Don’t call it a collapse – it’s just a vibe shift.
Since January, the market for non-fungible tokens (NFTs) has been locked in a downward spiral, with sales on one popular platform falling to less than one-seventh of their January peak, and the buyer of the so-called “Mona Lisa of the digital world” – a $2.9m NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet – being forced to sell for just $6,800.
To shore things up, NFT projects have turned to a new kind of role: the vibes manager.
Also known at some companies as a “chief vibes officer” or “director of vibes”, the vibes manager is something of a cross between a marketer, influencer and investor relations officer, tasked with promoting NFT projects to newcomers while reassuring existing funders. The goal? To keep things positive, no matter what.
“Vibes are everything,” explained tropoFarmer, a thirtysomething Minnesota resident who was one of the first buyers of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs (one of the most hyped and expensive collections) and is an advocate for vibes management. “There are ways that you can swing trade based on the momentum that is, for the most part, built on vibes.”
Among the first to hire a vibes director was an NFT startup called Fractional, Business Insider reported. The job went to an influencer named Deeze, who a spokesperson called “a super influential commentator and tastemaker in the NFT space” and “the most public facing person at the company alongside the founder”.
Along with managing the company’s Twitter and Discord, Deeze also handles “collector relations” and is the “internal ‘vibe checker’ for events and content”, the spokesperson explained.
That kind of work is crucial for an industry hoping that the promise of social exclusivity will keep prospective investors interested – and distract holders from the troubled market. During a recent NFT conference in New York, holders of Bored Ape NFTs were given access to a special concert series that included performances by Lil Baby, Timbaland and Haim.
“People there honestly could not give much of a shit” about the NFT market crash, tropoFarmer told the Guardian, “just because the vibe of the festival was so high.”
Michael Jerome, a 20-year-old NFT investor, quit college last year to trade and post online about NFTs full-time, and was soon hired by a startup called Tally Labs to be their “director of vibes”, modeled after Deeze’s position.
“It’s obviously a little bit of a maybe intimidating title, maybe something you laugh at if you don’t really understand it, but if I had to give it one word, I would say it’s marketing,” Jerome told the Guardian.
The job, which pays him a salary with full benefits, involves writing “hundreds” of posts a day on Twitter – where the vast majority of NFT discussion is located. “I am eyes and ears of the community. I’m a full-time employee, I work for the team, but before anything, I’m a holder and I’m just another ‘degen’ on Twitter that wants to make a quick flip and have fun,” said Jerome, using a slang term for high-risk crypto investors. “And I think that allows me to really be looked at within our community as just another member and a friend.”
Over the years, blockchain investments like NFTs and cryptocurrency have built camaraderie around feverish optimism – expressed through the community’s distinct online argot. In early days of bitcoin’s rise, users bonded over the price going “to the moon”. That slogan has since been replaced with “WAGMI”, or “We are going to make it.” The investments, which are virtually unregulated, have seen wild swings in prices over the years, fueled by promises that blockchain might solve all sorts of real-world problems, from democratic collapse to poverty.
None of that utility has materialized. And blockchain critics say there’s a simple explanation to the current enthusiasm for vibe management: existing investors need fresh targets to hustle.
“A lot of these projects plainly require a constant inflow of new suckers to prop up the prices of these tokens or NFTs or whatever the project is centered around,” said Molly White, a software engineer whose sarcastically named “web3 is going great” website documents major crypto collapses in a scrolling timeline.
“They couch that in things like community, and vibes, and culture. But it’s hard to separate it from the fact that without new joiners there is no project. It’s this insidious weaponization of the idea of community.”
Ed Zitron, a writer and publicist for tech companies, said that vibe managers were “something between an evangelical and a pure old con artist … It’s to make people feel good about not leaving crypto, to feel good about losing money, or at least thinking they’re on the right side of history.”
Jerome, the Tally Labs vibes director, admitted there was “a lot of smoke and mirrors, a lot of artificial marketing, a lot of hype-driven crap” that can make prices explode. But he said those things were “frustrating as a real builder and working with someone you believe is doing real stuff”.
The startup has “massive” goals to expand the fictional universe around Bored Apes, including a novel featuring over 4,000 digital apes being co-written by The Game author Neil Strauss, he said. But his real dream is to see the mass adoption of NFTs. “It’s going to take a lot of work to onboard a billion people, two billion people, three billion.”
Getting to that scale will require a lot of “welcoming vibes” for prospective NFT owners, who tropoFarmer says often face “a big financial commitment”.
“I liken it to somebody walking into a bar for the first time, that they paid tens of thousands of dollars to get into. If they walk in and nobody acknowledges them, that’s a failure. If they walk in and people are hugging them, slapping them on the ass, cheering them on, they’re going to feel much more welcome.
“They’re going to be a much better participant in the community, which is ultimately going to drive a lot more value to everybody and make it a better place to be.”