Have you ever bought creator coins?
Imagine the ability to have a say in who I interview next. Imagine owning a token from your favorite creator or artist that gives you special access or a closer connection. Now imagine it’s a currency that can grow as the community does, not just some random cryptocurrency. And that it can be used to purchase goods and services … or even exchanged for US dollars.
That’s exactly how you can use creator coins.
Recently Rally.io raised $57M to make literally a million of them. Including $SMRT coin, which is my creator coin. In this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier I interview Bremner Morris, former Patreon executive and now chief marketing officer of Rally.
Scroll down for full audio, video, and a transcript, or check out the Forbes story here …
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(This transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
John Koetsier: Bremner, who are you and what are you doing?
Bremner Morris: Hi, John. I’m Bremner Morris. I am the chief marketing officer and chief revenue officer for the Rally project. I joined the project about two and a half months ago, so relatively new to the Rally ecosystem. But before I joined Rally, I worked for a company called Patreon for about four years.
John Koetsier: Never heard of it. Do they do anything? [laughter]
Bremner Morris: No, they just empower the creator economy and put power in the hands of creators to monetize effectively. So, I was there for about four years and was the head of go-to-market and revenue at Patreon, and built out all of the creative partnerships, marketing, and creative success teams there. And recently got engaged by the Rally community to help Rally speak to creators, engage with them, educate them on how to adopt creator coins, and figure out how to integrate their creator coins into their economies.
John Koetsier: That is a perfect segue, because Rally is pretty new. It is a very, very cool concept in the space of enabling creators to do what they want to do and letting their fans and supporters come along and help them out.
Talk a little bit about Rally. What is it? And what the heck are creator coins?
Bremner Morris: Yeah. So Rally is really a network or a project that enables creators or artists or musicians — anybody with a social following — to launch their own economies. And what I mean by that is that each of these artists have an existing community of followers and people who are really excited about what they do.
But right now there’s not really a mechanism for those followers to show their support and also to participate in the economy of these artists. So Rally as a project was actually started about three, three and a half years ago, and has been in development for about three years before going public and opening itself up to creators and artists in October of last year.
But essentially what Rally does is it allows any of these artists or creators to mint their own coin. So it could be the $SMRT coin like you have. It could be — I don’t have a coin, but it would be the BREM coin in my use case.
And essentially when you launch a coin, you have your own currency that dictates your economy. And your fans can participate by buying into your currency, they can hold that currency to have exclusive access to different components of your engagements with them — so that could be exclusive content, that could be private communities, that could be opportunities to buy exclusive merch, as an example — and so fans can participate by holding this coin, but they can also use the coin for transactions. So, paying for goods and services, both physical and digital, and soon NFTs as a component of these economies.
But essentially, Rally enables creators to launch their own economies.
John Koetsier: So I want to dig into that a little bit because it’s a new concept, right? Everybody understands, hey, I’ve got a Substack and pay X amount, and you’re getting my weekly/bi-weekly newsletter. And people understand other things like Patreon as well, and even merch, right, like I’ve got a t-shirt and there’s the TechFirst logo — no, I don’t, but maybe I will. But people understand that model, right?
What does it really mean to be part of a creator’s economy? How do you do that? And what does that look like in practice?
Bremner Morris: Yeah. So I think all of those examples that you mentioned are really great examples of creator monetization and the first pass at the birth of the creator economy. So the ability for a fan to directly support their favorite artist or creator through a subscription mechanism on a Substack, or on Patreon, or by buying their merch, is a great example of how artists and creators have taken control of their own economic destiny and started working directly with their fans in a direct-to-fan monetization model.
What blockchain enables is essentially artists to have direct control over their entire economy and for fans to own a token or a badge of their membership within this economy.
And so in sort of the Patreon world or a Substack world that badge or token is really determined by your membership relationship with your fans. And on our side, it’s actually holding a token that has real monetary value that fans and creators can use as a gating mechanism for different areas of participation within their economy. So — sorry, go ahead, John.
John Koetsier: No, no worries. I mean, that’s a great explanation. So one of the analysts I follow is Jeremiah Owyang.
Bremner Morris: Right.
John Koetsier: He’s on your platform; he has the $JOW coin, right? And so I own some $JOW coin, and so I participate in his economy — as he gets better, as he gets bigger, as he grows, as his economy grows, he touches more people and provides more value to a larger range of people, the value of that asset also grows.
That may not be the primary purpose, but that’s one of the things that happens, correct?
Bremner Morris: That’s correct, yeah. It’s definitely not the primary purpose.
Really, the primary purpose is having a currency that sort of travels with an artist or a creator into everywhere that they engage with their audience. And that’s one of the things that’s really unique about Rally, and about blockchain as well, is that rather than this being a sort of a centralized ecosystem that sits within one company, it’s a completely, extensible network that can integrate into Jeremiah’s Clubhouse room, as an example. Or it could integrate into a Discord server, or it could be a mechanism for transactions on Twitch, as an example.
And one of the things that we’ve found in working with creators, and especially during my time at Patreon, is that a lot of these creators are not sort of married to one platform — they’re multihyphenate. They might have a Twitter; they might have an Instagram; they might have their own website; they might engage with their community on Discord. And really, these artists want the ability to have a currency and a mechanism for fan participation that moves with them across every single area of their interactions with their fans.
John Koetsier: I didn’t think about that when I first heard about creator coins, but that’s a great point. I mean, if you were a TikTok star in India six months ago, eight months ago, you know, you lost your ability to provide for yourself because India banned TikTok, right? If you’re on a platform that cancels you, or if you’re on a platform that just goes away, right? Twitter had Periscope for audio and video live-streaming, and that’s just going away period. And if that happens to you and that’s your sole kind of foundation for getting in touch with your fan base, that’s a real challenge. So that’s interesting.
I want to talk about some of the news that you’ve got, the big news that you’ve got, and you did a fundraise: $57 million, if I have the number right. Talk to me about what that was, what was unique about that, and what you’re using that for.
Bremner Morris: Yeah. So the Rally Network and the community of Rally token holders actually performed this fundraise. And so it’s very different than a typical company or an organization going out and raising capital and selling a component of equity for capital within a business.
Rather, with Rally, there were a certain number of Rally tokens that the community set aside for fundraising capabilities, and essentially those tokens were sold to investors and to other members of the community who then put those funds into a community treasury. So the community treasury is the mechanism that holds all of these funds. So $57 million, as you said, and that’s set aside for different activities to help with the Network’s growth.
So as an example, I’m actually, as the sort of CMO/CRO, employed by the Rally community. And the Rally community—
John Koetsier: Nice. So you work for me [laughing].
Bremner Morris: Exactly, 100%. I do work for you [laughter]. And, you know, the community had to go out and vote for my candidacy, and essentially they approve my employment. And similarly, when we went out and wanted to raise a marketing budget to be able to invest in various different things to broadcast the value of Rally to creators and artists, that marketing budget proposal went to the community and I talked about all the various different areas that the Rally community should invest in marketing.
And then there was a vote, and an approval of the budget, and now we can go out and start using those dollars to start telling the story about Rally to a wider network than just the creators who know about it.
John Koetsier: Bremner, you’ve been employed in the new economy, in the tech economy for some time now, but is this the craziest organization that you’ve ever participated in? I mean, you’re selling the community on what you want to do. ‘Here’s the budget I want to put out,’ and you’ve got to sell people on that, they vote on that, and yay or nay, there you go.
Bremner Morris: Right. It feels very similar to like an open source project where there are a variety of people who collaborate to drive the utility of that project. And it also feels a little bit like a board meeting in a lot of ways.
John Koetsier: [laughter] A very large board meeting with a lot of board members.
Bremner Morris: Of thousands of people who hold Rally tokens, who then are able to provide their opinion. And I think the really exciting thing about the way that Rally is structured is that by allowing or creating a forum for more community governance, you get a lot of different opinions and you get exposure to a wider variety of ways in which people think that the Network should be grown.
And so you don’t get caught in sort of this groupthink and also a centralized mechanism of governance.
And you mentioned earlier when you were talking about the challenges of being tied to one platform, in a world where there is no centralized entity and there isn’t a company that governs sort of the economic protocols of the Rally Network, you’re not going to have people changing rules on you as a creator — or they’re not going to be upping the revenue share take rate or something to that effect.
And in fact, with Rally there is no revenue share. Rally, the network and the project, doesn’t take any fees. And so as a result, you can see that by having a decentralized mechanism of governance, you’re not beholden to one platform, one entity, or a small group of decision makers who can change things on you as a creator or as a fan.
John Koetsier: Wow. Bremner, way off script here, but is this a picture of the future of the corporation?
Bremner Morris: You know, I think it’s definitely, we’re sort of on the bleeding edge of what it looks like to establish a collective of people who are collaborating around an idea. And so I don’t know if it’s the future of an organization or it’s just the way that people might collaborate. But I do think that it’s really interesting to see how there are systems being put in place to help sort of figure out how to govern now a community of thousands of people who are Rally token holders and allowing for people to debate, participate, make decisions, and then have their voice heard.
So, unclear whether this is the future of how an organization would function, but it is definitely how I’ve seen Rally sort of taking advantage of the opportunities that blockchain offers, for sure.
John Koetsier: Very, very cool. Talking about the future, you are going to be supporting NFTs pretty soon, and I want to get into that and what that looks like and what that means. I mean, I also had the thought, as you’re talking about raising $57 million, couldn’t you get the guy who bought the Beeple NFT for like $69 million to just kick in another 25 or 30 as he was going about it? He would’ve got more for his money potentially, or she, who knows. But you’re supporting NFTs. Talk about that.
Bremner Morris: Yeah, so we see NFTs as really exciting and sort of the first foray for creators embracing crypto within their economies. But it really is just one portion of an overall effective artist’s economy. If you think about traditional fine artists where they may sell their one-of-one painting, that’s just one component of their overall quote/unquote ‘economy.’ They might have merchandise, they might have a private showing at a gallery, they might have postcards of that piece of art, and really it’s just that one piece of an overall healthy and vibrant economy.
And so when we’ve thought about NFTs, we really wanted to make sure, or what the community wants to make sure, that it’s integrated into the way in which these creators engage with their fans and that it isn’t just all about this one-of-one cash grab, but rather an opportunity for — yes, the one-of-one auction that is going to drive a ton of visibility to that creator’s economy, but also the one-of-many NFT opportunities for maybe a fan to participate, or somebody who doesn’t have as deep of pockets.
John Koetsier: I love that.
Bremner Morris: Yeah. We also see that NFTs could represent any form of exclusivity. So as an example, some of the artists that are on our platform are talking to us about offering NFTs as tickets to their shows. So if they’re a musician and they’re live-touring, the NFT could be the ticket to their show.
And one, it’s exclusive and you can demonstrate that that is the one-of-one ticket, but two, the artist can actually participate in the resale environment of these tickets, which is something that’s always been a challenge for artists. So yeah, there’s a variety of different applications for NFTs, especially when they’re integrated into a creator-specific economy.
John Koetsier: That is amazing. Also if the concert is virtual, as many will continue to be as we continue to struggle globally with COVID and the pandemic and everything like that. One of the nice things about a concert, or maybe a game that you went to and major league sports or something like that, is you have the ticket and you can save the ticket. I still have the tickets for a football game that I took my dad to, who passed away a number of years ago, right, and I’ve just hung onto those and it’s like a souvenir of that event. And this is a way that you could do that in virtual case, as well as real case. I absolutely love that.
I also like the fact that it’s not just one-of-one, because then you get the crypto millionaires, billionaires coming in or something like that. But you can have, ‘Hey, a thousand people can have this.’ That’s really useful. I’ve considered doing an NFT series of billionaires I have interviewed. The list includes eight so far — maybe you one day, who knows — but I look forward to trying it out when it comes. Anything else that’s coming up and going to be new on Rally that you want to share right now?
Bremner Morris: You know, one of the things that we recognize is that in order for creators to better engage their audiences, Rally as a project needs to invest in all the Crypto 101 for audiences to really understand why they might want to participate. You know, we recognize that a lot of artists right now are having to explain from, ‘I don’t know about crypto,’ all the way through to, ‘and I have a coin, and this is why you should participate in my economy.’
And really it’s not fair to an artist or a creator to have to do all of that Crypto 101 up to the use cases that they have specifically. So a lot of the work that we’re prioritizing, especially from a marketing standpoint on the Network, is taking care of all of that Crypto 101, making it really approachable for fans to participate. And that’s really sort of the ethos of the Rally project. You know, there was a recognition by the folks that founded this project that in order for fans and the majority of people to be able to participate, there had to be really smooth opportunities for fans to buy in. It had to be smooth from a fiat on rails standpoint, where you could buy with a credit card, set up an account in 60 seconds, and not have to go through all of the complexity of engaging in crypto.
But then separately, it also should be smooth in terms of the understanding of what the value proposition is, why fans would want to participate, and then ultimately giving the creators a platform to talk about exactly how they’re integrating their coins into their economy.
John Koetsier: I’m really excited about that, and what I’m excited about is making crypto simple and making crypto accessible. Those words don’t apply to 99% of the crypto world today. But the projects that you see that are getting extremely successful — I forget the name, but there’s a crypto company that is working with the NBA and releasing, do you remember the name of it?
Bremner Morris: NBA Top Shot.
John Koetsier: Exactly. Doing amazing things, right? And it’s the future of trading cards and far beyond that, right, and they’re amazingly successful doing really, really well. Hopefully something that you’re doing here will also make that accessible to creators. Bremner, I want to thank you for taking the time. I really do appreciate it.
Bremner Morris: Thanks, John. Really appreciate the time.
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