NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) have been difficult to escape on the internet in recent weeks. If you are an artist, musician or any other creative, you might have looked into how to make an NFT. If you did, you probably discovered that it can cost up to $100 or more in “gas fees,” a required expense for processing and validating transactions on the Ethereum blockchain.
That’s just to make the NFT; we aren’t even talking about selling it. You can't avoid fees when it comes to selling NFTs (e.g. paying a percentage of your sales to a marketplace), but there is one way you can escape them during the minting process. I'll delve into how you can make an NFT for free — and why you might want to consider it even if you never plan to sell one.
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How to make an NFT for free
The service I’m going to be suggesting is called S!ng. At present, it is only available on iOS, but the company plans to release a macOS app soon and eventually Android, but there is no firm timeline for the latter. You can only use the website version once you've signed up for the service on the iOS app, as the web edition isn’t available as a standalone option.
Despite the name, S!ng allows you to create essentially any type of NFT with support for capturing photos, videos or audio in the app, and a file uploader for other types of content you've made that could be turned into an NFT. That’s crucial as there are currently no editing features, so unless you are sharing something at the idea stage, you will typically want to use the file upload method.
The beauty of S!ng, and why I’m using it for this example, is that you need to know nothing about NFTs or cryptocurrency to use it; you simply download it from the App Store, create your account, and you are all set to go. The app even creates an Ethereum wallet for you that will store your content. This is typically a separate step on most services that involves creating another account.
Once you've installed the app, provide your email address to register for the service. From there, you will pick a name to use on S!ng and identify what type of creator you are from a list of 10 options.
Now, you are set to create your first NFT and it couldn't be simpler.
- Tap the circular button at the bottom of the screen.
- Select the icon for the content you want to create/upload (File, photo, video or audio).
- Capture or upload the content.
- Edit the name for the NFT if you wish.
- Add notes, collaborators or associated files by tapping the plus button.
- Tap Submit.
The app will now generate your NFT; this took just a few seconds for the images that I used as my test files, but the time will vary depending on the file size you are uploading and your network speed. S!ng apparently tested up to 150GB files, but there is no specific upward limit for file sizes.
Congrats, you’ve made an NFT! The app will allow you to easily view, archive or share your NFTs with others.
It's important for you to know that S!ng-minted NFTs are hosted on AWS and IPFS, the latter is a blockchain file system of sorts. NFTs run on the Ethereum blockchain using the ERC-721 standard. This is just a fancy way of saying that even if S!ng dissolves, thanks to the Ethereum network, your content will remain intact (except the AWS storage; you'll lose that).
How do you sell your NFT with S!ng?
The component presently missing in S!ng is a marketplace to sell your NFTs. The company is planning to open one by the end of the month, but even when this arrives, it will be a closed marketplace composed of a curated group of musicians. The content won’t be limited to music alone, however, with visual artists also working with the musicians on content for their NFT drops.
The service will ultimately expand beyond music, but as you would expect from the name, music is at the heart of S!ng. The Chief Product Officer is Raine Maida, lead singer for the band Our Lady Peace. He views the service as a massive opportunity for artists to connect more directly with fans, and sell unique content to them without an interfering third party.
For those of us who aren’t prominent musicians, the company is also working to offer integration with one of the largest open NFT marketplaces, so anyone with the app can easily sell their creations. This support is coming very soon, according to S!ng, and we will update with instructions for it when it becomes available.
Why create an NFT if you don’t plan to sell it?
Even if you never plan to sell an NFT, there are other reasons to use S!ng. The app was originally conceived as a method for inventors to collaborate with a clear and incontrovertible record of who came up with what and when. The blockchain was the perfect solution for this as it allows you to share content securely with a verifiable timestamp that is maintained independently by the blockchain providing evidence of the original creation.
The founders Jim Harmon and Geoff Osler recognized the much broader implications of this and brought in Maida with the service then taking on its more targeted music focus. The potential to leverage the underlying technology and allow users to monetize the resulting NFTs was essentially a side benefit.
This need to protect intellectual property (IP) is more relevant than ever now that we have the ability to share content instantaneously online. Maida cited TikTok as an example; the platform’s duet feature allows users to play off one another’s content while still acknowledging the original. This kind of thing creates an amazing environment for the interplay between creatives, but of course is also fraught with peril when it comes to the IP that is born of these exchanges.
Whether it is a collaboration between inventors, artists, musicians, writers, programmers or other creators, the ability to easily share and communicate while maintaining a clear chain of custody for the IP is of tremendous value and S!ng looks to make that as simple as possible.
Alternative options for making an NFT for free
There are other services that allow you to make an NFT for free, but they aren’t as simple to use. The most popular of these is OpenSea, one of the largest marketplaces for NFTs. If you don’t have an iOS device and are interested in making and selling NFTs, this is your best bet.
OpenSea is relatively straightforward in terms of account creation and offers even broader support for different types of content, but you first need to create a separate Ethereum wallet and connect that to your OpenSea account. It does a solid job of walking you through this process as you get started, but it’s not as seamless as S!ng.
Crucially, it also lacks an app for creating NFTs. While this isn't a problem for large projects that are intended for sale, it does eliminate some of the additional benefits for creatives that S!ng offers, including the ability to spontaneously create an NFT the moment inspiration strikes.