As More Industries Jump in, a Future for NFTs Begins to Take Shape


Are NFTs really going mainstream, or are the one-of-a-kind cryptocurrency tokens that transport and display pictures, videos and music just a way to get gamers and metaverse-believers to buy pictures of name brands at a markup to the real thing?

Well, let’s look at some of the announcements from this week about nonfungible tokens (NFTs), the non-currency cryptocurrencies that can both carry and prove the authenticity and individuality of any type of media while permanently preserving it on a blockchain.

See also: PYMNTS NFT Series: What Are NFTs and Why Are They Crypto’s Newest ‘Next Big Thing?’

What you’ll see is that from the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the British Museum to Reese Witherspoon and Snoop Dogg, a whole lot of big names are diving into NFTs.

The NYSE just filed a trademark application, pointing to a possible future NFT marketplace. The Picasso estate is fighting over NFTs based on the artist’s work. Actress Reese Witherspoon bought the right to turn an NFT line into TV shows and movies. Universal Music Group is creating an NFT studio for its artists.

Taken individually, they are vaguely interesting factoids. Taken together, they show an industry climbing solidly onto the smartphones of the general public.

Sign of the Times

It’s kind of hard to take NFTs seriously when a pixelated 8-bit headshot of a blue-skinned guy with a bandana sells for nearly $24 million — that was Wednesday (Feb.16), by the way — in an industry known for profligate spending.

But let’s break down what we’ve got here.

The New York Stock Exchange, the world’s biggest marketplace for securities, just filed a trademark application for an online marketplace for buying and selling downloadable digital goods authenticated by NFTs.

Does that mean the NYSE is actually planning to take on leading NFT marketplace OpenSea? Probably not. But it sees a product with sufficient potential to turn into a legitimate industry that it feels the need to protect its intellectual property — something brands ranging from Hermès to McDonalds have been doing lately.

That said, while NFTs seem more suitable to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange commodities market than to equities, the NYSE’s parent, Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), is also home to Bakkt, an NYSE-listed firm focused on turning everything — from crypto to airline miles — into a currency to be traded, sold or bought.

Read more: Bakkt’s Earnings Disappoint, but Focus on Customers Has Potential

Then the Picasso squabble. Again, it’s more of a Page Six story, but the upshot is that a family member has said the head of the Picasso Administration, Claude Picasso, has reversed course and approved an NFT collection that a great-grandchild of Pablo Picasso created based on the artist’s work.

NFTs are penetrating the initially cautious fine art world, and not just because some NFTs are selling for millions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s, or because Art Blocks — a line of NFTs for artists — is the top-selling NFT project with more than $1.4 billion in sales. The British Museum recently announced plans to sell NFTs of some of its works, including “The Great Wave” by Hokusai.

As for Reese Witherspoon announcing that her Hello Sunshine production company has optioned the World of Women NFT line as the basis for TV shows and movies — well, producers buy the rights to many things that never make it onscreen.

That said, Witherspoon is no dabbler. Her production company has turned hit books into hit movies like “Wild,” “Gone Girl” and the HBO series “Big Little Lies.”

Finally, top music label Universal Music Group announced a partnership with an NFT production company to create a “fan-first one-stop-shop for creating, minting, marketing and the sale and re-sale of premium NFTs, to license artwork, audio recordings and audio-visual content for the company” and its artists, UMG said on Thursday.

That’s on top of Snoop Dogg announcing Death Row Records is going to be “an NFT label” on the heels of his own NFT collection that has grossed well north of $50 million, according to CoinDesk.

Taken together, what you see are snapshots of a technology being embraced not only by mainstream financial markets but by the fine art world and entertainment industry. And remember, NFTs can be built so that the producer automatically gets a cut of each resale.

Altogether, that sounds like an industry in the making.