Brian Eno has hit out at the trend of artists selling work as non-fungible tokens, saying it allows them to be “little capitalist assholes.”
A slew of artists have hopped aboard the NFT train in recent months, with the likes of Kings of Leon, Grimes, Steve Aoki and Aphex Twin making work available as the controversial cryptocurrency. Last week, a previously unheard demo by a teenage Whitney Houston fetched $1 million at an NFT auction.
In an interview with The Crypto Syllabus, Eno denounced the practice when asked why he hadn’t embraced the format himself yet. “I’ve been approached several times to ‘make an NFT,’” said the former Roxy Music man. “So far nothing has convinced me that there is anything worth making in that arena. ‘Worth making’ for me implies bringing something into existence that adds value to the world, not just to a bank account.”
He continued that his career choices have never been financially motivated, saying had that been the case “I would have had a different career as a different kind of person. I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be an artist.”
“NFTs seem to me just a way for artists to get a little piece of the action from global capitalism, our own cute little version of financialisation,” he concluded. “How sweet – now artists can become little capitalist assholes as well.”
Asked whether his mind could be changed on the issue, he said: “I am trying to keep an open mind about these questions. People I like and trust are convinced they’re the best thing since sliced bread, so I wish I could have a more positive view but right now I mainly see hustlers looking for suckers. And lots of bright-eyed artists willing to play the latter role. Forgive my cynicism….I’m not feeling too positive right now.”
NFTs have caused controversy for their considerable carbon footprint, as well as for what critics would claim is the cheapening of an artist’s creative output by reducing it to a money-making exercise. Eno is not the only artist to slam the sale of NFTs by musicians; in an interview with The Independent, Nils Frahm called the practice “bleak and wrong” and “unforgivable”, saying: “Even some of my heroes like Aphex Twin are selling, sorry, crap for 130,000 bucks.”
Eno’s activism on environmental issues is long-running. Speaking to the Sounds Like a Plan podcast in October, he called for “a revolution” in the music industry’s commitment to sustainable touring, praising Coldplay and The 1975 for their efforts thus far. Earlier this year, Eno launched ‘Earth Percent’, “a charity providing a simple way for the music industry to support the most impactful organisations addressing the climate emergency”.
“We’ve got quite a few people on board already,” he told the podcast, “either actually on board or with a commitment to join us. We’re not talking only to artists; we’re talking to agents, promoters, managers, record companies, publishing companies, legal and so on.”