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The crypto market tumbled downward for weeks leading into NFT NYC 2022, but the line to pick up passes on the convention's first day still stretched hundreds of yards around the block in Times Square.
As its doors opened on Monday, the New York Marriott Marquis became a coordinated march of attendees filing through a vertical maze of escalators and walkways, while company reps put final touches on numerous displays. Enthusiastic crypto faithful chatted in line about their projects, and some munched on complimentary fruit. Once badges were secured, almost everyone dispersed throughout the hotel and beyond.
The conference’s main purpose is to showcase what's hot in NFTs and provide an excuse for people to network and celebrate, as companies peacock their success in front of competitors.
But the week could’ve also been seen as a chance to gauge the temperature of the entire crypto community, which seemed as optimistic as ever, even as their wallets have grown dramatically thinner.
The floors of the Marquis were stacked with some of the biggest names in cryptocurrency, from Coinbase to Polygon to Flow to Tron, but only a couple exhibits were up and running by Monday afternoon. The earlybirds gawked at some Rare Pepe NFTs or plundered the conference floor for whatever stickers and freebies they could find as companies set up their booths.
If the Marquis served as the conference’s would-be head, its body extended far beyond the confines of Times Square–which was plastered in advertisements from Web3 companies. NFT NYC sprawled across Manhattan and into the city’s outer boroughs. The so-called satellite events that companies could host on their own felt instead like the convention’s main pull, and sent attendees constantly ping-ponging from Midtown to Brooklyn and back as the week went on.
It would’ve been possible to partake in a full week of events attached to NFT NYC and never step foot inside its central hotel—and that's the route many took. Despite that, organizers promised over 15,000 artists and enthusiasts, along with 1,500 speakers would attend, according to Jodee Rich, confounder and producer of NFT NYC.
The venues ranged from lofty rooftop bars overlooking the city’s skyline to stuffy dance floors tucked underground, including concert venues like the Palladium Theater, Terminal 5, and Gotham Hall, an over-the-top venue in Midtown with tall ceilings and a distinctly neoclassical style. Steve Aoki took the stage there to participate in a panel that discussed how Web3 could change the future of media, music, and entertainment—a tall order.
A lot of the events felt lavish, grand, and pricey to put on–something that seemed to fly in the face of what an outsider to the crypto space might expect is possible given the current market.
A few organizations downsized their party venues last minute, but a majority of companies stuck to their plans that were likely organized well before the prices of digital assets began to slump.
"I think that a lot of companies paid for their NFT NYC parties before the bear market really set in," Amanda Cassatt of Web3 marketing firm Serotonin told Decrypt at Serotonin's own BBQ event in Brooklyn. "So I think we might be seeing a short kind of swan song of a certain level of festivity that we might not see for a little bit."
Nobody at these events was very concerned about the state of the crypto industry, at least outwardly so. There was no permeable sense of doom or gloom surrounding the recent crash that one could glean from the crowd’s behavior at various events or in snippets of overheard conversations.
The bear market might’ve been a backdrop to NFT NYC, but it was completely out of focus for most of the attendees.
People were generally excited to be there connecting with each other, whether they were bonding over ownership of a "blue-chip" NFT (Apes, Doodles, Cats, and Goblins adorned clothing as if they were sports teams), a bright new idea for a startup, or the longer-than-expected wait times at almost every event.
Most of the attendees at NFT NYC looked to be in their 20s or 30s, and a majority of the convention-goers were men—prompting plenty of criticism from onlookers on Twitter.
Hi if you’re hosting an NFT NYC event: just let women in. For free. Any women. Trust me, you need them
— Bita Del Rey (@_b33ts) June 22, 2022
The week was not without its PR stunts, and one of the most notable and clever ones took place on the convention’s first day. Streetwear brand The Hundreds staged a fake religious protest on the streets of Manhattan, with people brandishing signs against NFTs that included language such as “God hates NFTs” and “Crypto is a Sin."
Another viral moment took place a day later when Snoop Dogg was supposedly perusing the Marquis’s conference floor and posing for photos with fans—not too unlikely, considering his involvement in previous Web3 projects like Decentraland.
I'm at the NFT NYC conference again in Times Square, and Snoop walked by, flanked by security. I grabbed his handler, said I'm a reporter, would love a few minutes. The guy said actually that's an impersonator, legally can't say it's him, they hired him to drum up excitement.
— Kevin Collier (@kevincollier) June 21, 2022
The man turned out to be an impersonator, wearing a conference pass labeled Doop Snogg.
The real Snoop Dogg would later release a BAYC-themed music video with Eminem that week at ApeFest, the gathering exclusive to Ape holders.
While many people were there to do business things, many more treated NFT NYC like it was a music festival. That created an often eye-catching contrast: clean-cut businessmen in blazers standing alongside artists in over-the-top costumes and people cosplaying as their PFPs—all part of the same crowd.
At Serotonin’s BBQ at Fette Sau in Williamsburg, a person in a bear costume rubbed a crystal ball and foretold cynical fortunes for people before they sat down to eat pulled pork and chat.
A few blocks away, the digital had turned physical in a mural depicting dozens of the most recognizable NFT collections: Doodles, Goblintown, Bored Ape Yacht Club, World of Women, CryptoPunks, Cool Cats, and Gutter Cats.
To the crypto-uninterested, the mural may just look like a spray-painted panoply of cartoon animals, but its significance is clear to JPEG fanatics as a permanent, physical marker left on the city by a community of artists united through the internet.
But maybe events like the Goblintown after party felt like a piss-soaked petri dish because… they were. As the week drew to a close, more and more people tweeted that their time at NFT NYC was cut short when they tested positive for COVID.
At least they headed home (or into quarantine) feeling bullish on Web3.