Writing the First Ever On Chain Song with Jonathan Mann from the Digitally Rare PodcastSep 10, 2021
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HOST: Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Unstoppable Podcast. I'm your host, Diana Chen. And I'm here today with our guest, Jonathan Mann. He is the Song a Day guy. And the cohost of the Digitally Rare Podcast with Matt Condon, one of the many Matts, who we had on recently in episode 70. And I'm super excited to talk to Jonathan today about how he has managed to write a song every day for the last 12 years.
So welcome Jonathan. Thank you so much for being here.
JONATHAN MANN: Thank you so much for having me. I'm delighted.
HOST: All right. Well I have so many questions for you but before, let’s just start chronologically. Tell me who you were before you became the Song a Day guy. Like who was Jonathan before all of this [Laughing]?
JONATHAN MANN: [Laughing]. So, you know I could give you my whole life story. Cliff’s Notes are I grew up in Northern Vermont, near the Canadian border. And there’s nobody musical in my family or anything. But I got really into Bob Dylan when I was 12 and decided at that point that I wanted to learn how to play guitar and my dad bought me one for Christmas.
It was sort of like, I don’t know, like… I felt like I had friends. All my friends were into sports, you know? I just was never into any sports or anything. I never had like a thing that was like my thing. Then, you know, but as a 12-year old, if you like latch onto the right thing that’s like your thing, it’s really exciting. And that’s what happened.
It’s almost like from that moment forward I always knew that I wanted to make songs. So I don’t know. I was doing a lot of stuff before Game Jew. I had this rock opera based on the Super Mario Brothers, called the Mario Opera that I wrote and performed around Los Angeles, circa 2005, 2006 time.
And then YouTube launched in 2005 and I made an early YouTube show called Game Jew. Which was like, huh, I was the Game Jew and the only difference between Mario and Game Jew is that I wore these red overalls but I didn’t wear a shirt underneath them. So it was just like this bare chested Mario Jewish guy running around Los Angeles like singing songs about video games and interviewing people and doing little skits.
Then once that sort of started winding down, that was like right around when I started doing a Song a Day, like 2009.
HOST: Wow. That is quite the story. So it sounds like you’ve always been pretty artistically inclined even if you may not have realized it until you were 12. But it sounds like that was always a part of your DNA.
JONATHAN MANN: It seems like it. It’s funny because, yeah, you know when you’re little and when you’re younger, you don’t really make those distinctions, you know? But, yeah, certainly like learning guitar definitely unlocked something inside of me that I had no idea was there.
HOST: Yeah, yeah. So, okay, so you’re doing all of this music stuff and then at some point during that journey, you discover Crypto NFTs and you’ve been in this NFT world from the very, very beginning.
So tell me how that happened. How did you first get exposed to crypto and NFTS? What was it that peaked your interest? How did you start wrapping your head around that back when like NFTs weren’t really even a thing yet?
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. Well they weren’t called NFTs. We called it Crypto Art or Art on the Block Chain or some other, you know? And calling it -- and Matt, Matt was like instrumental actually in like the name NFTs. It was like are we going to call them Nifties or are we going to call them NFTs. Like what are we going to call these things? And NFTs stuck which is like not my favorite but you can’t choose what -- it’s like a consensus.
So, you know, my story is similar to Matt’s actually. So if you go back and listen to his -- I knew about the Bitcoin white paper. It came out right around the time that I started writing a song a day actually. I started writing a song a day on January 1st of 2009. And the Bitcoin white paper came out right around that. I think it was like October of 2008 if I'm not mistaken. I could be wrong.
And both Song a Day and Bitcoin were sort of a response to the financial crash. Bitcoin in a very obvious way and Song a Day because I was unemployed and I had nothing else to do and so that’s why I started writing a song a day.
So I was very much aware of it. You know it didn’t make much sense to me and then at a certain point it seemed very much just like a thing that like finance bros do, you know? Circa like 2014 or whenever that was when it was pumping like really hard the first time. I remember my friend was like, oh my god, I just -- you know Bitcoin’s over $1,000 and I made all this money. And I was like that’s cool and it seemed very much just like a finance thing that didn’t interest me.
Then in 2017 I was at a talk at a really cool conference called Fireside which is like at a camp in the woods in Northern Ontario. It was very cold. I saw this guy Ethan Buchman give a talk and he’s a dude who works on Cosmos, like the block chain, cross-block chain thingy. And he gave a really great talk.
He also sang a song which I think helped. He said he played a song about the ICO Scams that were happening back then called Scam Train. And so he sort of -- there was something in his talk and I don’t know what it was but it unlocked something for me where I started to see that there might be some way in which block chain could intersect with what I'm doing.
And so I sent a tweet shortly after that conference saying like, hey, anybody know what, you know, how block chain could intersect with what I'm doing [Laughing]? A man named Boris Mann, no relation to me, he just happens to have the last name, same last name, who’s a great block chain dude, responded and sent me my first crypto. He sent me like .1 ETH or something. And his whole thing was just like download MetaMask. He helped me. Go play. Crypto Kitties weren’t out yet. And Crypto Punks had just launched. This was September and they had launched in June or July.
When he showed me Crypto Punks, that was like the moment. That was like totally flipped a switch in my brain. I got it immediately. I mean this is -- everyone who experienced Crypto Punks sort of experiences it that way. It was pretty great though and I was so thrilled and I immediately wrote a song about Crypto Punks and sent it to Larva Labs and begged them to take me -- you know to let me take them to lunch and we had lunch. And I like pitched them on my idea of -- this is like -- this is, you know, September of 2017 I was like pitching them like help me build like Crypto Punks but for my songs is what I said to them.
They very politely turned me down but also encouraged me and said this is a great idea, you should keep pursuing that. Yeah, from there it just sort of -- we had a whole run there, you know, where Crypto Kitties launched and it was very exciting and all kinds of things were happening. The community was very small back then. You could basically know everybody that was into NFTs.
Yeah, and then Matt and I started the podcast and we became a whole thing.
HOST: Awesome. For people listening who are like I still don’t get Crypto Punks and obviously these are people who don’t have a Crypto Punk themselves and probably never will at this point, but for people like that, can you -- and I don’t know if you can put into words what --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] It’s hard, it’s hard --
HOST: -- like how --
JONATHAN MANN: -- yeah, if you --
HOST: -- yeah.
JONATHAN MANN: -- yeah. If you don’t get it, it’s hard, right? But… the thing that got me was just it’s a feeling, right? It’s just a feeling that I got the minute that I sort of saw them. And what really did it for me actually was on the Crypto Punk site, one of my favorite things that they do that no other PFP project does actually and of course the idea that Crypto Punks is a PFP project is even like weird because that’s -- but that’s essentially what it’s become, right? It’s like -- so anyway.
But you go to their website and what they have is this -- you can click on it and you can put it into full screen and you can just sort of zoom in and out and just roll through a sea of Crypto Punks. And just like all 10,000 of them, you can see them on one page and you can go over here and look at that one, you could just see all of them there. And it was just so like… I don’t know.
There was something about it I just got it immediately. It reminded me of so many things from my childhood that I liked to collect, you know? That was maybe like what -- there was maybe a nostalgia factor so if you don’t have any nostalgic feelings about collecting things, for me it was these things called Muscle Men. They were like these little pink men -- you know same idea, it’s just like they all look the same but they’re all a little bit different.
So that’s what it was. And then the fact that on top of that that you could own it, you know? That you could own this digital thing. You know? It just blew my mind. So 'cause the project would have been cool regardless, right? It would have been cool even without the layer of owning things, just having 10,000 procedurally generated little punks is cool. It’s rad.
Then the fact that you could buy them and people were already doing that and it was like there was a little community, a burgeoning community around that. It just was -- perfectly captured my imagination.
HOST: Yeah, I totally get that. Okay. So you start Song a Day on January 1st, 2009. When you started this, what was going through your head at the time? Were you just bored, unemployed? Was it a New Year’s Resolution? Di do you think you’d be doing it 12 years later? Walk me through that.
JONATHAN MANN: So it was a flier that I got for something called Fun a Day. And Fun a Day is a project that still happens actually. And it’s just an invitation to make one piece of art for every day in January. So, yeah, exactly. I was unemployed. Game Jew was no longer happening. And so I set out to write a month’s worth of songs in January. So when that came -- when that ended, you know, I was still unemployed and it was going pretty well and I enjoyed it. So I decided to aim for a year. Then when 2009 came to a close… I sort of made it indefinite. And it’s been indefinite ever since.
So, no, when I started I didn’t realize I’d be doing it, you know, 12, 13 years later. But here I am [Laughing].
HOST: Yeah. So how -- okay. Lots of questions here. People want to know from Twitter, too, how do you get the motivation to do this so consistently for 12 years? Because I think anybody who’s been a content creator of any kind, whether they’re a blogger or just an Instagram influencer, anything, knows that the most challenging part of being a content creator of any kind is consistency. It’s just showing up every day and doing it every day. So how do you -- what’s your secret?
JONATHAN MANN: The main secret is to… is to go really easy on yourself. So another way of saying that is to basically not care, huh, about what you’re making. That’s the thing that stops most people. I should preface by saying, too, that I don’t know that making something every day is for everyone. I think that doing something every day for a set period of time is a really useful thing that can unlock things for people. But doing something consistently like what I'm doing is not necessarily like -- there’s lots of people who work completely differently, you know? Who want to take a lot longer on a given thing?
But in terms of making and completing something every day, be it for a week or a month or a year or whatever, the real secret is to just like… is to not care and realize that if you make something that’s crappy it’s fine and nobody’s going to care either. Like that no one’s going to hate you or think that you’re bad or anything. Like if you make something bad it’s okay. You have permission. It’s fine.
Maybe it’s not so bad. But you don’t -- we’re also not the best judges of our work. We’re often not good judges of our work. So just to be super easy on yourself. And make something and get through whatever kind of fear and anxiety you have about that process and just do it anyway regardless of how you feel. And it’s okay if it’s bad. That’s the secret. It’s okay if it’s bad.
HOST: Yeah, I think a lot of people get stuck in the process because they’re such perfectionists about it and so then whatever they’re trying to do, whether it’s write a blog post, write a song, whatever, it just seems like this huge looming task because it’s like, oh, if it’s not perfect then it’s not good enough and so then I'm like too scared to even get started sort of thing.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, exactly. I mean a really good -- a really good exercise is to try to make something bad, specifically, like set out from the start to make a bad blog post. Be like, okay, I'm going to spend this week and I'm going to write seven bad things this week. That’s my goal. That’s your goal. And you'll be surprised at what happens when you do that. You know?
HOST: Yeah. That’s true. That’s a really good point. Okay, cool. So I think another big challenge on par with this consistency thing with writing a song for 12 years is how do you still have things to say and content? How do you come up with what to write about still?
JONATHAN MANN: Can I share my screen? Is that something I could do? So this is… this is what 13 years of Song a Day written out looks like. So what I'm showing on the screen is several large spreadsheets. And I have a spreadsheet for each year. And each year is tagged with a location, a topic, an instrument, a mood, what my beard was at the time, a genre, style, nouns and proper nous. And there’s space for the length, the key and the tempo as well.
And so I show this to answer this question just because you can see here, actually a good example would be to see the traits. Like here are the topics. So now I'm showing a spreadsheet that just shows all the locations I’ve ever recorded in, all the topics I’ve ever written about, all the instruments I’ve used, and all the moods that the songs have been in.
And so there’s a bunch of topics here. So there’s a bunch of topics here. Everything from you’ve got COVID, debate, food, grandma, Harry Potter, instrumental, love, kids, NFTs, remix, social justice. I sort of think about it in this way. That if there’s no other topic that I'm going to write about, what it falls under is this like umbrella topic called poetic. And you can just make something about anything if you call it poetic. [Laughing].
So you know you could see on any given year a lot of them do end up being -- let’s see. Yeah, a lot of them do end up being poetic. So now we’re looking at the spreadsheet for year four and we’re looking at the topic section. You can see: nerd, poetic, childhood, book, family, poetic, poetic, science, book, poetic, politics, you can see that poetic shows up a lot. And the reason for that is if I don’t have an idea specifically then… then I'm just going to write some words down, you know? I'm just going to write some words down and I'm going to make some music and it’s going to be a thing. It’s just going to be a little song.
Now that’s harder I think when you have like a blog post you have to write. Like you have to -- maybe it has to be about something. But I would say -- I would challenge that again and say if like you really can’t think of anything just write anything. Just start writing. Just literally stream of consciousness. And then we go back to our idea of writing something bad. Like set out to make something really dumb and just make it.
HOST: Yeah, do you ever just like sit around and you’re like, oh, lamp or like --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- you're outside and you’re like, oh, scorpion.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, yeah, yeah [Laughing].
HOST: And then they’re like the inspiration for a song?
JONATHAN MANN: Oh, yeah, for sure. And you know it depends on the day but absolutely. Things like that for sure. I mean something I do a lot these days, actually, I’ve been improvising a lot. And that’s a whole other sort of skill. It’s a whole other muscle that you have to work out is like writing a song versus improvising a song. But often on days when I don’t have any ideas now, yeah, I just literally sit down in front of the camera and make something up.
HOST: Do you go back and listen to your songs from the last 12 years?
JONATHAN MANN: I do. So they’re all on Spotify under Song a Day. And one of the things I do is I -- after I've uploaded them, I'll go back and like listen to a couple of months’ or a year or something. And that’s often like my way of sort of figuring out which ones I like and which ones I might want to come back to someday and rework or repurpose for some reason.
So, yeah, I do. I do listen to them for sort of for that reason. It’s sort of like mining. Mining the Song a Day for the gems hopefully.
HOST: Yeah. I know. I was just wondering because I don’t listen to my podcasts. And I feel like -- do you listen to your podcasts actually? Now I'm curious.
JONATHAN MANN: No, not afterwards but I do send it to Matt. I make -- I edit it and I send it to Matt and he listens to it for like quality assurance.
HOST: Oh, okay, yeah. Yeah. No, that’s fair. The QA is needed but just like for enjoyment purposes, I don’t really find any enjoyment from --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] No.
HOST: -- doing that.
JONATHAN MANN: Well you already heard it. You already heard the conversation so you don’t need to hear it again.
HOST: Well and I feel like when you listen back to your conversations, all you do is just sit there and critique yourself --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- and make yourself self-conscious about every little thing. All your little --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Yes.
HOST: -- verbal tics, like everything you say, all the dumb stuff that’s forever recorded out there for --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- for people to hear. [Laughing].
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. I guess I'm sort of immune to that now. Because I --
HOST: [Interposing] Yeah [Laughing].
JONATHAN MANN: -- there’s so much of it that I just -- I don’t even think about it anymore to be honest.
HOST: That’s true. That’s true.
JONATHAN MANN: [Laughing].
HOST: And then I know like not only do you record these songs, you also have a YouTube component to it. And there's like some good production value there. So what’s the whole like start to finish process for you writing a new song?
JONATHAN MANN: Well I'm glad you asked that 'cause I have a podcast that addresses that exact issue. It’s called As it Happens, Song a Day, you can find it on any podcast app. And what I do in that is over 10 episodes I walk the listener through in real time as I'm making a song, the process from beginning to end. Some days -- and each song starts from a different point. So some days I have an idea. Some days I don’t have an idea. Some days I start with the lyrics. Some days I start with the chords. Some days I start with the words. And you hear the process of me, in real time, actually going through step by step what I'm doing.
So, yeah, that’s like -- and the answer is like… the answer to that question is everything. The answer to that question is yes. I’ve done that. You know? There’s not sort of a set way that I do it. It’s very… depends on so many different factors. But I just try -- you know I’ve tried everything basically.
HOST: Yeah. And what’s your favorite song that you’ve written, by the way?
JONATHAN MANN: I don’t have a favorite. It sort of changes. It changes over time. Oftentimes, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t really have a favorite right now.
HOST: Right now. Right now if somebody’s like, okay, Jonathan, you have -- I don’t even know what 12 -- like how many songs is 12 years --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] 4,600-some-odd songs.
HOST: Okay. So somebody is like hearing about this for the first time. They don’t have time to go listen to 4,600 songs right now. What songs should they listen to right now that are like your most -- your proudest work or like the best depiction of you as an artist?
JONATHAN MANN: I have an album. So if you search on Spotify for my name, there’s an album called I Used to Love my Body. That’s some -- I'm -- the songs I made for that and then the songs I made for this other podcast I made called Songonauts are probably like production value-wise and just time spent and time kind of like thinking about, those are the ones that I’ve spent the longest on that I'm sort of most proud of in that way.
But you know it changes. It changes a lot.
HOST: Yeah, for sure. Okay. So you’re writing these songs, 2009, obviously NFTs don’t exist yet. Not even close. At some point, at some point NFTs come into existence and you know there’s an obvious connection there between your Song a Day and NFTs. Tell me how that process happened and when you started to see the intersection between your Song a Day project and NFTs.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. So like I said, it was Crypto Punks. It was immediate. I mean I was going back actually and reading some of my early sort of you can call them pitch decks on this topic. And there’s -- they are. They’re from like September, October of 2017. Yeah. Like this whole idea that Crypto Punks kind of -- not invented but invented NFTs of images that are programmatically generated out of like a bunch of pieces.
Through talking about it with friends I came up with this idea, and this is part of the idea behind what you see in the spreadsheet, is all of these different topics, you know, things, have images that go along with them. So each song, this was like part of the thing, was what I loved about Crypto Punks I wanted to bring it to Song a Day. Can you see this? Each song, like this is the topic airport.
And so what we’re seeing now are illustrations made by Crypto Geisha for Year Three of Song a Day. Anxiety, apocalypse. And then what they all look like together is like this. And so you know we’re very used to this now in the PFP world. But you know back when I was starting this project, Crypto Punks was the only one that had done this. And so it was still pretty novel at that point.
So, yeah, so Song a Day, I saw it or I see it as just like Crypto Punks, one of ones. There’s, instead of being 10,000 of them, there’s a growing number of them by 1 every day. They each, every year, is going to be illustrated by a different illustrator. So Year One was done by Defaced. Year Two was done by Eclectic Method. Year Three is being done by Crypto Geisha. I have a bunch of other people lined up for the next years. Yeah.
So it was pretty immediate. Like in all of this -- all of this existed in my brain as of 2017 as soon as I saw Crypto Punks. It was like -- it was like a flash.
HOST: Are you going to go back and NFT your older songs, too, from like before NFTs were a thing?
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, yeah. So Year One is already sold out. Year One we had a sale in March that sold out. Year Two is very close to selling out. I think there’s under 100 left last I checked. And then I'm launching something really big, TBD, but probably like in the late fall leading up -- I mean basically we’re coming up into my 14th year, January 1st of 2022 will be the first day of my 14th year of writing songs if that makes sense.
So leading up to that I'm going to be dropping Years Three through Thirteen all at once. Each year is going to have a different illustrator. They’re -- each song is going to cost .2 ETH. And I'm also at that same time launching a DAO. It’s called Song a DAO. And entry into the DAO is just owning a Song a Day NFT. And one Song a Day NFT equals -- this might sound familiar for anyone who knows Noun’s project 'cause I'm sort of -- because they do one thing and it’s like I feel a kinship with them with their One Thing a Day thing. Even though they’re only on Day 23 or something. They’re babies. They’re little baby thing a day.
So in Song a DAO, the governance is done by owning Song a Day NFTs. So one Song a Day NFT equals one vote in the DAO. So if you want to vote, you know, and there will be lots of things to vote for which I could get into. And then we’re also going to have a token called Song. It’s a Song token. And the token, you get 365 tokens just for buying a Song a Day NFT. And the token is used basically as a way to figure out a revenue split.
And this is most likely quite illegal or something based on the SEC stuff. And I don’t know how much I should say that out loud or whatever that -- but… but I think it’s -- I’ve always -- from the very beginning I wanted to have a way. Basically this DAO is going to exist in Wyoming, right, because Wyoming has the DAO bill. There's also one in Vermont actually. And I'm from Vermont so I feel like that might be cool.
But the DAO is going to exist in Wyoming. It can exist as a legal entity there. Right? AS like an LLC. And so all of my actual copyright for all of my songs is going to be held by the DAO. So the DAO is going to own all of Song a Day itself.
So all of the royalties, the off-chain, real world Spotify, YouTube, all of those royalties are going to go into the DAO’s treasury. And the idea for me is that the more you do to support Song a Day and make Song a Day be heard by people, the more Song a Day tokens you get and by extension the more of a cut of the revenue split.
But I should say my plan right now is to have all of that be decided by the DAO. I don’t want to decide all of this. You know if you own Song a Day NFTs, you’re in the DAO. You can come and vote for like how we’re going to do that. Do we want to -- like my -- part of the way I'm thinking about it just like kind of Yolo with the SEC. Just like if the SEC wants to come and like punish me, I think that would make for a really interesting song frankly.
So I'm open to that. Obviously I wouldn’t want that to happen. But I just see this as a way to have -- you know to better align my incentives with the people who want to support me. It’s like if you want to support me, you can actually get skin in the game and be able to actually earn on the upside of whatever upside there is for Song a Day.
So that’s the idea behind Song a DAO.
HOST: I really like that. I was going to ask you about that 'cause I've seen you tweet about it but I couldn't really find any info --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Yeah, it’s pretty -- it’s pretty under the radar.
HOST: Very self --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] So far.
HOST: -- yeah. Are you going to make it where, like you know how the way that MEER right now will airdrop people, right, tokens? Sort of like based on a number of factors. It’s not just based on one thing. So are you planning on doing that with your Song tokens, too, where it’s not just about how many Song a Day NFTs you’ve purchased but it can also be about how often you tweet about it or, you know, like --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Exactly. We -- I’ve been talking with the folks who are helping me build this all about, you know, everything from commenting on YouTube, like how can we -- how can we gather all this different information and -- it’s very complicated of course because most of the stuff is off-chain and there has to be a lot of coordination.
But, yeah, that’s the idea. That it’s -- that everything you do that would help Song a Day earns you these tokens. In fact the tokens are minted. They’re ready to go. The supply of them is the number of days that I would be writing a Song a Day, if I do it for 100 years which I think is 36,889. So if I live -- I have to live to be 126 for that to happen.
But if I could do Song a Day for 100 years, it’s 36,889. And the supply is that number multiplied by the number of days that I was alive before I started Song a Day. So it’s the number of days before Song a Day times the number of days of Song a Day for 100 years. That’s the total supply. I don’t remember the total supply number. It’s big. It’s like in the 300 million range.
HOST: Wow. Wow.
JONATHAN MANN: Oh. And every day that I mint my song starting on January 1st is going to burn tokens. Me making the song burns tokens if that makes sense.
JONATHAN MANN: I don’t know what the number is yet. It’s some -- it’s some -- yeah, anyway. I think it might be getting too complicated. One thing I love about Noun’s DAO is how simple it is. Like 4156 Punk 4156 like made Noun’s DAO dead simple. It’s like the most easy to understand thing. And I worry sometimes with Song a Day I'm becoming like the day trader person that I wasn’t interested in being, you know? And suddenly I'm like -- yeah, I don’t know [Laughing].
HOST: Yeah, keep it simple. Keep it simple. It’s the --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Yeah.
HOST: -- KISS, right?
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah,
HOST: The KISS principle?
JONATHAN MANN: Exactly.
HOST: Okay. One thing I wanted you to clear up, too, is recent -- so you’ve been minting these songs as NFTS for a while but you recently tweeted that you just deployed the first on-chain song as an NFT. And then there was a whole tweet thread about how like NFT art that everybody is into actually isn’t on-chain for the most part outside of a few projects. Can you explain this to people listening who are like what? What are you talking about? Like how is my NFT art not on-chain.
JONATHAN MANN: Yes. I would love to. And I feel like I'm maybe particularly good to explain this because it took me a long time to understand it. And it was explained to me many times by many people and I never quite got it kind of until relatively recently.
So for that reason, you know, I think I can explain it pretty well because it -- I'm not an expert. Yeah. So to start with like with what on-chain means. And I'll just -- what I'm going to say is probably very similar to the tweet thread. So if anyone wants to read that you can find it on my -- it’s pinned I think on my Twitter. Song a Day Man.
So to start with Ethereum, what Ethereum is, right, is it’s just a giant world computer. And literally what that just means is that there’s all kinds of computers all over the world and they are what Ethereum is. And what you do on a computer is you read and you write data. And writing data to Ethereum, because it is so big and large and slow, is expensive. That’s what gas is. That’s what we do when we pay gas. We’re writing to the computer. We’re writing our data to the database.
So even the smallest image, the smallest 500 kilobyte image is still too large to write to Ethereum. It’s just -- it’s too much data. It’s too -- it’s prohibitively expensive. So what we do with NFTs rather than write the -- rather than take the image and actually write it to the computer, we write something called a Hash. And a Hash is created by you have an image and you feed it through this thing and when you feed it through the thing what you get is a long string of numbers. Like 128 numbers or something like that.
Basically what it is, is every time you feed that exact image through the thing, you get the exact same string of numbers out. And if you change one pixel on that picture you would get a different set of numbers out. So it’s an exact thing. It’s very precise.
Now that’s cool. And so what we write is we write the Hash. So then what you’re buying when you buy an NFT in almost all circumstances is you’re buying this long string of numbers. So the example I give in the tweet thread is, you know, if Thanos had come along and snapped his fingers and disappeared all Cryptopunks, all images of Cryptopunks everywhere, all anyone who owns a Cryptopunk would have would be this Hash. That’s all you would own is this number. This long string of numbers. That’s all you really own is that.
Now the way we check it, right, is that you have this Hash and you have the Cryptopunk, you feed the Cryptopunk through the thing, does it match the Hash, yes, okay. You own that Cryptopunk. You know that that Hash is the right Hash for that Cryptopunk.
Now. Larva Labs who made Cryptopunks also made the first on-chain artwork called Autoglyphs. And the really cool thing about Autoglyphs is that they’re on-chain in two different ways. The first way is the way that most on-chain projects work.
The way that most on-chain projects work right now is that they basically make a simple computer program that gets written onto the chain because a simple computer program is just words, right? It’s just like text on a thing. And so you can write out like a one kilobyte little program and that one little kilobyte program could generate art. And that’s what the vast majority of Art Blocks and Deaf Beef and all these different kind of generative on-chain projects are doing. They’re writing the instructions for the art onto the chain.
So if someone snapped their fingers and they took away all the Deaf Beefs tomorrow and they all disappeared, what you could do is you could go onto the blockchain which is everywhere, right? If they got rid of the art the block chain is still there 'cause it’s everywhere. And you could take that computer program and you could run it again. You just hit run on the computer program and it will spit out your Deaf Beef for you. Oh, there it is. There’s my Deaf Beef because I have the computer program to generate it.
So that’s what Autoglyphs did. They made the generator. They wrote the program onto the block chain that generates Autoglyphs.
But they went a step further which is really cool because Autoglyphs are so simple, they’re -- they can be translated essentially into ASCII art which is just art that’s made out of symbols on your keyboard. The plus sign and the greater than sign and the asterisk. And so using just these symbols, they were able to actually put the actual image of the Autoglyph actually on-chain. So you can go to their contract and pull up any glyph and you can see an ASCII art version.
And what I like about that is that then you don’t actually even have to run a computer program. What if I don’t know how to run a computer program? What if, you know, what if the computer program breaks or what if, you know, for instance Deaf Beef uses the language C which is a very old language that’s existed a long time? But let’s just say, you know, suddenly 100 years from now no one can run C anymore. It’s like it doesn’t exist. Then you might not be able to get them. But with Autoglyphs, no shade to Deaf Beef, I love Deaf Beef. So let’s not get carried away here.
But with Autoglyphs, you have that actual ASCII art on-chain. So what you could do is just with a pencil and some paper and a lot of patience, you could painstakingly go and say, oh, first thing is a plus sign, okay. Plus sign. Second thing is a minus. Okay, a minus. And then an asterisks. And then a space. And you could recreate it right on there with -- by yourself, with a pen and paper, right?
So most projects don’t do this. The two examples that I like are Chain Faces which is just little faces made out of ASCII art. It’s the same idea. And then Digital Art Chicks Ether Poems are just like, you know, just a couple of lines of a poem. Those can be written to the chain 'cause it’s just text. It’s very easy.
But that’s the difference between -- those are the two different kinds of on-chain art and then everything else we buy, literally everything else, is just a long string of numbers that points to a picture.
HOST: Yeah, I also liked your explanation in your tweet, right, too, about how like the way the Hash and the art piece go, it only goes one way, where you can verify the Hash with the artwork but you can’t verify the artwork with the Hash. So if wherever the artwork is stored if that server just died or the creator of it decided to be mean and --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing] Delete it.
HOST: -- take it.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah.
HOST: Then you can never --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Get it back.
HOST: -- like recreate the artwork with the Hash.
JONATHAN MANN: Exactly.
HOST: So all you’re left with is this like million dollar string of letters and numbers --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing] That’s exactly right.
HOST: -- which is not thrilling.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. You know which is not thrilling, yeah.
HOST: Yeah, not the best. Okay. Got it. Yeah. So hopefully that was helpful for people to understand. Another thing that just happened recently is that you also recently fractionalized the first-ever on-chain song with Fractional.art. Can you explain what that is? What is fractionalization of NFTs and then like why did you decide to do this?
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. So to back up a little bit. Like from Autoglyphs in 2019, it had been a dream of mine to put a song on-chain. And music, you can do, because in just the same way you can write a program that reproduces music. That’s something that you can do. And that’s what most -- that’s what EulerBeats does. The first one was called Unigrids. There’s lots of on-chain -- oh, Deaf Beef is another great example. Like it’s -- the music is great and it comes from the program.
But I was like I wish there was some way that I could write a song, like I do, and actually put that on-chain. And so I was searching for a language. And of course music has a language. It’s musical notation which I happen to not be able to read. I can’t read music.
But you can’t write musical notation in plain text. You need a program of some kind to write musical notations. And that doesn’t really work. And what I discovered is this really cool musical notation language called ABC. And it is, quite simply, a plain text musical notation language that humans can read. You can write out a song in ABC notation and if you know how to read this notation, you can play the song.
So with a lot of work and a lot of like fudging and figuring it out, we put the first song on-chain using ABC notation. It’s not perfect. It’s like not like the best way to do it but I do think there’s a lot of potential. And so I really hope that people learn about ABC notation and see the potential there for like, okay, you know, how could we use this to actually start really generating things on-chain?
So that was very exciting. And so I was going to do a reverse Dutch auction for that. And then I canceled that and decided to fractionalize it. Because that seemed like a really fun thing to do. Now I will give the caveat here that I am in the place with fractionalization where I feel like I was with on-chain versus off-chain maybe like two years ago. So I’ve had it explained to me many different times. And I still don’t -- I'm not at the point where I totally understand it.
So I may get this totally wrong. And forgive me listeners if I do. Yeah.
So fractional.art launched. There’s another one called Niftex. N-I-F-T-E-X. And the idea is that you take, and of course they’re doing Doge tomorrow, they’re doing the original -- I'm sure you’ve seen, they’re doing the original Doge. They’re doing this with that as well.
You take a single NFT, right, which exists as a single, unique digital object. And I mean the way I think about it in my head is you chop it up into a bunch of smaller pieces. And it goes from being a one of one sort of non-fungible thing and if you recall -- I'm so sorry because talking about fungibility is the worst, but like fungible -- Matt always said if you have to explain fungibility, you’ve already lost. Like you’ve lost everybody. No one wants to hear anymore.
So fungibility means like it’s… can you trade it as just like the same thing or as a different thing? So a dollar is fungible because a dollar is just like a dollar. But a Song a Day is not fungible because this Song a Day is different from this Song a Day.
And so this particular song, the on-chain song is very special to me. It’s the first on-chain song. So I took it and I made it go from being this one of one thing that’s non-fungible, because no other song is like it, to being the number of songs that I would write until I'm 100, 36,889 fungible pieces. So now it’s gone from being the non-fungible one thing to being 36,889 fungible little pieces that now I have sent to anybody that owned a Song a Day as of last Sunday gets I think like 160 of these pieces of it.
Now the next step would be if someone were to come along and buy that song for the price at which I have it listed, which is 123 ETH, 123 ETH, ABC notation 1, 2, 3. That’s my -- everything has to have a thing.
If someone were to come and pay that, then that payment would be split across everybody that owns these fungible tokens. And that is the -- that’s the sort of upside for people -- you know whereas owning an NFT is really a -- you know there’s at least for me a big part of like I like this thing and I want to own it because I like it. There is maybe a piece of that with owning a token.
Man, I want to own a piece of this thing that I really like. But there’s also this other thing where if it gets bought then I get to participate in the sale of the -- you know, for instance the first… on-chain song or in the case of what’s launching tomorrow the, you know, the Doge meme, like we can all own collectively this piece of internet history. And you know Matt was just telling me on Instant Messenger that he thinks that very easily it could be worth $1 billion someday. You know this meme. And so if you buy in, it’s a little bit of alpha.
You know if you buy into this Doge thing, which I agree with him, like you know it’s a very important meme and you have seen what happened with Doge Coin. It has not relation to the actual Doge image. This one literally is the Doge image, right? And so we’re owning, you know, fungible pieces of a non-fungible Doge.
HOST: Yeah, this episode won’t be going live until after tomorrow --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Oh, all right.
HOST: -- so --
JONATHAN MANN: -- well then, yeah.
HOST: -- the people won’t be able to benefit from your --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Last week. Yeah last week or whatever, yeah.
HOST: Yeah. Anyone listening to this how did buy into this fractionalized Doge is going to feel real good about themselves.
JONATHAN MANN: Yes. Well and the good thing is there will -- I'm sure there will be a very robust market for, you know, here’s the -- here’s Jonathan the crypto trader finance guy coming out again. But there will be like, you know -- Doge, the actual Doge Coin, Dog Coin, whatever they’re going to call it is going to have a market where people are going to want to buy it, you know, afterwards so. That’s going to happen.
HOST: Yeah. Well and then when your songs get bigger, too, if like in the future, you know each Song a Day is going to cost you like 5 ETH. Like most people can’t afford that. And so then you could fractionalize each of the songs and people can just buy a fraction if it, like a petal of a flower. Is that -- were you involved in that, too? Or is that Matt’s project?
JONATHAN MANN: I wasn’t. No, that was Matt’s project. Yeah, yeah. I was -- I mean I remember it. I was around for that. But for his Terra Zero, the flower thing was always very cool.
I remember at the… at his non-fungible summit that Matt threw in 2018, he gave a flower token to the person who took the most beautiful picture of a flower that day. So. That’s sort of a glimpse into the good old days of NFT land.
HOST: The good old days. Yeah. Cool. I wanted to talk to you about one last thing, not related to Song a Day, but it’s another project that you had your hand in. And it’s called the Fucking Trolls.
JONATHAN MANN: Oh, yeah.
HOST: And I just have to say like this is not the kind of project or like art that I would typically have my eye on --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Uh-huh.
HOST: -- but you know I got in, you know, to like support Matt --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Yeah, yep.
HOST: -- and stuff and I have to say like after I got my troll, I like took -- I like discovered this like other persona I have --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- that like I didn’t know existed. And it just came out like the trolls account on Twitter is incredible because it just gives you an outlet to troll on Twitter without feeling like you’re being a jerk or being annoying --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- you know? It’s like this is what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to troll. You’re encouraged to troll. And it was like a really good like outlet for release. I mean it still is.
JONATHAN MANN: I'm so, so, so, so, so glad to hear that because that was literally the impetus, yeah. Our friend Chris Piascik who did the art, came up for the idea for trolls and as soon as he sort of -- 'cause I was -- I came up with the idea that I wanted them to be circular. I wanted them to take up the entire profile picture.
And he was going through things of like what would work. Like donuts was an idea or like tires or something. And then we hit on trolls. Like I could do trolls. It’s like yes. Trolls.
Because we all need to have an alt. We need to like let out this aggression that is like bubbling up inside of us. And why let the fucking assholes, sorry, why let all the assholes have the fun when, you know, we want to have some fun, too, with it?
And there’s so many things, especially -- and my thing was like especially in this world of NFTS that gets a little too self-serious sometimes. And a little bit too like ponderous and a little too look at us, we’re like the best, you know, you know? Never going to make it, going to make it, you know? Like it’s like f-- you. You know? And so that’s -- that’s what I want to do with the troll.
I want to be able to go in and be like, you know, take the piss for a little bit. And so I'm [Laughing] so glad that it worked for you. But I felt the same way making my troll account. I felt the exact same way. It was like, oh my god, what is this coming out of me. This is so fun. Like it’s just ridiculous.
HOST: I didn’t even make a separate account. I just used my own. But like I feel like on my normal Twitter I can only post like semi-serious things or at least like -- whenever I have like an aggressive thought, you know, about like how much I hate everything, I feel like I can’t say that on Twitter because I don’t want to be like negative and like bring other people down, you know, or whatever. But then like whenever I see these troll accounts or I like see other people posting about trolls, I'm like, yes, this is my chance to like let it all out.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. You know someone pointed out that like, you know, Beanie or like Jimmy or like some of these people who like they really do let it all hang out but we actually have public personas, right? And that’s -- that’s maybe a little bit different. Like you host this podcast. Like people know you. I do Song a Day. People know Matt. Like we don’t want to like alienate people with those thoughts. And everybody has those thoughts, right? And it’s a normal part of being a human being. There’s a dark side to all of us. That’s like totally a thing that we all know that we all have.
But we don’t want to lead with that online as ourselves. But it’s a great outlet. And so that’s what trolls is all about. And we’re working on some really, really stupid, cool things that are coming for trolls, too, that I think are going to really surprise everyone. I hope.
HOST: No leaks on the podcast?
JONATHAN MANN: Well we’ve announced -- the thing that we’ve announced is that I -- we’re -- I think it’s -- I think it’s the first of its kind that we’re doing. It’s a PFP project but it’s with music. And it’s a generative music project that I made out of the trolls layers. And I generated -- I made like 120 different layers of music. And they’re all being put together based on the trolls, the way that the trolls look. And Matt’s putting together a really cool site to explain it. And it’s the first-ever generative music PFP project where every single troll is going to have its very own unique song. Every song is going to be different.
HOST: Oh, that’s so cool.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, I don’t think anyone has done that yet. So that will be hopefully in a couple of weeks.
HOST: Are these going to be like -- I'm just picturing them being like metal, like heavy metal --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing]. Well it’s funny you say that. No. They’re all very different. That was the thing. They all sound very different but it’s funny you say that because there’s -- the most rare troll is called Extra Evil and there’s only one of them. And it’s one that just Chris did by hand. It’s like very, very scary and evil looking. So I did that one song completely separate from the rest. And that one is like, like more metal than metal.
HOST: Yeah. I feel like that’s the -- I don’t know. I would feel a little strange if my troll just came out and sang this little happy song --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- you know? Because I feel like that’s not his persona.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. Well we’ll see --
JONATHAN MANN: -- it’s all -- it’s all very minor. So don’t worry. It’s all in keeping, yeah.
HOST: It’s all pretty dark, yeah.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah.
HOST: Okay. I'm for that --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- I can’t wait for that. I'm really excited. I'm really excited.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, as long as you have trolls, you'll be able to claim -- you -- it’s a one to one thing. So every troll has a song. So you'll claim and it has a little record that spins with the troll’s face in the middle it’s very --
HOST: [Interposing] Oh, nice.
JONATHAN MANN: -- yeah, it’s rad.
HOST: When is this coming out? Now, I'm like just getting impatient --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing]. A couple of weeks. We were just talking about it. It’s getting very close.
HOST: Nice, nice. I'm super pumped. Cool. Last question for you before we wrap up here. If you had to, you know, if you could pick yourself up and put yourself ten years into the future, what does our world look like with how people are interacting with NFTs, crypto, all of that? Just give me your best prediction.
JONATHAN MANN: Oh, specifically with what the NFT -- what it looks like in this sort of zone that we’re in?
HOST: Yeah, but I mean assume -- I guess it depends if you think the zone we’re in is going to be part of everyone’s daily life or not. You know? Because then -- yeah.
JONATHAN MANN: Man. It’s so hard to imagine. It’s like trying to imagine, you know, going from the year 2000 to the year 2010, right? Like -- or the year 2010 to 2020. Like so much happens in those years.
HOST: Yeah. Give me your wildest prediction.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah, so I mean my -- you know I get a lot of this from Matt. Like my biggest overarching thing about the technology of NFTs is that when it becomes, you know, when the technology matures and it becomes more ubiquitous, I think what I hope will happen is that there will be a whole other sort of way of being online in which everyone will own everything that they make. Every single word you write, every single post you make is going to actually be yours as opposed to Google’s and Facebook’s.
It’s just a sort of a fancy way of saying owning your data. But when we say owning your data like what that means is, you know, your search history and just like everything is going to belong to you. And you will be able to decide how it’s used.
Maybe you want to sell it to an advertiser and make money directly that way. Maybe you don’t. That to me is sort of like the… the real potential underlying all of this is like that the data that we create every single day online that is now the property of these large, quite evil corporations will belong to us via some block chain, whether it’s yet to be invented or Ethereum or whatever it is.
HOST: Yeah. I'm a big believer in that, too. And I hope we get there. I hope we do all the right things along the way so we get there.
JONATHAN MANN: I hope we have a world -- I hope the world still exists in 20 years. That’s one thing I'm not entirely positive of most days. My Doomer, my Doomer sensibilities come out pretty quick.
HOST: Yeah, that’s -- that’s…
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] And I start thinking about…
HOST: That’s the Song a Day Troll coming out --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] [Laughing].
HOST: -- a little bit. [Laughing]. We should probably end this before the troll comes out full force --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Oh, yeah. Look out [Laughing].
HOST: I know. Before you go, Jonathan, first of all, thank you so much for you time --
JONATHAN MANN: [Interposing] Thank you.
HOST: -- before you go tell people where they can find you if they want to connect with you personally. Tell people also where they can go to check out your Song a Days, buy a Song a Day NFT, do all these cool things. Plug the trolls, too, anything else you want to plug.
JONATHAN MANN: Yeah. Everything Song a Day related happens a SongaDay.world. I don’t know if you listen this -- when you’re listening to this if there’s still any available but in the middle of the fall sometime there will be a big drop of like 4,000 Song a Day songs there on the page after which there will be a daily auction happening on SongaDay.world, every single day for the foreseeable future.
You can find me on Twitter at Song a Day Man. I'm on Instagram @JonathanMann. Yeah, those are all -- those are good -- oh, and Fucking Trolls is FuckingTrolls.lol. You can find us on Open Sea. We’re creeping up to a .02 floor right now. So. Get them while they’re cheap 'cause I feel like when we put out this generative music project people might freak out a bit, I hope, at least.
HOST: Yeah for sure. And it’s Mann with 2 N’s for people who are listening to this. Cool. Thanks again so much Jonathan. Thank you listeners for tuning in as always. And we’ll be back again soon with another episode of the Unstoppable Podcast.