You also see it in action on Twitter when someone buys an ape and suddenly receives a massive jump in followers from the BAYC community.
Then there are the perks. Just as MLMs take their “independent distributors” on cruises and resort vacations, so BAYC has spent Ape Fest amply rewarding its members. In MLMs or pyramids, these perks “appear to be tangible, but in reality, there’s nothing there you wouldn’t find on your own,” FitzPatrick says. “But you look around at all the smart people that have also joined — how could you be wrong?”
The apes on the bus
I observe what some would call cultishness and others would term simple esprit de corps on Wednesday night, onboard an ostentatiously colorful full-size bus advertising the Nice Drips NFT collection.
We’re en route to the warehouse party with about a dozen other apes.
Chilled apes nft
The apes] thought they were the premier PFP [profile picture] project, and were upset when the penguins started getting attention.” He adds, parenthetically, “They’ve chilled out since, I think.”
To some, the apes come off as cultish. Of course, any club where members deal in magic internet money and collect jpegs that you could technically right-click on and get for free sets off alarm bells in people’s minds.
The Rolling Stone feature, which came out as NFT.NYC began, raised a lot of hackles on social media. Critics accused the magazine — which partnered with the club to create a “collectible zine” — of putting out “sponcon” promoting a pyramid scheme.
While BAYC is not structurally akin to multi-level marketing or its more pernicious form, the pyramid scheme, the president of the nonprofit Pyramid Scheme Alert, Robert FitzPatrick, says there are similarities.
Chill apes nft
By midsummer, he and Safa — who tonight is dressed like his ape, in 3-D glasses and a striped shirt — decided to start a business. They created 6,942.0 (get it?) NFTs in the BAYC valet theme — everything from valet “tickets” to rare “yachts,” one of which just sold on the secondary market for $85,000.
They got signed by CAA in September.
These NFTs have utility: They determine how much voting power each holder has in directing the plot of the Jenkins tell-all, and about 2,600 people have them. That evening, after the Jenkins fans in attendance have their fill of tacos, Jenkins and Safa announce to the crowd who’ll be writing the book.
“We needed to find the best memoir writer that ever existed,” Safa says.
“So, we found Neil Strauss.” Strauss has authored wild memoirs with the likes of Mötley Crüe, Marilyn Manson, and Jenna Jameson.
Both MLMs and BAYC have a “narrative lore and mystery that helps people believe” in these projects, and that alone gives them their value.
As with MLMs, BAYC is valuable to join “only if someone else will buy behind you,” FitzPatrick says. If just a handful of people had purchased the apes at launch and no one else followed, they’d be basically worthless.
College of New Jersey marketing professor and MLM expert William Keep doesn’t see BAYC using the recruitment structure of an MLM, just the “retention structure.” MLM members employ what’s called “love bombing” — showering new recruits with praise and welcoming them into the “family” — and Keep sees a similar dynamic at play within the BAYC.
I witness this firsthand as ape holders embrace like long-lost brothers throughout Ape Fest.
Not long after, she dons a wig that looks just like her ape’s — she’s a participant in the Halloween costume contest starting at the back of the gallery. One of the contest’s four judges is Andy Milonakis, the star of The Andy Milonakis Show, an absurdist sketch comedy series that debuted on MTV in 2005.
Milonakis tells me he does not own an ape yet but wants to “grind and make money in the space” to eventually buy one. (He somehow manages to obtain an ape a few days later.)
“One point for bribery!” Milonakis calls out as a woman dressed like her ape — in a furry hat and wraparound sunglasses — hands the judges stickers of her avatar. That’s not enough to win, alas.
The bus is a perk organized by Ong — a way for the group to continue to hang out as they travel in style and generate FOMO.
The long-haired and bearded Ong, who’s been wearing his ape’s outfit (a red Hawaiian shirt) for most of Ape Fest, has organized BAYC meetups in New York and Los Angeles. Others started popping up in Colorado, Minnesota, the U.K., and Hong Kong.
“ Then I had the idea with some friends to do the yacht party,” he says. He suggested it to the BAYC creators: “I caught them on a good week, because they’d just finished the mutant sales.”
The bus, driven by a man everyone calls the Farmacist, takes a harrowing turn down a tight Brooklyn corner.
We collectively hold our breath as he squeaks between two rows of parked cars.
So we have the founders of the project and those are Deckard and Occy – Deckard is also the Lead Artist and the only one that put up his Instagram account for us to get familiar with him. Moreover, we have Caesar, who is the Developer and Kongsmob the Marketing Manager.
And lastly there’s Aizen the secondary Artist and Hare the Researcher (Although I have no idea what he does and that is exactly why there needs to be something like a small summary).
Furthermore, I would like to note the transparency of the team about matters that surround the project. And of course their effort to gain the trust of the community.
He says he’s not “disappointed,” but he doesn’t offer another adjective.
But maybe it’s enough for now? Maybe it’s good that the prototype for mass adoption of Web 3.0 isn’t taking place in, say, the political sphere, but rather in the less consequential entertainment space? The real world sucks pretty hard at the moment, so why not escape into a metaverse where you, your friends, and Steph Curry are all members of the coolest club you could belong to? Why not LARP as a primate crypto billionaire — or his valet, at the very least?
When I run into Ong again, inside the party, I ask him to introduce me to BAYC’s creators. He declines. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he says.
They return the next morning as early as 7 a.m., forming a line that wraps around a Soho block in order to pick up their wristbands at the gallery. The yacht event is the big kickoff party for the weeklong Ape Fest 2021, the first time BAYC members have gathered IRL in such large numbers.
It’s the highlight of the NFT.NYC conference, which features speakers like Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk and draws more than 5,000 non-fungible token fanatics to the city.
The BAYC members eat bananas (seriously) and wear branded sweatshirts to show that they belong. Some are dressed in leather jackets or Hawaiian shirts that match their cartoon apes’ outfits so fellow club members can recognize them IRL.
“You’re [insert Twitter handle]?!” is an enthusiastic refrain heard throughout the week.
It is an exciting time to be an ape.
So far I have to admit they did an excellent job at that with their friendly and welcoming attitude. Finally, there is an AMA archive that you can read on their Discord, mainly with Deckard answering questions of the community. And I hope that this will be the case moving on (and not only with Deckard) – AMAs are an important factor for a project.
Discord & Twitter
Even though the project is completely new, it grew a lot in a short period of time. Basically it counts more than 7k members, Discord and Twitter combined.
Also, the engagement it receives is phenomenal – making me wonder if its just the Apes theme that is popular in the NFT space or Kongsmob is an amazing Marketing Manager.