Article originally published in MVHQ Magazine's November Issue on December 12, 2022 by Silvaserger. Some information may be outdated.
Close your eyes. Now open them again because you can't finish this piece without reading. I wonder, what's the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word: community? Is it Joel McHale? Is it a game of pickup at your local YMCA? Maybe it's the busybody head of your HOA, and for the record, nope, I will not be removing my lawn gnomes, Linda(is Gertrude a funnier name?)! Whatever it is you picture, I would venture to guess that if you polled 100 NFT degens and asked what the most vital aspect to a project is, 95% of them would say it's community. "Community" seems to be THE buzzword when it comes to starting any successful NFT project.
Naturally, that brings us to our project of the month, the project that took the time to carefully craft absolutely no community whatsoever - Cel Mates by Mcbess.
Mc's Cel Mates, by artist Mcbess, is a collection of 4207 NFTs, where each Cel Mate represents an inmate at the Steel Hose Penitentiary. The Steel Hose is both a fictional place for narrative purposes, but also a "very real web3 media workshop" - more on that later.
Cel mates minted nearly two weeks ago as "Cel Mate Crime Reports" at .33 ETH per NFT, where allowlisted addresses could mint two NFTs. The crime reports, as of just a few days ago, were finally able to be burned in order to reveal the Cel Mate behind the curtain, so to speak. This burn-to-reveal style mechanic has become increasingly popular, with more projects adopting it off the wild success seen by Renga and several other projects.
The Crime Reports minted out in mere minutes during the allowlist phase, something even Mcbess commented on post-mint as being surprised by. Even in his best assumptions, he did not believe the demand would be that high for his project. With a mint at .33 ETH during a bear, many wondered - just how much room did this project have to run?
Well, it turns out it had plenty of juice.
Secondary markets saw an immediate floor of .5 ETH post-mint. No one was waffling around trying to list and relist for measly .0001 ETH profits. People clearly valued these highly, with so few being listed. Those that did choose, listed high.
Volume roared on secondary, taking the floor as high as .6 ETH before falling again to .5 ETH. By any ordinary means, that would be considered a raging success, especially given the current climate. However, that was simply the first act, as Crime Reports took a few days to consolidate before continuing its moon mission - establishing floors at .6, .7, .8, and even .9 ETH leading up to the reveal! Despite the somewhat long wait for reveal day, fans were clearly tuned in and happy to wait.
Reveal day came just a few days ago, and with it came the usual price action for these types of manual-reveal projects. The floor of the Crime Reports has dipped a bit to where it sits now at .62 ETH. Still, an unequivocal win for anyone lucky enough to win. The revealed Cel Mates holds a lower floor of .42 ETH, which is considerably higher than the mint price.
By all standard metrics, Cel Mates is holding up exceptionally well. So this begs the question - how!?
For all intents and purposes, Cel Mates has no native "community" of which to speak. There is no Discord group for holders or fans of the project, no Telegram channel, no Twitter group chat, no nothing!
This project was completely devoid of any "community," or at least whatever a community looks like in the traditional sense for NFT projects. Mcbess saw what most, nay, 99% of all NFT projects were doing and decided to go against the grain. This makes sense, given the counter-culture appeal the project has. Mcbess intentionally chose not to go the route of engagement farming or having umpteen virtual assistants vying for the attention of two overworked Discord moderators. Instead, he decided to let the community come to him.
The core of what makes the Cel Mates community is, perhaps, the very tenet that should be judged when evaluating a community - passion. Mcbess chose to let those who were passionate, those who were most likely to be real fans of his project and past works, be the ones that found him and Cel Mates.
The Cel Mates allowlisting process involved being tuned in to the Cel Mates Twitter and awaiting very specific, often cryptic messages. Some of these messages would be in text, and others in the form of audio or video, all of which were provided by Ricard or other fictional characters within their Steel Hose universe.
Those who were quick and savvy enough to discern the meaning were led to a premint page - always guarded by a password. Finding the premint page was part one of the mystery, and determining the password was part two. Generally, these allowlist premints would be open for 10-20 minutes, with some staying open for as few as 60 seconds.
This ensured only the most devout followers of Mcbess and Cel Mates had a shot at securing a mint. No gas wars. No Discord simping. Mcbess rewarded those who paid attention and acted in turn. In a weird and somewhat antithetical way, this was Mcbess curating his own community.
Given the project has been a resounding success several weeks post-mint, onlookers might be wondering: "well, where does it all go next?" To understand where Cel Mates is headed, we need to know more about the team behind Cel Mates, their past work, and how that influences what they have planned for their initial ten, yes, TEN phases of their roadmap.
Cel Mates is comprised of a team of creatives featuring Mcbess. The team has a host of talented individuals who have all had success across various industries, from traditional art creation and curation to music development and even clothing production.
Mcbess himself has actually written and produced music that can be found on all major platforms, including Spotify. This music has been featured during various parts of the Cel Mates minting experience, across many promotional videos, on the Steel Hose website itself, and in many other areas.
Likewise, Mcbess comes from having success in the fashion and apparel industries as the cofounder of a very accomplished brand, The Dudes. Much like his music production, you can see how Mcbess has his fingerprints all over the clothes and designs being used. This shows not only Mcbess' strength when it comes to the development and creation of a consistent brand, but also that, given time, he can work to introduce them all into a seamless world - culminating into precisely what Cel Mates is intended to be; an intersection of music, art, creation, and identity.
Not bad for a project with no community, eh?
Cel Mates and Mcbess have also proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are here to work with the big boys of the space to grow and evolve and are not here to be anti-mainstream "just because." The team at Cel Mates has proven their ability to work with other Web3 teams and execute, proven with their recent merch collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Mcbess and his merch label "The Dudes" collaborated with BAYC for a series of items from t-shirts to a full denim jacket and also included a Mcbess original art print. It's important to note this collaboration was executed weeks before Cel Mates minted out. The success of Cel Mates or any of Mcbess' projects did not hinge on the success of this merch collab. Mcbess' brands stand on their own merit, much like many of his artistic endeavors, lending credence to the idea that Cel Mates will be able to find its own niche in NFTs and the broader entertainment space.
Seemingly hidden on the Steel Hose website, users can find more information regarding future roadmap plans and how exactly Mcbess might be planning to integrate his own rewards, utility, and unique spin. There are hints at staking with "Cel blocks and lockups," as well as merch and other items such as "contraband." But what really piques my interest is the mention of the "Steel Hose Workshop and CELCTV" as a place for creatives to gather and find a platform to work collaboratively.
Mcbess has clearly illustrated his ability to take creative ideas from art, music, fashion, and more and bring them to a public audience. If this is interwoven into the fabric of the Cel Mates project, I believe it could be a Web3 art haus of sorts - with creatives and builders able to showcase their talents and abilities under the Cel Mates umbrella. I'd say there's a heck of a whole lot going on under the hood for a project with "no built-in community."
In a truly counter-culture method, Mcbess formed a community without any walls. No password to enter a Discord just to parrot on about how much you love the project and no "pre-sale" with the intention of price-gouging his fans via maximum extraction. All Cel Mates required was a Twitter follow and turning notifications on. In the end, that freedom to pay attention and appreciate the art may have been what made more fans than anything else.