At the “Ascent of Web3 Social” panel during Gateway Miami, artists Heno and Emi Kusano delved into how Lens Protocol, the social graph powering hundreds of web3 apps, has allowed them new ways to own their creations, audience, and monetization strategies. Each of these creators used Lens’ permissionless technology in their own unique way, from allowing their fans to progressively follow and support works in progress to using new ways to incentivize their communities; Lens has empowered many artists like Heno and Emi with new tools to innovate on how they engage and distribute their work in more meaningful ways.
During the panel, moderator Lady Pheønix covered Heno and Kusano’s individual development and changing roles within the vibrant ecosystem of Web3’s creator economy.
Emi Kusano recounted her journey, explaining that her entry into the NFT space in 2021 was driven by frustration stemming from a lack of exhibition opportunities and music gigs. While exploring the Clubhouse platform, she stumbled upon discussions about NFTs. Her son’s interest in collaborating on an NFT project led to a massive success.
“My son said he wanted to do an NFT project with me,” she said. “It went viral because Steve Aoki bought it; it went viral in Japan.”
This unique turn of events eventually led her to meet her co-founder for Galverse, where she ventured into AI art. Emi expressed her gratitude for the serendipitous occurrences that brought her to where she is today.
Heno recounted his Web3 initiation during the pandemic, driven by curiosity about Profile Picture Projects (PFPs). His Web3 journey opened avenues for showcasing his art, notably at an Atlanta event for Black art and during his time at Zoratopia. Heno emphasized the power of storytelling and intentionality in the Web3 space, underscoring how it motivated him to further invest in his artistic pursuits.
“When you tell stories and are intentional, your story can really resonate,” Heno said. “I felt at home in web3 and felt championed in a way that made me really want to double down.”
Tools to Elevate Web3 Social
Kusano’s project Galverse is an NFT project of 8888 tokens, with an intriguing blend of Akira and Sailor Moon aesthetics. The driving force behind this project stemmed from a frustration with the prevalent over-objectification of women in anime. Kusano said she created Galverse because she envisioned a platform that celebrated strong and empowered female characters in the anime genre.
To amplify her message and connect with her audience, she turned to Lens Protocol as a social media platform. Within her Discord community, a dedicated Lens channel was established to facilitate seamless interactions and engagement among her followers. When Lady Pheønix inquired about her Lens utilization, Kusano explained how it allowed her to share her work-in-progress effectively: an invaluable feature for her creative process. Fans, she noted, have the opportunity to collect scripts, scenic elements, and doodles, enhancing their connection with her artistry.
She emphasized the significance of social media as a storytelling tool, emphasizing that it transcends mere art sharing by encapsulating her personal narrative. She also expressed concerns about over-relying on Web2 social media platforms, apprehensive about their potential dissolution and the fate of her followers.
In contrast, Lens Protocol powers apps that offer a more secure and lasting space for artists and their digital presence, follower relationships, and content. Kusanoe found Lens to be an excellent means of investing in sharing her work, affording her the ability to simultaneously leverage both Web2 and Web3 media platforms, ensuring a broader and more sustainable outreach.
With Lens, users/creatives own and manage their profile, data, followers, and relationships and can move freely (have portability) between Web3 apps, keeping their identities (profiles), their relationships, and data wherever they choose to be. Because of this, a Lens profile allows artists to hold full control and management of their content and audience, meaning their content and followers are theirs, without any infringement from the platform. They can also set their own monetization relationships and have access to data that informs them better about their fans.
According to Kusano, “Social platforms like Lens are important because it assists my narrative. If my work is on Lens, I can bring my fanbase into any application I want and never worry about losing my work.”
Heno pointed out a fundamental issue with Web2 social media platforms: the tendency for users to hastily accept the terms and conditions, relinquishing ownership of their intellectual property in the process.
“Similar to seeing people post the same videos on Instagram and on Twitter, the next thing for me was using Web3 media,” Heno said. “But you can’t force it; you just have to meet people where they’re at.”
Empowered by the ethos of the web3 creator economy, Heno was able to share his VR pixel game through Web3 social media platforms. This approach allowed him to effectively convey the evolution of his ideas and creations, from their inception to their current state.
Furthermore, Heno highlighted the advantages of Web3 social media in creating incentives for those who support his work. When Heno was coming into web3, social made a lot of sense because “part of artist empowerment is owning my own IP. On something like Spotify I can see how many streams my song got, but I can’t identify and connect with the people who listened to my music. I can’t see that one person who listened 50 times and thank them. With Lens, I can see who is supporting me and my art, say thank you, and have a direct relationship.
When asked about why he uses Lens, Heno explained that “being able to imbed NFTs that I have on Base or Sound.xyz and cross that over with Lens is what true decentralization is for me. It’s how an artist can experiment, innovate, grow, and cross-pollinate in many ways. I personally like to be able to have free collections or certain collections that are just for my followers to reward those who actually engage with me.
Throughout this discussion, Heno and Emi shed light on the dynamic fusion of art, technology, and Web3 social, showcasing how they harness the power of web3 applications such as Lens Protocol to amplify their creative expressions and connect with their audience in innovative ways.”