Investing in Shibuya and Decentralized Creativity
Before Fifty Shades of Grey – the romance novel by E.L. James – became a bestseller and adapted into a film that broke box office records worldwide, it had its origins as a fan fiction series based on Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. The series featured characters named after those in Meyer’s original work, Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. James eventually re-wrote her story as an original piece, but its fan fiction origins reflect the fact that creativity is an inherently iterative and collaborative process – as well as the limitations that existing intellectual property laws pose for fan ownership and monetization.
Crypto is making a new path possible, empowering fans to become stakeholders in the creative process and owners in the output. Historically, media creation has been anything but democratized: a small number of institutional gatekeepers including publishers, record labels, and movie studios determined what got funded, produced, and distributed to audiences. In addition, content creation has primarily been a one-directional process, with content first being made by a small cadre of individuals and then consumed by audiences. When fans created derivative works, it was often unmonetizeable or even suppressed by the original creator. The result of this environment is content that doesn’t account for or reflect the diverse array of audience preferences and input, and a small number of creators that can ultimately succeed.
As we’ve written about extensively, web3 broadens creators’ access to capital, democratizes who can participate in the creative process, and expands who benefits financially. Crypto enables easier capital formation for initiatives that communities care about. That’s been applied to everything from purchasing a copy of the US Constitution to startup investing – and it’s now pervading the content creation world. Furthermore, tokens enable fans to go from consumers to owners of creative works, leading to the formation of communities that are incentivized to participate in the creative process and help the work achieve success. As a result, the creator economy moves from a solo practice to a community endeavor, with fan-driven funding and decision making.
These new possibilities for the creator economy is why we were so excited about the vision for Shibuya. Renowned NFT artist pplpleasr and concept artist/director Maciej Kuciara have built a new platform that enables creators to pursue new ways to fund long-form content and engage fans through crypto. Creators can raise funding for projects through NFTs and involve audiences as stakeholders throughout the creative process. Shibuya acknowledges that in order to make the media landscape more open, diverse, and successful, audiences should be elevated as co-creators.
So how does it work? To start, Shibuya is dogfooding the platform with its own animated series, White Rabbit, which tells the story of a protagonist going down the crypto rabbit hole. The series explores themes that are core to web3, including self sovereignty, free will vs. illusion of choice, and the ability to build new types of governance and economic freedom. White Rabbit crowdfunded the production of its first few chapters through a sale of NFT Producer Passes, which raised 400 ETH (about $1.2 million at the time) in 30 minutes. NFT holders get to vote on the plot of each subsequent chapter of the film, and earn tokens that represent a share in the final film. This mechanism erodes the distinction between fan and creator, and gives fans an incentive to help the film succeed. There are over 1,700 distinct holders of Producer Pass NFTs, with over 80% participating in voting so far. Over time, the platform will open itself up to third-party IP creators who want to explore new models of fan funding and ownership for their content.
As co-founders, pplpleasr and Maciej know this industry and market opportunity like no other. Pplpleasr spent years working in 3D animation and visual effects before becoming one of the first artists to embrace DeFi and NFTs. Maciej was an artist and director on films including Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, and Avengers. Through their experiences as creators themselves, they have developed a unique perspective on what makes for a great entertainment platform, as well as a deep understanding of the challenges creators face in the traditional media landscape. Together, they are pioneering how crypto can change how content – and ultimately culture – is made.
I’m thrilled to announce that Variant is co-leading Shibuya’s seed round. We believe that the best content in the future will be made with audiences’ voices and input in mind – and that Shibuya will be the platform on which much of this happens. You can learn more about what they’re up to and watch the first two chapters of White Rabbit at shibuya.xyz, and check out their job openings here.