February 11, 2024

Why luxury?

Luxury Media

Since publishing Luxury Media in June of last year, the most common pieces of criticism haven’t been directed at the ideas – they’ve been directed at the term itself.

“Luxury” implies exclusivity. It implies a cost that most people are unable to pay. “Luxury Media” gives off an air of pretentiousness. And sometimes, it confuses people entirely, leading people to believe that the essay is about the content and conversation surrounding luxury fashion.

Big lesson learned: names matter. The labels we choose will spread much farther than the ideas that they are labeling. On the other hand, if my goal was to ensure that the ideas were at least being discussed – even if inaccurately – maybe we could consider the meme successful.

Over the last few months, I’ve seesawed endlessly over whether the label “luxury media” was a mistake. Today, as onchain media becomes more prevalent and we’re seeing the foundations of this thesis come to life, I’d argue that it’s more accurate than ever.

I’m currently writing a much longer follow-up essay to Luxury Media, but I wanted to throw out a few strays regarding the name itself: why luxury?

  1. Luxury implies a high price point relative to cost. If AI and the internet bring the costs of content production and distribution closer and closer to zero, then paying anything on the basis of taste makes the content a luxury.
  2. Luxury goods are goods sold on the basis of taste and narrative. You don’t buy a Birken Bag because it’s the highest quality bag (although it may be), you buy it because of the story of the brand and the status it signals. Status isn’t always financial. Being early brings status. Skill brings status. Unique taste brings status.
  3. Luxury is only exclusive in a monoculture. On the internet, subcultures dominate. Luxury is only exclusive when monoculture permeates the media environment. But when everyone is free to pursue their own interests and folks gather around those niches, definitions of what is “luxury” evolve.

So where does that leave us?

Luxury media is media that you pay for on the basis of taste. When marginal costs are zero, collecting your favorite artist’s new single for $10 is an act of worldbuilding, not necessity. You’re paying to support the narrative, the point-of-view. You’re paying because of the signal that creates.

Today, minting is the most common manifestation of the luxury media thesis. Why do you mint open editions that have a long-term expected financial value of zero? You mint to connect, to signal, and to support the worldview of the creators and communities you align with.

In a Luxury Media environment, content can be consumed freely. We don’t pay for access, we pay to worldbuild. We’re patrons and participants, not consumers. And if you squint hard enough, that’s what luxury is all about.

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