Digital assets stored on the blockchain can be endlessly copied, but legal and finite ownership of original digital artwork, music and more is becoming the domain of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), now enjoying their moment in the cyber-sun as the hot cryptocurrency investment du jour.
Enter ex-Beatle and iconoclast, the late John Lennon. What’s the connection? It’s famed rock music photographer and jewelry designer May Pang who, as the story goes, went from personal assistant to paramour of Lennon in 1973 during an 18-month breakup from his wife, Yoko Ono.
In the annals of rock star indulgence, it’s known as Lennon’s infamous “Lost Weekend” in Los Angeles (again, lasting nearly two years) during which punches flew, substances were abused, public scenes ensued in L.A. watering holes, and late songwriter Harry Nilsson (“Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me” and “Me and My Arrow”) reportedly saved Lennon from a bad psychological slide.
Pang chronicled the entire affair (no pun intended) with her camera, capturing deeply personal moments of what turned out to be some of Lennon’s last years on earth. The Beatles co-founder was murdered outside of his New York City apartment building in December 1980.
Speaking with PYMNTS, Pang and Ruth McCartney, stepsister to Beatles co-founder Sir Paul, spoke of their partnership bringing a slice of Lennon history back to life.
Together with global blockchain solutions firm Liquid Avatar Technologies, augmented reality (AR) platform ImagineAR, Oasis Digital Studios and McCartney Multimedia, the parties are “bringing [Pang’s] personal and exclusive collection of ‘John Lennon’s Lost Weekend’ photographs featuring her intimate 18 months with the rock ‘n’ roll icon to the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) collector market through Oasis Digital Studios,” per a statement.
Along with the sound of tens of millions of Lennon fans fainting at the prospect of owning these original sounds and images is the scramble for digital wallets as bidding begins.
Pang Partners With Sir Paul McCartney’s Digital-Savvy Stepsister On NFT Line
Pang knew the late icon better than most, telling PYMNTS, “John Lennon loved the idea of instant. So now … you have your [digital] camera and you go, ‘I don’t like that photo, [delete it] put the next one in,’ — he would love that more than anything else.” She added, “That’s where my book [title comes from], ‘Instamatic Karma.’ [It’s] a play on his song title.”
Perhaps a ripping Beatles cover song — “Money (That’s What I Want)” — would be the more appropriate citation when speaking about NFTs. Trade in NFTs began heating up earlier this year as everyone from Lindsay Lohan to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was suddenly auctioning off their most famous digital assets, like Dorsey’s first-ever tweet.
For her part, McCartney and her Oasis Digital Studios are rocking her world-class Rolodex to bring digital ownership of even more amazing moments in pop culture to the crypto crowd.
“We’re not just taking photographs … and selling them as JPEGs,” McCartney said. “There is a whole multimedia component, in some cases augmented reality, in some cases cinematics. We’re turning these iconic photographs and paintings and pieces of pop culture … [into digital] audio and visual [NFTs].”
She added, “I think art is just following that natural progression of … drawings on cave walls to paintings in the Sistine Chapel, to something hanging on the wall in a collector’s place or the Louvre. We all live in our phones … so why wouldn’t we collect art digitally, especially if it’s protected in the blockchain?”
McCartney said she likes to call NFTs “non-forgeable tokens” to illustrate their unique digital attributes.
“I think it’s a lot more attractive because … how many great old masters have been counterfeited and ripped off? Well, with this medium, you can’t do it. So, it guarantees the owner exclusivity, and it guarantees the artist protection for their work.”
Among her next moves in the space will be foodie NFTs from the world’s top chefs, she said.
“Money Don’t Get Everything, It’s True…”
Pang said she views the new crypto craze through an artist’s lens, telling PYMNTS that after discussing NFTs with McCartney, she realized the creative opportunities afforded by the form.
Noting that with NFTs “I could take my photographs and put in events” and other multimedia elements, Pang compared the NFT phenomenon to The Beatles’ groundbreaking Sgt. Pepper’s album, still hailed as a technological breakthrough for the creation of art in the 1960s.
Harking back to her comment about Lennon’s love of all things instant, Pang said, “He would be deep in the thick of this, too,” meaning the creation of NFTs. For the man credited with the first (and only) political protest to take place in a hotel suite, Pang’s call seems on the money.
While “John Lennon’s Lost Weekend” NFT is a collection of images and more, when asked about favorite items in the collection, Pang’s tone lightened to a laugh as she recalled Lennon’s personal favorite image, now part of the NFT, of himself wearing an Aran sweater.
“That was one of his favorites,” Pang told PYMNTS, noting that Lennon said, “‘I like the way I look.’ He didn’t like a lot of photographs that were out there [of] him.”
Getting the vote for most dramatic NFT image in the collection: Lennon signing the papers legally dissolving The Beatles, consigning them off to the ages — and now, the blockchain.