Rally.io and the new coin of the realm

Puzzling over the "creator economy"

I was kvetching with a friend late last week about the loneliness of being a new arrival to Los Angeles, of being a parent of two small children, and of the never-ending WFH life. He said, "Bitch, put yourself out there." So at his behest, I joined some Discord servers.

And last night, another friend sat me down for Rabbit Hole 101 on his corner of the PFP NFT market (more on that another day).

He explained to me that there are limitless creative possibilities for this IP, not because a Bored Ape is an inherently cool picture but because there is a large community — "the companies of the future" — who are financially and emotionally invested in the project's success.

So following two newsletters from the O.G.'s of content marketing — Joe Pulizzi and Ann Handley — who are among the early adopters, I decided to go spelunking in the creator coin realm to see if I could buy my first crypto.

What is creator coin?

Creator coins (aka social tokens) are cryptocurrencies for micro-economies built around individuals, collectives, or communities.

It’s sort of like if Kickstarter were more of a stock market with a membership model; rather than investing in a project, you buy shares of the creator(s) and their work.

But just like Kickstarter, you better trust the creator to deliver. If the creator coasts, you never get insider benefits. If that’s the case, then the value of the coin is likely sinking.

The coin is intended to eliminate middlemen (or middletech) from fan-to-creator transactions. In his piece for Rolling Stone, Rally founder and CEO Bremner Morris said that:

"Creators can use this technology to build their personal cryptocurrency, a token to demonstrate their fandom. These tokens can be used as a method of purchasing perks from the artists like exclusive content, NFTs, personal experiences, and even one-on-one conversations with fans.

"This two-way exchange allows for both the fans and the artist to actively participate in the growth and success of their community and economy, building upon the relationship previously established on social media without third-party intrusion or oversight."

So, with the hope of joining a community and championing a worthy creator, I made my way to Rally.io, opened my account, and got my browse on.

Coin flipping

Message to Rally.io:

I like what you guys are doing. I think it has potential. But right now your UI makes it absolutely impossible to smoothly research creators and their wares. My workaround workflow involved taking a screenshot of their name and coin name with TextSniper (a godsend) and pasting the text into search. If I click through to view a coin, I lose my place on the leaderboard because there's no "Open in New Tab" functionality. Right now that's not a huge issue because there aren't that many coins yet. But fix it. It's a pain.

The first impression I got was I'm not the ideal demo for this generation of creator coins.

The bulk of creators are in EDM, hip-hop, video games, and general social media influencing. Not my stomping grounds. But the early movers in this kind of thing would, of course, be in the most tech-savvy pockets of the internet. The likes of skeptical aging Millennials like myself will surely swoop in once things seem safer, just like buying things online in 1999.

I started by filtering the leaderboard so that I could sift through the cheapest coins first — that's how I roll.

Some people seem to have reserved their coins with no clue how to use them. $APRIL from April Kae (amazing Instagram-famous bass player) and $WHO from Shantell Martin (artist, muralist) are two coin-proffering artists I admire. But their coins are bottomed out at $0.25 USD per because both have put zero effort into their accounts. There are no private Discords or special prizes or any systematized way of interacting with the artist. Yet.

Should I suspect this might become a fucked-over-by-Kickstarter-projects situation? I don't know. Maybe it's cleverer to steer clear of useless coins for the moment.

There are people like Andy Milonakis, whose (currently low-priced) $DGEN coin can gain you entrée to one of the most creative Rally.io menus, with a list of Cameo-like services that include "Make me compliment you" ($17.54 USD / 60.00229 $DGEN), "Schedule whole day of IRL NYC" ($1430.68 / 5000 $DGEN), or "dye my hair, you pick color" ($5578.83 / 20000 $DGEN).

While Milonakis is creative, he doesn't here give me hope for a techno-utopian future.

On the flip side, is $FLIP, aka Flip the Bird Fried Chicken, a Massachusetts-based fast food joint that has secured their own coin but not put up any community-building offers yet.

Traditional business models could very well change in response to the proliferation of currencies. It's not hard to imagine companies actually incentivizing crypto purchases over fiat currency to mitigate transaction costs.

The other creators that stood out as potentially interesting to participate in were:

  • $HAHA, Comedy Records, a Canadian comedy record label.

  • $BUM, @BumBailey, a cartoon and "color-changing creator and Gen Z influencer - championing our community values of body positivity, mindfulness and self-expression."

  • $BOT, $BOT Coin Community, a community for AI bot builders.

Making that sweet, sweet first purchase

Though I was contemplating Ann Handley's $WORD — and still might get some — I decided to go for Colin Bender's $VCA.

I've been interested in modular synth music for a while and have been thinking about plunking down for my own starter rig, so getting into a private fan community for this particular artist seemed an interesting proposition.

Also, as you can tell from the article above, Benders seems really engaged with where the creator coin concept can go.

What's a good version of what's next?

Personally, I can’t imagine the pressure of potentially thousands of people investing in me, meaning that I must “provide value” in perpetuity. I have two small children. I already provide value in perpetuity, and it's more than I can gracefully handle.

But I can see a more modest use case in which creator coins are used on a project-based model, replacing the dumb-cash Patreon model. For instance, a reward structure for someone with various projects might look like a small stock portfolio.

  • Invest in $MYBOOK and get:

    1. Free extra chapters

    2. Private Q&A podcast feed with [famous author] interviewing me

    3. Free audiobook

    4. Etc.

  • And

  • Invest in $MYALBUM and get:

    1. Extra tracks

    2. A remixing/remastering game so you can create your own song versions

    3. A shoutout

    4. Permission to vote on the final track order and which tracks get onto the final album

It’s still the wild west out there. But if more people get involved and get creative, the west can be won.