Hola Mona Crystal Lim

Audrey Lim first entered the metaverse last year when she decided to take action to alleviate the plight of Singapore’s music scene, which was devastated by Covid-19 due to restrictions on live performances. 

To provide musicians and technicians with a source of income, the gig musician, host and voiceover talent decided to launch Take Back The Nights, a virtual reality music festival set. To mimic the experience of roaming a festival ground, she and her team built a metaverse from scratch.

Take Back The Nights. Image: Audrey Lim

This year, she was roped in by a fellow creative to work with a collective of three artists – Shih Yun Yeo, Andy Yang and Alba Escayo – to launch Hola Mona, a series of NFT digital collectibles. 

The collection of 1,503 unique NFTs are based on a monkey caricature of the iconic Mona Lisa, with each Mona image comprising a one-of-a-kind computer generated combination of a background, mask or headgear, hair colour, robe design and make-up or body art. 

One of the biggest misconceptions that people have about getting involved in Web 3.0 projects, she says, is that you have to be an expert. Lim begs to differ. “You don’t need to be a digital wizard but you have to be willing to ask ‘silly questions’, make mistakes and learn from them,” says Lim. “Everyone initially started from zero.” 

She shares the lessons she learnt from dabbling in Web 3.0:

Digital art is not just for profile pics

Hola Mona
Hola Mona is a collection of 1,503 generated NFTs with original source material created by 3 award-winning, classically-trained fine artists. The NFTs have proof of ownership on the Solana blockchain. Image: Audrey Lim

Some collectors buy NFTs such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club for bragging rights, and to use them as their profile picture. But not all NFTs have to cater to this narrowly-defined group.

For example, Lim’s Hola Mona series was co-created by three established fine artists who have real world cachet, and are valued by collectors of physical art. 

She says, “Some NFTs are not valued for the quality of art but for intangibles, such as how large the community is or how they will provide additional utility for the owner.”

“Ours is a pure art NFT, which is quite a niche field. We wanted to lean into everyone’s strength as fine artists, and create a parody on how so many people are obsessed with being a collector or an artist.”

Understand the market

Knowing that traditional art collectors would be among their group of core collectors, the Hola Mona team took their NFT launch as an opportunity to introduce their clients to this brave new world.

“Our USP (unique selling point) is bringing Web 3.0 to art collectors who want something beautiful to collect,” says Lim. They held art exhibitions to showcase the Hola Mona images in real life and even set up concierge services to walk clients through the steps of setting up their digital wallets and minting an NFT.

Set an achievable goal

Audrey Lim.

As they say, lightning never strikes twice – so cast aside expectations that what you create will take over the world by storm overnight. 

Instead, as with any creative endeavour, set a realistic goal. With Take Back the Nights, Lim says, “A lot of people talked about building a virtual music festival, but nothing came out of it. I just wanted to build something that worked, and would provide the music industry with a way to continue performing.”

Real world issues manifest too

Take Back The Nights
Take Back The Nights. Image: Audrey Lim

In one of the first editions of Take Back The Nights, Lim noticed that as she explored the metaverse, another avatar she did not personally know would consistently “position himself right behind me”. 

She began to feel uncomfortable after she took a screenshot and noticed that “it looked kind of sexual”.

To prevent similar incidents from happening again, she and her team reprogrammed the metaverse so that avatars would float right through each other if they came too close. Problem solved.

Be willing to take a step back

Take Back The Nights. Image: Audrey Lim

Now that real life music festivals are back and “people are willing to fly to Coachella”, Lim has no qualms reconsidering what are the next steps for Take Back The Nights. For instance, the metaverse could be repurposed to cater to corporate events or for young children. 

“There are also underserved segments of society who could benefit from digital experiences so this is an area we could explore in the future,” she says. With Hola Mona, now that almost all 1,503 images have been minted, Lim is ready to move on to another project – though likely not another NFT for now.