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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Fans are willing to pay for more exclusive content or experiences from their favorite celebrities, with the prime example being the way in which the price of concert tickets is spiraling ever upwards. But often the live-event model falls short, for fans who don't live in major cities or when a pandemic strikes, and want something more permanent.

What's new: Some celebrities are turning to NFTs, digital tokens that can be unique or that can come in editions of thousands or more, which are reasonably permanent and come with the promise of never degrading. They can also come with perks like limited-edition vinyl or even a custom song.

  • By the numbers: Musician 3LAU raised $11.6 million in an NFT sale this week.
  • Grimes, another musician, sold artwork on the blockchain for a total of $5.8 million.
  • Both artists followed venture capitalist Chris Dixon's method of "granular price tiering:" Selling unique objects at an ultra-high price, and then selling a series of editions at steadily lower prices. It's the time-honored model of artist's editions, but applicable much more broadly.

The big picture: Celebrity, by its nature, is the ability to reach a vast audience. If you extract just a small amount of money from each of them, it's possible to get very rich.

  • Musicians get a small payment from every Spotify stream, for instance; movie stars share in the revenue from millions of people buying movie tickets or paying for Netflix.

Between the lines: This model leaves a lot of potential money on the table, as Dixon explains.

  • What's more, concerts can't create something unique and permanent. For an in-the-news example of how much such an object can be worth, consider the mediocre Moroccan landscape that was painted by Winston Churchill; given to Franklin Roosevelt; eventually sold to Brad Pitt; and gifted to Angelina Jolie. That star-studded provenance was enough to see it sold for $11.5 million this week.

The bottom line: It's not clear that fans will value NFTs over the long term, rather than buying them in a short-term speculative frenzy. But in principle, as Dixon puts it, "crypto's fine-grained granularity lets creators capture a much larger area under the demand curve."

Go deeper: CryptoKitties, Grimes and the rise of NFTs

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Biden in call with Netanyahu raises concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza

Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

President Biden spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday and raised concerns about civilian casualties in Gaza and the bombing of the building that housed AP and other media offices, according to Israeli officials.

The big picture: At least 140 Palestinians, including dozens of children, have been killed in Gaza since fighting between Israel and Hamas began Monday, according to Palestinian health officials. Nine people, including two children, have been killed by Hamas rockets in Israel.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

"Horrified": AP, Al Jazeera condemn Israel's bombing of their offices in Gaza

A ball of fire erupts from the Jalaa Tower as it is destroyed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza. Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Associated Press and Al Jazeera on Saturday condemned the Israeli airstrike that destroyed a high-rise building in Gaza that housed their and other media offices.

What they're saying: The White House, meanwhile, said it had "communicated directly to the Israelis that ensuring the safety and security of journalists and independent media is a paramount responsibility," according to press secretary Jen Psaki.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
6 hours ago - Health

The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

The Wuhan Institute of Virology. Photo: Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images The COVID lab-leak theory goes mainstream

A group of high-profile scientists published a letter calling for renewed investigation into the origins of COVID-19 — including the theory that it spilled out of a virology lab.

Why it matters: The possibility that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a Chinese lab and accidentally escaped — rather than emerging naturally from an animal — was initially dismissed as a conspiracy theory. But the letter shows a potential lab leak is increasingly being taken seriously.