Less than 10% of the world’s population owns crypto, leaving tremendous room for market growth. Most people who have heard of cryptocurrencies haven’t yet invested a penny.
Even in the world of celebrities and athletes, most have ignored the digital economy despite having funds to spare (although there is a quickly growing group of NBA players who are heavily invested in NFTs).
Initially, the crypto craze was solely driven by a small group of enthusiasts, mainly people involved in computer science and programming. Due to the complex technical nature of cryptocurrency, the fundamentals are not understandable to most.
The anonymous inventor of Bitcoin only contacted a group of computer scientists, who took it upon themselves to install the first Bitcoin nodes in early 2009. Over time, as the Bitcoin network spread and became popular, millions of people learned about the new technology. Starting in 2012, with Coinbase, buying Bitcoin became easier and people entered the market by the thousands.
It was then when the price surge began. In 2017, Bitcoin made headlines around the world after prices reached a record $20,000 USD. Previously, most people were either completely unaware of the existence of crypto or thought it was a well-organized scam. The price surge meant that there was enough legitimate interest in the alternative asset.
The steady rise in price and some technical difficulties prompted most crypto holders to either hold or trade in exchanges. But crypto was initially intended as an exchange currency for peer-to-peer trading and payments.
Cryptocurrency is one of the few things to which celebrities and influencers have been latecomers. Usually, they are the ones who set the tone, but it took until 2017 for some celebrities to start posting on social media about the coins they were interested in, mainly Bitcoin and Ethereum.
Elon Musk has been the most influential of them all. Loved by some and hated by others, Mr. Musk's famous tweets can send the market into overdrive at times. Myke Tyson, Jack Dorsey, Ashton Kutcher, Leo Messi, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dog, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kanye West, Marc Cuban and others make up the list of celebrities who have demonstrated significant interest in cryptocurrency, and many of them NFTs, as well.
Some celebrities, including Messi, Ronaldo, Okung and 50 Cent, have received payments directly in crypto. Mel B was the first artist to collect royalties in Bitcoin. 50 Cent was paid 700 Bitcoin in album sales in 2014, worth $40 million USD at current prices.
New stars jump on the bandwagon every month, some of them converting earnings to Bitcoin or participating in NFT auctions. Paris Hilton, Grimes, Shawn Mendes, Jack Dorsey, and Lindsay Lohan have broken records in NFT auctions.
There is controversy in the cryptosphere as to whether or not celebrity involvement benefits the crypto community, but the effects so far have been positive in terms of influencing growth among those who are not currently cryptocurrency users.
As of 2021, many companies have started to offer employees the possibility of receiving salaries in crypto. Payment processors have implemented crypto payments for products and services. In addition, several personalities are already receiving their earnings in cryptocurrency and trading NFTs.
Currently, the majority of companies offering cryptocurrency salaries are related to crypto and tech. Binance, GMO Group, Spot.IM, SC5, Fairlay, Purse.io, and Bitwage are some of the best-known examples, and many other companies are likely to soon follow.
Crypto payment tools often offer the option to receive all or part of the salary in fiat or crypto and make conversions within the platform—one can withdraw funds in fiat to pay for expenses while keeping savings in cryptocurrencies.
Among other benefits, crypto salaries create a trendy company image that attracts applicants and those who want to be invested in the digital economy for the long term. Another significant benefit that some have noted is that getting paid in crypto means that, for jurisdictions (like the United States) that see conversions of fiat into crypto as “taxable events”, there is no taxable event for a conversion for the employee since they are receiving the asset itself (which itself is still taxable). Possible drawbacks include, of course, the extreme volatility of most cryptocurrencies and the possibility of a prolonged bear market with low liquidity.
Although cryptocurrencies remain minimally used for payments today, real-life uses of the technology are becoming common and crypto salaries are likely to become more popular as the market evolves and prices stabilize.