In brief

  • TreeTrunk's new protocol is open-source and will let artists sell subsets of NFTs to fans.
  • It is offering NFTs from select visual artists and will be available to everyone in March.

NFTs have gone from curiosities to mainstream collectibles in the last year and are coming to be seen as a new way for artists to connect with their fanbase and get paid.

The latest example is TreeTrunk, a startup that has developed a variation of the NFT-specific protocol known as ERC-721. TreeTrunk has modified the protocol in such a way as to make it easy for an artist to mint a master NFT of her work, then sell derivatives of that NFT to fans—who can in turn sell it to other fans.

"The TreeTrunk smart contract distributes royalty payments not only to a single creator but also to collectors who make and sell authorized digital 'prints,'" explained TreeTrunk in a press release before announcing the new protocol at ETH Denver on Thursday. "The buyers of the prints can, in turn, make new prints from their NFTs until the number of generations set by the creator is reached."

TreeTrunk, which operates on the Polygon ecosystem (a Layer 2 solution that runs atop Ethereum), has signed up around a dozen visual artists for the launch. They are each donating a piece of original artwork, which will be available to early collectors starting today.


The TreeTrunk team is still refining the protocol and expects the finished version to be available by March, at which point it will be available to anyone to use. TreeTrunk is a subsidiary of Consensys Mesh, the incubator founded by Ethereum co-founder Joe Lubin. (ConsenSys also provides funding to the editorially independent Decrypt.)

According to CEO John Wolpert, the TreeTrunk protocol is open-source and can be integrated into any Ethereum-based platform, including OpenSea. He told Decrypt that this means platforms will be able to offer tools for artists to convert their existing NFTs into TreeTrunk ones, making them capable of being offered to more people.

The idea of using NFTs as a way to track and collect artistic royalties is still relatively new, but is catching on fast. The most notable example is Royal, a platform launched by the musician Justin Blau (known as 3LAU), which lets fans buy portions of an artist's NFT and share in future copyright royalties. Royal recently raised $55 million from investors that included celebrity musicians Nas and The Chainsmokers.

Meanwhile, the son of a Sirius XM executive recently launched a startup called Sound that lets fans buy portions of a musician's NFTs that come with rights to inscribe comments on a song.


Wolpert says TreeTrunk is focusing on visual artists initially, but he expects it to catch on with musicians, filmmakers and others before long.

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