

    1. Arguing that NFTs can help struggling artists seems twisted:
      Artists offer NFTs so that folks can support them?
      But folks can already support artists in wide variety of ways.
      So with NTFs, folks are ONLY INTERESTED in supporting an artist if they CAN PROFIT FROM THEM (sell their NFTs at a higher price later).
      So in a sense NTFs are a way for rich folk to gamble on emerging artists?
      And that rich folks with oodles of spare cash become the arbiters of which artists sink or swim?
      Personally, I can see how this just isn’t going to work out.

      But like with charismatic crypto miners who infect the airwaves with their seismic pyramidic pump and dumpathons you can bet your bottom digital Yuan that NFTsters are lurking around to pump up their honourable credentials.
      Have a looksie at the tech jobs sector. Techies with an ‘interest’ in NTFs are in high demand.

  14. not sure if this is allowed, but writers / mods at synthtopia, you guys should feature https://www.ghostofnft.io/ its a pretty interesting NFT music project from producer Frank Dukes. I personally think its pretty cool, and am excited to see NFT’s in the music space evolve and grow over the next few years. it has potential to upset the entire industry if someone does it right.

    1. ” it has potential to upset the entire industry….”
      Excus e m y p00r typing four i can hardly m0v3 mi fingures for the alarm bells rInging in mi heed.

    1. Basically. Besides exploitation of suckers and enriching those at the top of the pyramid, the most effective and popular use cases for NFTs seem to be speculation, money laundering, and bragging.

      So they’re not without uses, really. Besides the more popular malicious and exploitive applications, they can be a virtual luxury good that provides no direct benefit to the owners besides signaling that they have money to throw away. Or, like moon plots, they can be a novelty gag gift that has no tangible value but is marginally entertaining.

      And for artists they can be a less efficient version of patreon that trades one commission rate for another (possibly lower) rate with the added bonus of burning tons of electricity for no particularly good reason and maybe appearing more cool and trendy for 2021.

  15. This is just Brian Eno advertising to the world how completely out of touch he is with the artistic struggle, especially that of a modern musician. When is the last time he’s been relevant?

    I get that a lot of people don’t yet understand what NFTs are or what potential they have, after all it’s a very new space. And for sure, there’s a lot of scams currently in the crypto space as well (although, there are scams literally everywhere else, too). But that doesn’t negate the potential NFTs have for added value of an artist’s content. Just because you don’t understand the technology that doesn’t mean it’s useless.

    1. Maybe we don’t get the maths involved but we get them.
      NFTs are a way for artists to try to tempt rich folks to bet on them.
      NFTs are a way for an elite group of average quality artists to leverage what popularity they may have garnered.
      Anyone else can just buy a t-shirt, a print, a download from bandcamp, can sign up to their patreon, use a tip jar, go to a gig, buy a postcard, like and subscribe etc etc etc etc.

      NFTs are an attempt to fix the horrors of capitalism with ………………………. more capitalism.

      Hurray!

  16. Would Andy Warhol be into Nfts? Maybe David Hockney should embrace it. I am not sure why I am not sold on it. I suppose it embraces the new digital world we are in…but it’s also like the Emperor’s new clothes. I keep thinking of the KLF. They were very bold. True artists exploring the world of art and why we put value on things. The art world is a strange thing indeed.

    I think Brain Eno is very interesting…I was really fascinated listening to him discussing art and why we do it as humans. I’ve got time for him.

  17. Did anyone try to download the free Leo2 AudioKit Retro Piano when it was ‘sold out’?
    Welcome to the wonderful world of NFTs.

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