My journey into the world of crypto’s nostalgia for the ’90s started with a simple tweet.
A few months back, I tweeted out “nostalgia-as-a-service”. At the time, I was referring to Spotify charging me $6.99 a month to listen to ‘90s grunge-punk bands like Nirvana and Green Day.
But now I realize nostalgia-as-a-service is so, so much more.
Over the last two years, we’ve been swarmed by zombie companies. RadioShack and Blockbuster Video, left for dead long ago, have somehow come back to life to haunt our consumer dreams once again.
The catch? They’ve gone crypto.
The latest: Limewire, the defunct website known for distributing free music, raised $10.4M in April to build a music-focused NFT platform. Monetizing the familiar is rapidly becoming a web3 play.
“Nostalgia is a hell of a drug,” Greg Isenberg, founder of web3 design firm Late Checkout and advisor to Reddit, told me. “Nostalgic IP strikes an emotional chord in people and makes it a community-owned brand. This trend is just beginning. Every day new brand owners are reaching out to us looking to leverage web3 with the trust they’ve built over years.”
Watching these reanimated brands feels like driving around my hometown listening to my favorite music from when I was a teenager. It feels good, but something’s off.
Limewire is just the latest zombie reborn from the grave — and hear me out, I predict we’re living in the beginning of a zombie apocalypse.
Revitalizing defunct intellectual property is a brilliant marketing strategy. Rather than starting a brand from scratch, entrepreneurs get to leverage previous social capital: attention, name recognition, and diehard fans.
In a world where anyone can purchase a logo and build a website, using a recognizable brand, even a dead one, can help a company attract attention. And my generation’s entrepreneurs and creators are nothing if not attention-seekers.
With Millennials gaining more purchasing power, I predict going forward we’ll see more companies coming back to life. I even have some ideas of which ones will be next.
But first, let’s examine how we got here.
Rise of the Planet of the Web2 Brands (2020-2021)
In November 2020, influencer Tai Lopez and his company bought a minority stake in RadioShack with plans to revitalize the brand and online storefront. Ok, this is weird, but not too weird as he actually did this successfully with the retailer, Bed Bath & Beyond.
But, then things got much, much stranger.
In January 2021, we saw the rise of meme stocks: GameStop and AMC. Thanks to the degens over at r/WallStBets, these nostalgia stripmall storefronts became a trading phenomenon, generating headlines in The Wall Street Journal and hours of astonishment in CNBC segments.
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As time went on, they sank back into business oblivion.
A few months later in May 2021, a DAO called Krause House was established with an insane-sounding idea: let’s gather a bunch of degens, put our money in a pot, and buy an NBA team. Uh, the average price for a professional basketball team is $2.4B.
Well, this obviously didn’t happen, but the big idea stuck.
X Games Reborn?
Let’s fast-forward six months into December 2021.
Investor Sahil Bloom wrote a thread about an idea similar to Krause House: starting a DAO to buy the X Games from ESPN and revitalizing the classic winter competition. Nothing came of the thread, but the idea of DAOs buying and revitalizing web2 brands gained even more momentum.
Instead of X-Games-DAO or whatever, another DAO with a similar purpose was born days later. A user known as Tasafila tweeted out that he wanted to start a DAO to buy Blockbuster’s intellectual property back from Dish.
Within days, RadioShack — the failed e-commerce brand — also made a move into web3. Lopez and his team decided to pivot RadioShack into a decentralized exchange (DEX). They even have their own token called $RADIO. No joke.
Where Are We Now (2022)
Let’s jump to May 2022. How is the web3-NBA-crossover Krause House doing? They have not bought an NBA team, but a DAO did recently make headlines for buying a basketball team in Ice Cube’s BIG3 league.
So Krause House might not have succeeded, but BlockbusterDAO surely did, right? Not exactly. Seven months from its conception, @BlockbusterDAO has 16,000 followers and their Discord has 8,000 members. But they do not own Blockbuster’s IP yet.
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With a goal of building a decentralized media platform, cofounder Tasafila told The Defiant that the DAO is “is talking to the right people to make a deal happen.”
While these DAOs have failed thus far, another aforementioned zombie rose from the dead. Two weeks ago, LimeWire raised $10M to build a music-focused NFT marketplace. They are focused on the collectible aspect of music, comparing NFTs to vinyl records.
“We see a massive opportunity in taking the widely loved LimeWire brand and using it to make NFTs and digital collectibles accessible to a broader, mainstream audience,” wrote LimeWire’s Sara Moric in an email to The Defiant.
There are also rumors brewing that more web2 brands will be bought up.
Crypto Packaged Goods, the NFT collection with a 30 ETH floor based around combining consumer goods and crypto, has an entire Discord channel dedicated to buying web2 brands and revitalizing them.
Surely, we are early.