Viewers could someday fund their favorite television shows and guide creative choices as an Austin startup moves to a model of TV involving non-fungible tokens, or NFTs.
The startup, Virtual Arts, formed in 2019 and later released an app called DanceFight, where users can compete in dance battles. Now it’s taking on a new project with Bunim/Burray Productions called Wonderfuel, and the joint venture will release a slate of shows with NFTs involved in the funding model and audience experience.
It’ll work by having NFTs, collectibles which are commonly stored on the Ethereum blockchain, go through a process known as minting that’ll allow it to be released alongside the shows. From there, fans will have access to rewards such as prizes and involvement in the show’s “creative decisions”— think in reality TV if people helped decide what challenges would come next, who is going to be a judge or which guests will come on.
More announcements will come about the types of shows Wonderfuel will be releasing, but for now, Ryan Jordan, co-founder of Virtual Arts, said it’ll be unscripted programming.
The NFTing of TV is an expected next step as the tokens rapidly expand to just about any industry including fashion, art and music. Dolly Parton got into the crypto game with the launch of her Web3 platform dubbed the “Dollyverse,” which kicked off with attendees at her SXSW Austin concert Friday receiving free, limited-edition NFTs. Late last year, another country music star Parker McCollum made a similar move with the creation of his fan club NFT.
Jordan said that what’s being done in music has been a huge inspiration to the team.
“Seeing artists sell an NFT of their album cover and getting fans to help fund it and have ownership in that album, and in some cases replacing the label that typically funds the album,” Jordan said. “Where now the fans have upside in their favorite artists and then become ambassadors and evangelists for those artists.”
Jordan got the inspiration for the idea after time with the Amala Foundation, which carries out programming for Austin-area youth. Jordan noticed participants came from all over the world, and that helped him to see how music and dance connect people.
“So we wanted to try and create something virtually that felt inspiring and safe and inclusive and diverse,” Jordan said.
Screenshot of DanceFight app.
After starting a pool of equity that they gave to dancers in the community, they realized ownership was a trait they wanted to dig into. Jordan said it could potentially benefit the careers of the contestants in the shows.
“As we started to explore NFTs and web3 in general, we realized ‘oh wow this is a real powerful way to give creators ownership in what they’re creating,’” Jordan said.
The shows will try to be user-friendly. Jordan envisions someone in a small town tuning in even if they don’t have much know-how on NFTs.
“They can get involved in a way that’s easy and simple and frictionless and doesn’t require a lot of knowledge around what NFTs are,” Jordan said. “That’s our goal is to make it very accessible. Spread the opportunity distribution around getting more people involved in web3.”
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.