Especially in this day and age, music has transcended beyond our ears. It is now an entire sensory feast! One great aspect that has helped shape this industry is the visual arts. And in this episode, Jeff Kelley, Eathan Janney, and Josh Kriger invite Ian Simon, the CEO and co-founder of Strangeloop Studios. Strangeloop is an LA-based media production company focusing on concert visuals, immersive experiences, music videos, and new narrative forms. Ian speaks with us about how they are providing a new artistic medium, where they put art above ego. He takes us across their journey towards becoming one of the leading creative pioneers of the new digital realm, working with big names such as The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, G-Dragon, and more! Putting NFT into the mix, he shares the projects they are currently working on and how they are working as a conduit for bringing the works of visual artists to life.
Listen to the podcast here
Ian Simon of Strangeloop Studios, The Web3 Native Record Label For Decentralized Virtual Beings, Plus: Austin 2022 Recap, Decentral & Consensus, And More…
Stay tuned for this episode and find out how virtual artists are here and how our guest is a conduit for bringing them to life.
Also, how our guest turned a journey that started with studying the history of jazz into jazzing up the future of the music industry.
How DCentral and Consensus Austin confirmed our suspicions about what Kevin Smith does off-camera. All this and more in this episode.
Our sponsored spotlight episode features Ian Simon, Cofounder of Strangeloop Studios, the visual home to The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, SZA, and many more. Founded as an audio-visual collective in Los Angeles, Strangeloop Studios has become one of the leading creative pioneers of the new digital media realm. They provide design and content for live events in digital media, including producing music video short films and immersive experiences.
He has created original content for The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, Lil Nas X, Flying Lotus, Mike Nelson, SZA, Lizzo, Pharrell, G-Dragon, Anderson .Paak, EarthGang, and David Gilmore of Pink Floyd. In 2019, Strangeloop launched Spirit Bomb Records, the world’s first visual artist record label, receiving sizable investment from Warner Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment Japan and the Japanese label, Avex Entertainment. Congratulations on all this. Welcome to the show.
Thanks so much for having me. It’s to be here.
What a roster of collaborators and creating content, too, for any of those people. That’s something pretty special for such amazing content creators themselves. Let’s talk origin story. How did you have the idea for Strangeloop? How did this whole thing come together?
I got super lucky in that. When I was in college, I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do and music was a passion of mine. I’m studying jazz and jazz studies out in New York, but I’m from LA originally. A lot of the friends that I grew up with here that I knew in the music scene were starting to get involved with some cool, cutting-edge, new-evolving forms of music, particularly the LA Beat Scene that was out here with artists like Flying Lotus. Low End Theory out. I’m Boyle Heights, with this epicenter of a lot of budding fusion of jazz, electronic music, and hip-hop.
I was going there in college. I got to come home and see the bubbling scene out there. It was super inspiring to me. I met my cofounder to be Dave Wexler. We met through music. I wasn’t involved in visual arts at all, but he was this polymath with whom I connected on a philosophical, musical, and artistic level. We started working together.
He was already doing live visuals. He was both animating and going out on the road with artists, DJing and performing the visuals. When he and I started working together, I played Low End Theory as a musician, which was amazing. It felt like a goal was unlocked. You do that a couple of times over the course of the summer after college, and you realize it’s not exactly a cakewalk to make a living from playing live music or releasing music.
He was on the road with Skrillex at the time, doing visuals for Skrillex in 2012. He came back from one of those tours and was like, “I got you a gig doing visuals on the road with these artists, Zeds Deads, who I’d heard of and love. I was like, “I don’t know how to do live visuals. What are you talking about? You got me a gig.” He was like, “You’ll be fine. You just got to understand the musical element.” He gave me all the content.
It’s like shadow puppetry. Is that what you’re doing?
Honestly, it is almost that easy if you got musical instincts and you’ve got a content creator. You could make these amazing tools. There’s a way to make a few $100 a day on the road for a short period of time. I jumped on the opportunity, and it was all off from there. A lot of people saw those shows and other shows that we were working on with Flying Lotus and with some of the other acts. We started building our roster of VJs and animators, and the rest is history.
Isn’t it something when people enjoy what you’ve created, are consuming something, and are passionate about it? As a creator, isn’t that the best?
It’s what kept me enjoying touring, even though it’s pretty stressful and not necessarily the easiest lifestyle. Especially on the gigs where there’s somewhere you become close with the touring crew, and it hardly feels like work, but a lot of them are stressful, especially when you get into the more high profile gigs and you’re doing these overnights over rehearsal. There are a couple of rehearsal spaces for the bigger stadium or arena tours that we would do out in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania. It’s that moment when you see the first concert, and you see everyone freak out at a certain where they are well-coordinated moment. They’re like, “It’s worth it.”
I studied jazz studies at Rutgers. Where were you?
I was Uptown in Columbia. I did the performance program for half a semester, and it was a time commitment. The jazz I played in LA was much more free-form and postop. I got all these lead sheets put in front of me at Columbia, and I was like, “I’m not your guy.” I technically don’t have the chops. I switched more to like jazz studies, which ended up giving me more time to explore the actual music team in New York.
We’re all like uber impressed. We’ve booked NFT LA, and we’re getting into booking people for things. With this roster of names that you pulled together, does this have something to do with your roots in the New York scene? How do you pull these people together? What happened? What’s it been like?
It’s funny when you read it all out like that too. One of the reasons why there is a volume of names is because there’s high turnover in these relationships. It can be stressful from a business point of view because you’re not some creative agencies where you’ve got a client like Google who will re-up your contract for a year or two at a time as long as you’re providing. They need the same services.
When you’re a visual artist working with musicians, you’re uniting for this moment in time. You’re realizing their musical aesthetic in the visual space. We’ve had some relationships that have lasted for years. I’m still doing shows with Zeds Dead and I did my first gig with them in 2012, but that’s the exception, not the rule to have a relationship that long.
With Lizzo, I was super stoked about the work we did with her. It was probably a year of working with her over the course of different shows that we did with festivals or award shows. It’s the same with Pharrell. You get to parachute into these artists at a certain point in their career and have the chemistry. Often, you have a great experience, but they’re onto their next album cycle. While we do a diversity of aesthetics, there is a certain Strangeloop look, and no part of you takes it personally when they don’t call you the next time. You’re like, “It makes sense.” It’s like you’ve got this artistic union.
I recall a show we did with Claude VonStroke of Dirtybird Records. They have an artist and residence program they do each year for a year. It could be a little bit less time than that, but for each series of campouts, records, and stuff, they work with an artist for a year. It’s a fun residence program. It puts some parameters on that nebulous process that you described.
It could be a great opportunity for an artist to get exposure. If you’re brought into this somewhat stress, got some rails on the relationship. One of the most stressful things is not knowing what the scope is or is going to turn into. We’ve been lucky to have fruitful relationships. I ended up on the road with Kendrick from 2013 to 2019. The Weeknd, we designed the tours from 2015 all the way to a TikTok virtual concert he did over the pandemic. There’s room for both. Sometimes you have this great ships passing in the night of great chemistry at the moment. Sometimes you are able to build other bodywork.
Fundamentally, it does sound like it’s always an open relationship.
You should be because otherwise, you end up in this competitive mindset with other artists where it never feels like the way it should be. If you’re excited about another visual artist out there, there’s only more as the tools become democratized and it’s easier to learn through the animation. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you consider it a zero-sum game. You have to have some sense that there’s enough work for everybody, and you want to be excited about collaborations.
It’s always more fun to collaborate with people from a place of abundance versus scarcity. That’s how we like to do things. In 2019, you started Spirit Bomb Records. It’s the first virtual artist record label, and it’s special. What was unique about Spirit Bomb, and how’s it going since then? It’s been a while.
Strangeloop: When you’re a visual artist working with musicians, you’re kind of uniting for this moment in time where you realize their musical aesthetic and the visual space.
It’s crazy to think that it started in 2019 because that was before we had so much of the terminology around Web3. That has helped us, like I need a business model around it. Back to its origins, as much as we did love that fluid relationship that we have with the artists that I was describing, one thing that excited us about Spirit Bomb was the idea of building a structure. We could work with these artists from the ground up musical artists on co-creating IP rather than the system that we traditionally operated in, which is they finish an album. They come to us, and they’ve got this body of work. They would be like, “Help us bring this into visual but the live space and the visual space.”
We would often do the same thing. We’d finish a body of visual work, and we’d go and hire a composer to score it. We usually had quite a bit built out before that would happen. One of the systems that come along with that is that things often work for higher people. We’re getting cash and no ownership in the concert revenue or what we’re building. It doesn’t matter if they tore it for 5 years or 5 weeks. Our fee is the same, which makes it hard to scale your business if you’re parachuting these projects one after another.
Similarly, when we worked with musicians, we wanted to find a way to get them true ownership of the projects we were creating together. The idea of Spirit Bomb started as sketches of characters in notebooks and being inspired by projects like Hatsune Miku that we’d seen in Japan. Also, we’d seen Lil Miquela at that point and seen a digital being presenting as another human on social media.
The big light bulb moment for Dave and me was this idea that when you’re on Instagram, there’s a digital flattening that happens. We’re all given the same square to present ourselves. It doesn’t matter if you’re fictional IP or a real person. You can create a semblance of autonomy in a semblance of reality regardless of where the content’s coming from.
Those were the impetus behind creating Spirit Bomb. It was like, “Can we start creating from the ground up with other creatives rather than one of us doing the bulk of the work first? Can we create a system of co-creation and co-ownership? Can we seed it online in a way where maybe these characters feel like they’re alive?”
That brings up a number of different interesting things in the background. We love talking about the creative side of it and the idea becoming a reality, but there is a lot in between you have to think about, and IP is one of those things, intellectual property. What does it mean in the digital space? How does it work? What does it mean in virtual reality versus augmented reality and extended reality? Where’s all that headed? How do you guys deal with this part of the business?
It was something that we groveled with from the outset. Part of the reason why we raised money was so that we would have optionality as to how we approached that. First of all, started Spirit Bomb was picking away in between our existing gigs, which made it hard to have a regular cadence of posting or creating content. It’s time for The Weeknd to go on tour. Everybody’s off working on Spirit Bomb and on working on The Weeknd gig. It was hard to build up momentum.
Part of the reason why rather than finance a particular character with a Warner or more film-style financing, we went through a slightly more venture route was to create the infrastructure that would allow us to build the IP ourselves and figure out who the best partners would be. From the outset, we wanted our IP partners to be artists and start with the people who are breathing life into the project.
There’s plenty of room for other people who are providing things like distribution, capital, or infrastructure to grow the artist and also to have a piece of the IP. A lot of the conventional funding systems start with the latter. If we’re helping you get this off the ground, we’re going to take a big chunk or all of the IP of these characters. We wanted to fundraise against the system of IP creation rather than fundraise for the individual pieces of IP.
That’s the beginning of it. We can get into where it went from there because that’s where Web3 came into. We were beating our heads against the wall with some of these questions in Web2, particularly having flexibility with the fractionalization of ownership. We were at a loss, moving ahead with only the IP ourselves and cutting in artists on the derivative revenue streams of the characters. Web3 opened up the ability to give us a somewhat more substantial stake in the IP itself and the people who were helping bring it to life.
We’ve seen that and it’s going to happen over and over again where people have a problem that they didn’t have a solution for, and they go, “Oh my gosh.” Ticketing is another one. That’s huge, and people are still working on perfecting it. The ticketing model at Web3 makes much more sense than the one in Web2. Those are the places where the naysayers on blockchain and Web3 don’t see the reality of how the problems are magically solved as long as you implement them.
They’re often not the sexiest. Some of my favorite Web3 applications are not the ones that are going to be the biggest headlines to the widest amount of people, but they’re the use cases that are based on anachronistic and outdated models. The back end of the entire music recorded music industry is a perfect example.
I think some smart contracts have such wide applications because we’re still holding on to many of these systems that were set up for physical distribution, like apparatus that hasn’t been the way that people consume music for decades. It’s been co-opted by different massive power centers. That’s not the sexiest headline about royalty distribution and people being able to collect more quickly instead of on a quarterly basis. That sounds revolutionary to me. That’s someone who’s not even that deep in the recorded side of music.
You guys are being creative with what’s going on, and you’re doing some things that offer solutions to live artists who might be uncertain about what to do with a recorded track. You got some creative things going on there. Can you tell us how that’s evolving?
One of the first things that made us realize that artists would be interested in collaborating with us was when we started designing the characters in our studio. We would always show artists who came through what we were working on in our spare time. One thing we would hear from like Justin Boreta from the Glitch mob, who was one of the first people who came through and was like, “I’m working on this body of work that wouldn’t fit under Glitch Mob and under a Superposition,” which is his other side project. He was still like, “I would love for there to be a home for this music.” We heard it from a lot of artists.
They had different reasons why I was attracted to them. Some of them were about protecting the brand of their original project and feeling like they didn’t want to cross-pollinate it. Absent using their current platform and starting a new project from scratch is daunting, especially with the content and demands on artists to launch a new project.
We realize that one of the value propositions of a virtual artist is we’re creating the content. We’re the face of the music. If you’re cool with that, or if that’s exciting to you, it can be a heat shield for experimentation. As people who love jazz and the beat scene, we want all your experimental shit. Give that to us. We’ll pair it with some tricky crazy visuals and try to launch it.
That also made us realize that it’s attractive to up-and-coming artists who maybe aren’t great at content creation. You’ve got Doja Cat and Lil Nas X, who were perfectly primed for this music ecosystem because they’re great at music and they’re great at the internet. That’s not everybody. How much music isn’t getting out into the world because the person behind it is too intimidated or doesn’t give a shit about Instagram?
You’re saying a well-established artist with something that’s maybe not in the same genre that everybody knows for, and they’re like, “I don’t want to release it.” They don’t realize that fans of that artist want to hear everything that comes out of them creatively, whatever it is. Finding a way to is amazing.
I feel like the squeaky wheel sometimes gets greased too. You’ve got that small subset of fans that are upset about like, “This wasn’t like your last album.” Artists are over-indexed towards being sensitive folks. In their comments being like, “What the fuck is this? It doesn’t sound like your last album.” That’s going to impact how you feel about putting out your next record.
I would love to hear Doja Cat pick up a guitar and cover Rivers Cuomo or some shit like that. They’ll be like, “That’s amazing.” Doja Cat is an amazing and great artist. This is an amazing person.
You guys made a big announcement that Spirit Bomb is going to be minting its most popular virtual being LV4. I had to do a little research on LV4. I found a description for our readers at home to set some context for the question. LV4 wasn’t born as a cyborg. He was born as a human and spent his childhood wandering the streets, crafting inventions from scrap peeps. One thing led to another, and now he is a cyborg. Tell us a little bit more about your plans with LV4 as NFT and how it allows holders to have a stake in the creative direction of this artist/hip-hop DJ/cyborg work.
LV4 is our first artist that found a fan base, or if you want to go by the more tech pipeline verbiage, he found some product-market fit out there because we did have a testing pipeline to figure out what virtual artists resonated with people. It was this weird combination of wanting to trust our artistic instincts and making sure that the idea for these virtual artists that I alluded to is that we want them to be a platform for people to put music out through.
We want them to be a valuable platform for people to put music out. We got to have fans and audiences. We’ve got to find out what resonates with people about virtual artists. It’s a nascent medium. There wasn’t a ton of massive body of research we could pull on. We went on TikTok, which is incredible for testing how things resonate with people because they will push out your first post wide to a bunch of people. You’ll find out quickly if they like it or not.
The silence is deafening when you put out something that doesn’t resonate with people on TikTok versus LV4, whose first couple of videos validated so much of our thesis around virtual artists. First of all, seeing a virtual being in the feed alongside a bunch of humans, our conversion of people who watched the whole video was high relative to other videos.
The engagement on it was also highly related to other videos. It also bore out this idea of co-creating with the general public because we thought LV4 was this tough, just in streetwear, intimidating hip-hop producer robot character. We dropped the first video, and the comments were like, “He’s so cute. Look at the little antennas. He’s fumbling his way around the world.” We were quickly like, “If that’s what people are into, and if that’s what he’s evoking, then we can pivot into making that part of his personality.”
Once we did, we understood what they were saying. He is cute. The antennas are cute. He’s like a bull in China shop here. He’s been our tester for the whole funnel of what our virtual artist process should be like, all the way from that initial testing moment that I described to putting out his first few tracks. He did his first one with Mr. Carmack. We released a track that featured the underachievers doing a first live show where he opened for Zeds Dead at their show at The Shrine. He sold out his own headline show a few months later in LA.
It was at that juncture that we’d gotten enough traction that we thought he was valuable for people to potentially contribute to or would be interesting enough for people to help guide his story. That’s when we looked around and were like, “What are the mechanisms for building this next concentric circle of collaborators who help contribute music or visuals? What are ways to give them some gated access to the community but also something that they could appreciate and value commence with LV4’s success?” That was the thinking behind the LV4 drop.
I’m curious. He’s a cyborg, and there’s an argument to be made at this point in time that we’re all cyborgs in different ways with how attached we are to our phones and with all these converging technologies. Beyond his cuteness, I have to agree. He is a pretty cute dude. Do you think there’s an element of that relationship to what we’re all going through that people are feeling?
When you frame it like that, I do. When you look at how the content that people seem to resonate with the most from him was him figuring out how to use TikTok in front of everybody and how to engage with the music industry. That naivete and there’s self-confidence in there. He’s not afraid to admit what he has known. That’s how a lot of us probably feel about navigating this digital ecosystem, even though there is a tendency for people to feel like they’ve been experts at it since the jump.
I think we need a mascot, like LV4, for the show. What do you guys think?
It sounds good. Let’s do it.
We’d love to help.
You got so much going on. You guys have already accomplished a lot, but I have a hunch that there is probably some pretty sweet stuff in the pipeline. What can you share with us of what’s coming down the road?
I refer to this first drop as the first concentric circle because it’s a limited supply deliberately. We only did 400 of them. I heard the analogy for DAOs. You’ve got the settlers versus tourists, people who put down deeper roots and people who are more there to have a light touch but still have engagement or still the lifeblood of the community.
In the future, we want to make sure that there’s an easy, accessible way for people to not have to spend 0.2 E to be contributing to the community and also not have the pressure of being as core to day-to-day decision-making like the equivalent of delegation. We can have a more consumer-facing but engaged group that’s free from some of the financialization and that is more about being a fan of the artist.
To propel that, we’ve also got LV4’s next phase of his career that we’re trying to line up. We’ve got ready to go, but we wanted to do this first drop. It wasn’t our team deciding how we approach all of these next moments, but we’re trying to get LV4 signed to a label. We’ve got some interests in people who will pick them up. We’re also trying to get him within a relatively short time horizon to see what it would look like for a virtual artist to play at a major festival.
Those are the things that we’ve already started the gears turning. We also didn’t want to do a whole other phase of all these careers where our team of ten was making all the decisions. That seems a missed opportunity with the virtual artist. With the human artists, I don’t think the fans should be dictating what that artist does next. You want the artist to do whatever they need to get off their chest. You want to get out of the way and let them do it. First of all, it’s a fun opportunity to have a voice in what you might see next from like some franchise IP that you care about.
Rumor has it, Ian, there’s going to be a big festival in March of 2023 called NFT LA. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. We’ve been known to have some NFT-spirited artists there, like Spottie WiFi, and there are some other ones that are going to come by, but they weren’t quite ready. They were still pixelated.
If only I knew someone that had a connection to NFT LA.
I know a guy that knows. Those three guys might be here that are all in the chain.
Let’s talk about it because we’ve got the tech for LV to perform. We’ve developed a whole suite of virtual artists. We invested in LV4 because he was the first one to find a fan base.
He better not trash the hotel room.
I went around to do this whole pitch about how virtual artists will never miss this show. They’re always on time. It’s this artist that you don’t have all the problems of human artists. His first show at Art Basel, we sent through the file. It was downloaded but had bad hotel Wi-Fi. It was a corrupt file. He was 45 minutes late to his first show. I had tested how virtual artists were immune to all of these things.
A corrupt file is the equivalent of him being too drunk in the green room to get on stage. That happened for his first live appearance. I’ve been much more careful with exactly the promises I make about how simpler virtual artists are because for every problem you don’t have, who knows how many technologies go on.
You can’t have too many ones and not zero. Last question, and we’ll dive into quick hitters. This is going to be fun. What else inspires you these days within the Web3 space and beyond?
Strangeloop: You have to have some sense that there’s enough work for everybody and that you just want to be excited about collaborations.
Within the Web3 space, I was not expecting how quickly some of the turnaround on talking about with the assumption of co-ownership. We built a business for years. That wasn’t even on the table. It was all work for higher. It was all cash. The negotiating was how much cash, not do you get some on the back end.
There are other industries and even other aspects of the music industry that weren’t quite as much like that. The concert visuals are a perfect example of where you couldn’t scale along with the success of the project. When we first had our collaboration with The Weeknd on doing an NFT with him on Nifty Gateway, the fact that out the gate, like we were talking about splitting the revenue, was eye-opening. It’s only become more fundamentally a part of those conversations.
It makes me feel better about all the convos we’re having with artists where it’s like, “We’re all in it together inherently.” We’re not as scared about shelling out a bunch of money, but we own it. If it’s big, we have this outsized benefit.” It feels everywhere in gender’s more collaborative atmosphere. Outside of Web3, I’m excited to see how many more talented visual artists be cropping up.
It reminds me of when Ableton, Foodie Loops, and some of these tools went out on mass. You found these kids who are virtuosic beatmakers. I feel like we’re on the brink of seeing that in animation because Unreal and Blender are free. We use them. We were entirely in Unreal. I feel like we’re still on the cusp of it. When I look forward to several years, there’s going to be an abundance of talents in the visual design space that it used to.
I’ll give a little shout-out to Ozone Universe, which is a Web3 alternative to Unreal, if I’m not mistaken. There’s some of that technology coming out too, which is pretty exciting.
Unreal has a strong code base, and we’re starting to rapidly exit my area of expertise because I work with smart people that are much more well versed in this than me, but I know that there are ways to expose a lot of what’s happening in an Unreal or real-time system directly to the ledger. As certain decisions are being made in real-time, you can write them in the blockchain.
It speaks to a lot of the things that previously required accounting or required someone to spend a lot of money. Often, that’s an excuse not to do it and not to remunerate someone for their contribution, but building a system that builds it automatically can’t hide behind the idea that we don’t have the money to pay the accountants or the lawyers.
We must find a way to collaborate for NFT LA. We got to get LV4 up there and whoever else you got in the roster at that point.
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Let’s take a moment and shift gears a little bit. Let’s go to segment two, which is a segment we call Edge Quick Hitters. It’s a fun, quick way for our readers to get to know you a little bit better. There are ten questions, and we’re looking for short, single word or few-word responses, but we may dive in a little deeper here or there. Are you ready to go?
Question number one. What is the first thing you remember ever purchasing in your life?
Deck of Pokémon cards.
Do you get some of those bad boys floating around still?
I’ve not found out if they’re worth anything yet, but they’re still in the laminated binder.
Question two. What is the first thing you remember ever selling in your life?
Lemonade outside of my house. It was the first thing I ever sold, and it was a while. I remember in college, the first time ever thinking about it from a business perspective was selling a beat to someone for $50 that I’d made.
The question is, were you doing the 2 for 1? Were you throwing in a cookie?
I’m pretty sure we were charging $2 in the mid-‘90s for lemonade, which sounds outrageous.
It’s LA. Real estate is expensive, even the sidewalks.
Lord knows we’re probably pouring Minute Made in there. I don’t remember fresh lemon.
Let’s go a little more recent here, and that’s question three. What’s the most recent thing you purchased?
I purchased a Chaos Pack. One of the headless chaos is the song camp band. They made their drop, and I saw they still had some left. I grabbed one of their packs. I haven’t burnt it yet. You burned it and went out there.
Question four. What’s the most recent thing you sold?
I have to check the status, but we probably have sold an LV4 NFT since then.
Question number five. What is your most prized possession?
If I had to put a material thing, it would probably be my 2013 retina laptop that I’m using now. This thing has got me through thick and thin, and it’s still chugging.
Question number six. If you could buy anything in the world, digital, physical, service, and experience, that’s for sale, what would it be?
Probably, a property somewhere. I don’t know that I could get much more specific with that. Some land somewhere with the idea of doing something cool with it, with other people that I love.
Are there mountains? Is it like an island? Give us some details.
Island seems a little hoity-toity. I was thinking of something that could be a little more accessible. Seeing where Kanye set up shop, there’s a part that’s not that hard to get to. You knew a lot of people flying in and out, but it also was as gorgeous as anywhere in the world. I’d like to find a little corner of America where you can go toe to toe with any anywhere else in the world.
Any other questions, Grand Inquisitor Ethan?
I’m saying the more details you put out there in the world, the more it can manifest like, “I want property. It’s got a porch and farmland.”The more we know, the more we can be on your team.
A little tillable earth. I don’t know what tilling it entails, but I’d like to be able to till it to a degree.
Question number seven. If you could pass on one of your personality traits to the next generation, what would it be?
Sense of humor, for sure. You’ve got to be able to live. One thing that concerns me most about society is losing the sense of humor. You got to be able to laugh.
Question eight. If you could eliminate one of your personality traits from the generation, what would that be?
Self-doubt. I come from a Jewish family that celebrates self-doubt in a lot of ways. That’s a way of dealing with it, but it is still the worst enemy.
Question number nine. What did you do before joining us on the show?
I cooked some chicken. I had a twenty-minute window because my call before you all ended, and I threw some chicken in a sheet pan and roasted it up for some lunch. That was what I did before I hopped on.
Do you eat that chicken?
Strangeloop: Web3 really opened up the ability to give us a more substantial stake in the IP itself, the people who were helping bring it to life.
I ate half of it. Half of it, I’ll eat later.
Question ten. What are you going to do next after the show?
I got two more calls that I’m excited about, one with our label manager. We’ll talk about LV4’s The Musical Roadmap.
Last official question. Question number ten. What are you doing next after the show?
After the show, we’ve got a couple of things that we’re working on. We built a design your own NFT. It’s a fun way to discover all the traits that are on our drop. We’ve got some plans to further implement what we do at that tech. I’ll make sure to drop all the links because you can use it in its form now, but we are having a meeting about some fun new things we can do.
I’ll throw it to Ethan. He does have the bonus.
I do have a bonus question. What’s your favorite jazz standard to play, listen to, or both?
I appreciate I got rhythm because of the rhythm changes. It spawned many other amazing pieces of music that I love. I don’t know if Confirmation counts as a standard, but that one is probably one of the top five songs that get stuck in my head with zero triggers. They appear thereafter.
One of mine is Skylark.
I remember I would that and Autumn Leaves. I did one jazz camp. Those were the two tracks I learned by the end of the band.
That’s Edge Quick Hitters. We appreciate you sharing with us. We wanted to take a minute if you got a few to hang out and bullshit a little bit about our experience at DCentral and Consensus.
You said bullshit because I swore twice earlier in this show, and I realized no one said anything, but I don’t know where this is going.
Hot topic. We wanted to cover that stuff and talk about our experience there. Some of the takeaways from Austin besides the 105-degree heat.
I jump in right away and say my biggest takeaway was jealousy because I was not there. You guys got to interview like Kevin Smith.
I was talking to someone about that interview, and they’re like, “I wish you had the B roll of the pre-tape.” Kevin walks in with his posse, and immediately, he looks around. He adjusted where the video was and the lighting. He changed the chairs and moved the mics, and he felt comfortable. It was clear to us that saying yes to 100% of his recommendations was the key to a good interview. We rolled with it.
I’m not the biggest professional at this, but I’m our AV guy who set that stuff up. I remember looking at the interview and being like, “Zach pulled it together for this AV setup. He’s taking it to the next level.”
I had a great time. We’ve done a lot of cool things with the guys at DCentral, and this was a pre-event to Consensus bringing together their community. I felt like there are some bridges that were built between their last event and this event in terms of connecting some of the DeFi-type projects that they often feature in the NTF projects.
It felt like a little bit more of a sandbox of co-creation in the industry was a strong builder vibe and some interesting people to come together, having great conversations. One of my highlight moments was introducing Baron Davis to the Cosmos team and us all learning more about what Cosmos is doing in how they’re taking things to the next level in a way that supports Web3 and NFT creators. I had a great time at DCentral, and the air conditioning was good. The snacks were good. Shout out to those guys. They put a piano and a shower in our media room.
They didn’t put the shower in our media room. They put us in the media room with a shower.
They installed those for us, Jeff.
This is one of those things they go appreciate. You put an instrument near a creator. They’re going to create something with it. Everybody was drawn to it. They sit down and start playing.
What’s your connection to Baron Davis? He’s an alumnus of my high school.
I met him originally at a place called The Upfront Summit, which is this killer event that Upfront Ventures puts on. That was 2016 or 2017 when he was there talking about Black Santa and some of his other business ventures. They are a small group of folks up there. I was impressed with his approach to things. He’s been in and around the space, always working at the forward edge. When we had the chance to sit down with him, we were like, “Let’s do that. Let’s talk. Let’s see what’s up.” He may find some pretty interesting collaborations between him and us going forward here pretty soon.
He’d always seemed to have a swinger up on the pulse.
He is tied into what’s going on and deep and long in terms of the utility of Web3 technology. It’s a nice sneak preview of the Kevin Smith interview. We had a lot of great interviews thanks to the DCentral crew, Tatiana DeMaria. She’s doing some amazing stuff. That was a good starting point for what was a rather intense few days.
The census was 17,000 people in six different locations, but they did a great job of keeping it to a rather small geographical footprint. You could scooter around to whatever you need to get to or walk. Just realize that more than five minutes in the street is like taking a shower. We were breaking records on the heat side, and meanwhile, the market was melting down.
There was an interesting dichotomy that people talked about it. How long is this beer market going to be, and what’s causing it. There’s more energy, pound for pound and minute by minute, focused on the building and the collaboration potential. It was cool to see Consensus integrate some of the NFT and the metaverse side of things but also bring in some thought leaders like Edward Snowden, who’s about the utility of blockchain and getting past the hype train and everything.
There’s this inevitable tension in the industry because the fundamentals of blockchain are a monetary alternative/opportunity to get a return on your investment. You have the utility of NFTs, which is about long-term value creation as opposed to the flip at times. There are plenty of flippers in the space, and intermission all these people, and seeing how that manifests, I found it pretty fascinating from a human psychology perspective. What were your thoughts, Jeff?
Overall, I think people are fundamentally in and ready to be in build mode again. Most of the big players there have been through market downturns previously. It’s not their first rodeo there. They saw how we came out of it last time. The infrastructure is much stronger this time, both the folks on the investment side of the house, the level of sophistication there, and the builders, where they came from, and what their background is as it relates to those industries that are making things happen.
One of the biggest players in the space that intersects with us is Animoca Brands, for example. Anything that intersects with their world is in build mode. It’s their full steam ahead. What’s happening in the markets is important to everybody. It impacts people’s sentiment, access to capital, and all those things. These guys are building. They’re out there making it happen.
Animoca Brands were there last market downturn and even prior to that. They had this wealth of experience in the gaming space long before Web1 and Web2 experience and now Web3 experience. What’s important during these times is to look to those people that have been there before and see how they’re acting. When you’re at Consensus, you can see that all over the place.
All those people were there. You could see how they were behaving. Their behavior is let’s build, let’s go, let’s continue this charge. I’m not going anywhere. Ethan, you’ve seen a good amount of our talks and some of the interviews that we did. I’ve done a lot of different things over that time period out in Austin. Anything else that you saw that jumped out to you at Consensus?
We’re at an interesting vantage point. We’re over a year after we started our show, but it’s fascinating to take a look back. The Founders of DCentral are people that we had on the podcast in the early days. They were talking about getting some events together. It has become a festival atmosphere, which is cool.
It’s not that people are enthusiastic and excited, but there’s this fun integration that I don’t think people saw before at blockchain events and things like that, where there’s creativity bubbling everywhere. That’s why I get excited about it. I’ve been to conventions in all different spaces. I used to go to one of the largest conventions in the country, and maybe even the world was The Neuroscience Convention, The National Society of Neuroscience.
It was cool to talk about brains and stuff like that. There was a lot of fun stuff going on, but the energy was different. The energy here is buzzing, and I can see it from afar. I can see it from the compilation of videos that people put together, the interviews, the way that people are talking, and the freshness of ideas. They’re talking about new stuff. It’s not boring. It’s not something that has already happened. It’s a creator vibe, like new things. That’s my takeaway from afar.
There were some extravagant parties and dinners throughout the week, but the stuff I enjoyed was the more low-key events. For example, I went to a casual event for a project that had hummus and soft drinks, but it was cool people that were in build mode 100%. Shout out to Velvet Taco. A couple of us went over there at some point, and they have a chicken or waffle taco. That was also a fun benefit of Austin. By the end of the week, everyone was done with tacos because they do the tacos hard.
I would say that another cool experience was the DAOhaus, which was an inner that had more casual seating, had some cold brew iced coffee, some cool iced tea, and a Zen vibe. There was rose water in the men’s room. That’s the first conference I’ve been to, and the crypto world where you can spray some rose water in yourself. They had some meditation in the morning.
They tried to create an inviting space for all the different types of folks in the industry. Whereas traditionally, you got these finance conferences, investment conferences, and Degen conferences. They were trying to create a place where everyone felt comfortable, which is similar to what we’re trying to do with NFT LA with all the different types of groups within the NFT space. What did you hear? Were you over there or do you know some folks that went?
I know a few folks that went. I wasn’t there myself. I had a fair share of FOMO despite being in build mode ourselves. It was most interesting hearing what you were alluding to, Jeff, people, talking about how the conversations were or weren’t talking about market conditions. In my mind, I agree with so much of what you said about how these periods allow for building.
Some parts that I’ve been most skeptical or cynical about the scene have been indirectly or directly because of the hype cycles. It’s tempting when you see things being that successful in copying and not innovating because you’re like, “It worked.” Someone else does it, and you’re like, “Why am I not doing it? Why would I try something new and take a risk when everyone following this playbook is working for everybody.”
It’s one of the things that a lot of people who have had an idea and they’re passionate about that maybe now they’ll get a better shot because everybody’s reinventing the rules, and not much of the attention economy isn’t being swept up in people successfully replicating things that were already successful. Hearing people about people navigating that was interesting. It’s always fun seeing things like that too. People you know meet other people you know and send photos of themselves together to you. It never gets old.
One thing that I was excited about was hearing that announcement that Bill Gates is going to be doing an NFT album with Kendrick Lamar. I thought that was exciting.
Was there a jazz standard that influenced it or something?
I’ve suspended my disbelief now for what feels like several years.
That was an awesome wrap-up about Austin. I certainly appreciated all these details, and the readers will. I appreciate us taking the time.
Ian, before we wrap the episode. We got to let people know where can they follow you, what you’re up to personally, as well as the projects Strangeloop and Spirit Bomb.
Strangeloop: Everybody’s kind of reinventing rules. It’s not so much that the attention economy isn’t being swept up in people successfully replicating things that were already successful.
We’re pointing to a lot of our attention on Spirit Bomb now. You can find us @SpiritBomb_ai on Twitter. Even though it’s not fundamentally an artificial intelligence project, it’s aggregate intelligence. We still use the AI in our Spirit Bomb handle. It’s SpiritBomb.ai on Instagram. That’s also SpiritBomb.ai, where you can find a lot of the info on the web about our project. The mint URL that’s live now is Mint.SpiritBomb.ai. I mentioned the builder earlier, which is LV4.SpiritBomb.ai. We’ve built it all on the same domain name to make it easy for you all. That’s where you can design your own and see what might be in there.
The easiest place to follow me is on Twitter @_Blount1 and Instagram @_Blount. It’s a lot of jazz content. If anyone reading was piqued by our 45 seconds of talking about jazz, wait. I’ve got the vast majority of my non Spirit Bomb related Instagram stories. It’s just me looking at big views of my balcony of favorite jazz from the late ‘60s to mid-’70s over it. That sounds like something you might be interested in. I got something for you all.
We can only Bo Josh and Jeff for long with our jazz nerding. I’ll throw one more thing in there. It was hummus related. Look up on YouTube How to Make Hummus in 6 Steps by an artist called Eitan Kenner. He’s a guy that we tune pianos in New York City. It’s a pretty dope synth jazz fusion track.
We’re on the street was we were going to look at a little giveaway associated with this too. Do you want to talk about any elements of that?
There are a couple of active giveaways we’ve got going on to be able to get in our mint right now. One of which is we’ve partnered with Chill RX’s incredible Web3 music project that started we knew from the days before we were all in Web3 because they were doing a virtual artist project as well. They did an incredibly awesome drop a while back of Chill Pills.
We’re doing a giveaway of a Chill Pill for anyone who mints our project. It’s going to be some future crossover as well. We’re also going to be doing some giveaways. We’re at NFT.NYC. LV4 has been booked at two gigs now. He’s going to be playing at the Soundman Event alongside some legit artists that I wish I was able to announce, but they haven’t put him out there yet. We can talk about putting in the copy because this will probably drop afterward. He’s going to be doing a resident DJ to set at a studio there four nights a week. It’s nice being a virtual artist. You can DJ for hours, and you don’t get tired. If anyone’s out in New York, you’ll be able to catch that out.
Keep an eye out on our socials to help promote these various elements of the giveaway, Strangeloop, Spirit Bomb, and everything you’re doing. We do appreciate it. We’ve reached the outer limit at the Edge of NFT. Thank you for exploring with us. We’ve got space for more adventures on this starship. Invite your friends and recruit some cool strangers that will make this journey all so much better. How? Go to Spotify or iTunes now, rate us and say something awesome. Go to EdgeOfNFT.com to dive further down the rabbit hole. Lastly, be sure to tune in next time for more great NFT content. Thanks again for sharing this time with us.