August 25, 2022 9:00 AM
Permissionless generative NFT minting on FXHash in data
Generative Art has had a big comeback. Pre-trained machine learning algorithms have enabled new forms of artistic practice while NFTs allow for digital art to be monetized. Generative Art has been around since the 60s/70s and has evolved together with the tools that are used to produce it.
So let’s have a look at the marketplace dedicated completely to generative art on the Tezos blockchain: fxhash. It is a platform for creating and collecting generative NFTs initiated by ciphrd. It started as a beta version in November 2021 and as the first stable version (fxhash 1.0) in April 2022. Instead of generating a token out of a pre-made image like most NFT marketplaces, the piece of code that generates the visuals is uploaded. On minting a hash is created and inserted into the code, “randomly” controlling parts of the visual output, for example, things like color or a noise seed pattern.
In this approach to generative NFTs, fxhash follows the Ethereum-based Art Blocks project. But whereas Art Blocks puts ~monthly curated releases front and center, fxhash is an open platform for any artist to publish their creations and enable collectors to mint unique versions.
Core to the proposition of 'generative NFTs' is that these become collectible art pieces. Permissionless publishing and minting create a different kind of market dynamic with potentially unlimited supply, versus the curated Art Blocks model with very explicit expectations around how many generative tokens will be available. In this article, we take a look at how the 'permissionless' model of generative token minting plays out in the on-chain data on the Tezos blockchain. We are also going to look at some data to try to answer the questions of how actively the platform is being used, the number of works minted, as well as sales statistics and some functionality and ideals of the platform in comparison to other marketplaces.
With the 1.0 release of fxhash, a number of smart contracts were updated, but one remained the same, which is the FXHASH User Registry. Activity on this contract gives us a good overview of the full timeline of the fxhash project.
In the graph above you can see the number of times
update_profile was called per day since launch until August of this year. During the beta phase, it had a lot of ups and downs in the beginning and a dip in anticipation of the update. With the release of the stable version, calls have been rather more consistent, with a strong peak after the launch of the 1.0 version of the platform, an overall rise in June and some slight dips in May and July.
The minting process
To be able to understand the data on mint numbers and xtz revenue we should have a look at how token minting works on fxhash and what this tells us about market supply.
Fxhash allows artists to mint Generative Tokens.
From the technical side, these are created with the
mint_issuer call on the FXHASH Generative Tokens v2 contract.
This contract call puts the metadata, the amount, the pricing and other properties on the chain in the storage of the FXHASH Generative Tokens v2 contract.
In the chart below, we can see the
mint_issuer entry point calls. This shows on average around ~50 to ~100 new generative artworks being published onto the fxhash platform by artists per day.
A ‘generative token’ is an issuer of NFTs. After the artist has published the ‘generative token’, it becomes available for collectors to
mint editions of that generative artwork. Each
mint contract call transaction triggered by a collector gets assigned a unique hash by the blockchain. This hash then becomes the "random but permanent" unique source value for that generation of the art work.
Minting a token as a collector involves two smart contracts. As collector when you initiate a
mint in the front-end, this call goes to the same contract as was used by the artist to create the issuer. This FXHASH Generative Tokens v2 contract then distributes the xtz paid by the collector to the artist and takes the fxhash fees which go to the FXHash treasury.
Instead of directly creating the final edition NFT in its own storage, it calls another smart contract which also has a
mint entrypoint. This is the FXHASH GENTK v2 contract. This is another smart contract that maintains all ‘edition’ NFTs for generative tokens.
The above chart shows the
mint calls for the contract that maintains the editions minted from generative tokens.
As the chart shows, there are in the range of ~2k to ~5k editions of generative tokens being minted every day, with a handful of days of more than 10k editions being added on a single day. Keep this number in mind for when we get to the marketplace section.
With about ~50 to ~100 generative artworks being added every day, a rough eyeball estimate would give about ~50 editions minted on average per artwork. Although most likely a whole number of artworks will have a very low (sub-10s) edition count and a smaller percentage of artworks will have in the hundreds of editions.
Another metric to note is how many unique wallets are doing the minting. This does not equate fully to active users but does give an indication.
This shows in the range of ~500-1500 wallets actively interacting with the FXHASH Generative Tokens v2 contract for the past months. Meaning each wallet on average is minting ~2 to ~3 editions per day.
With minting, the process of creating an edition of a generative token is still not fully finished yet. fxhash has what they call the signing server. This is a regular server that keeps track of the latest
mint calls, and then uses a regular wallet account to call the
assign_metadata entrypoint to explicitly add the transaction hash to the smart contract storage. See the wallet transaction log for these contract calls: FXHASH Signer wallet
So we have an overview of minting on fxhash but how does this compare to minting on other big Tezos NFT platforms?
mint_artist calls ~800-3000/day)
In comparison, minting on Objkt.com (a popular marketplace on Tezos that does not specialize in generative NFTs) ranges between ~800 and ~3k per day (As compared to the ~2k to ~5k for fxhash).
This is done through a functionality where people can create their own collection contract which is ‘controlled’ by the Objkt.com minting factory.
Even hic et nunc never went beyond ~5k mints a day during peak popularity in September 2021.
Token contracts enable minting and ollowing the FA2 standard, also enable changing the owner of a token through the
transfer entrypoint. This allows any marketplace contract on the chain to subsequently provide mechanisms for trading of NFTs.
We take a look at these various marketplaces next.
Buying and selling tokens
Next to minting of tokens, fxhash also provides marketplace functionality for people to buy & sell editions of generative tokens.
Let’s have a look at fxhash platform activity in comparison to Objkt.com. First in number of active wallets and then in xtz volume.
Objkt.com (Contract calls from wallets per day May - August 2022)
As you can see above, Objkt.com has between roughly ~2k and ~4k wallets consistently calling contracts each day, with a significant raise in activity at the beginning of May.
Fxhash (Contract calls from wallets per day May - August 2022)
The fxhaxh marketplace shows much less steady usage. Interestingly, the marketplace seems to follow the fxhash minting opening schedule, with a “rest day” every seven days when new tokens cannot be released. On these days the number of wallets dips below 500, while on busy days active wallets can peak to ~2k wallets at its max.
In terms of marketplace activity, on the fxhash marketplace there are about ~500 to ~1k listings being accepted on a daily basis.
Comparing this to the previously shown ~2k to ~5k editions being minted, clearly the majority of editions are not actively being traded after the initial mint.
Note: listing an edition on the fxhash marketplace and then unlisting it actually transfers the token to the marketplace contract and then back to your wallet. So the
transfer entry point on the FXHASH GENTK v2 contract can't be used as a measure for marketplace activity between users.
Primary market revenue
So how does the pricing of generative tokens play out on the fxhash platform?
On hicetnunc/teia & objkt.com an artist first mints a token and then puts it on the marketplace for an initial price or auction. In the case of fxhash, an artist 'mints' the generative token issuer and then sets a price for collectors to pay when they want to 'mint' editions of the token.
(In other words, the “primary” sale on platforms such as Teia and Objkt.com happens at the moment of first
transfer, as compared to fxhash where collectors initiate the
mint and then immediately receive that edition of the token.)
The first thing to take a look at is how much artists are earning directly from this primary minting of editions:
Daily xtz revenue towards artists generated by fxhash minting is in the range of ~10k to ~50k on regular days, with distinct peaks most likely generated by specific works.
On fxhash, the median xtz generated per mint is in the range of 1-5xtz depending on the day. The median is the value separating the higher half from the lower half in the total dataset.
This means that on any day at least half the tokens were minted at or above this price point (and the other half at or below). For other platforms on Tezos such as objkt and Teia this number actually hovers more around 1-2xtz, so this number for fxhash is actually a bit higher. This is good news for artists in the so-called 'primary' market.
Secondary market revenue
After the initial mint, tokens become available for collectors to trade using a variety of market mechanisms. For this article we take a look at the most commonly used method across both the objkt.com and fxhash marketplace. This is the ability to create a
listing in fxhash terminology and to put out an
ask as it is called on objkt.com.
Here we can see that the vast majority of Objkt.com transactions hovers below or at the 1 xtz to 2 xtz level. Whereas for fxhash, the median transaction on the secondary market is actually quite a lot higher in the range of 5 to 15 xtz.
So in conclusion, fxhash has an extremely large number of works minted in comparison to other platforms. Of course, this is mostly due to the specialization on generative tokens only, as one piece of generative code can theoretically produce an infinite number of outcomes to potentially be minted.
Of course this has negative and positive side effects. There is the aspect of “democratization” (arguably a rather optimistic term), namely that minting and collecting is much cheaper and thus accessible to a broader audience. This has the positive effect, that art can be minted or bought out of sheer appreciation of the work, without the intention of generating profit, as it is often not a great financial risk. Also, it is more beginner friendly to artists or collectors who are just starting out, which might also be part of the reason that fxhash has such a large, strongly engaged community. The downside however is that the mindset of “randomly” minting or buying lots of tokens is not very sustainable and there is also the risk of a large number of cheaply priced work diluting the market and potentially making work less visible by artists who actually want to make a living – at least for collectors who are not yet experts.
The chance of attracting an audience for your art is still higher on fxhash than on platforms like Art Blocks, where upcoming artists don’t really get the chance to showcase their work at all. On the other hand, it is easy to get lost in the flood of artworks minted on fxhash each day. So to conclude: the ideals of the platform are definitely to be appreciated (although they do also have their downsides) and it should be interesting to see how it develops further.
Article written by: Maika Dieterich
With data contributions & analysis by: Erwin Hoogerwoord