An Interview With KPMG’s Brian Consolvo

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Tuesday, August 29th @ 11:36 AM

The following is an interview with Brian Consolvo, Principal–Technology Risk at KPMG. He is a co-author of KPMG’s new report “Bitcoin’s role in the ESG imperative” alongside KPMG’s Director of ESG and Climate Advisory Kirk-Patrick Caron. The report is a significant milestone in mainstream Bitcoin discourse, particularly on environmental grounds, and represents a point of convergence between pro-Bitcoin environmental advocates and a wider swath of the professional world involved in the ESG landscape.

For many years, Bitcoiners have taken issue with the narratives put forth by those with an unfavorable view of the technology, and have been frustrated with unfounded and hysterical claims from Bitcoin detractors on its environmental and social merits.

This interview covers the recent KPMG report and has been edited for concision and clarity. The views of co-author Brian Consolvo are his own and do not necessarily represent the perspective of KPMG.

Nichols: To kick things off, what was the impetus behind writing this report? Why did you decide to look at Bitcoin through an ESG lens, and was there anything specifically that prompted that?

Consolvo: If I just think back to the amount of time I’ve been in this space and seeing what some of the critics put forth about Bitcoin, and then going through my own journey with KPMG, who is obviously very big on ESG, you start going through each of the categories and come across a lot of the benefits that Bitcoin provides — both the asset and the technology. It’s interesting because a lot of people attack the energy consumption, which again is only one part of the ESG framework, but I think I’d never really seen anyone take a full attempt at explaining all the benefits that it provides across all three pillars.

The big impetus was the article that came out back in January-February by the New York Times that attacked Bitcoin’s energy consumption. I thought, “Hey this is a really good time for me to use my platform to document all the benefits, all the public good that Bitcoin does”. I sort of had a fundamental idea about what I was going to put in the paper, but as I started researching, I started coming across all these other things I had never even thought of. I think the paper did a pretty good job of showing how much good it does versus just the same kind of FUD we hear day in and day out.

Nichols: Why do you think there is so much FUD out there? Where and why does this FUD emanate, and what can we do to solve it?

Consolvo: For me, it comes down to education. Bitcoin is just such a complex topic. It’s not something that most people understand very well. When I go back to when I first started to research Bitcoin and do my own homework on it, it took me a while. It was kind of frustrating because you’re like: “What am I missing here? Why don’t I get this?”, because it’s just not foundational concepts that we’re all used to. It requires you to be open-minded to not just how Bitcoin works, but to understand what problems it’s actually solving. So then you start to understand how Bitcoin works, but before you can even go any further, you start having to research economics and you have to start being an expert in energy consumption and things like that. It’s just a very broad range of topics that Bitcoin starts to touch.

I think the report does a pretty good job of saying “Yes, Bitcoin does use a lot of energy, but I don’t think energy consumption is really the issue here”, and we need to really focus on the emissions behind that energy production. I would flip it around and ask somebody who’s a staunch Bitcoin critic: “If you’re concerned about the amount of energy that it’s using, if the world could snap its fingers and move to a fully sustainable energy mix, would you still attack the energy consumption?” I don’t think they would. So that’s why you have to really bring it back to the emissions, but then also look at the ways that it’s actually helping with the transition to more sustainable energy and the way it’s able to help monetize some of these projects.

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Nichols: You delineate between Scope One and Scope Two emissions as they relate to Bitcoin. Can you walk us through that? What is Bitcoin’s emissions profile and how do you contextualize the emissions Bitcoin is associated with?

Consolvo: People hear about all the environmental impacts of Bitcoin and we tried to make it clear in the paper: Scope One emissions are virtually zero for Bitcoin, it’s just using electricity.

It’s funny because, I guess society sees electric vehicles as zero-emission vehicles which for the most part, that’s relatively true — they’re not using combustion and gasoline etc., they’re running on electricity. Bitcoin is no different. Bitcoin runs off electricity. But, where the Scope Two emissions come from is: Where is that energy coming from? Is it coming from a power plant burning fossil fuels, or is it coming from a solar or wind farm? That’s where we try to make that distinction in the paper.

One of the things my ESG counterpart Kirk-Patrick Caron actually pointed out to me in the paper is that some bitcoin mining actually does have Scope One emissions. If you think about using flared gas, you’re using something that enters into the atmosphere at least to some degree. So I think behind the meter, mining does have some Scope One emissions, but by and large, the industry is primarily zero emissions as it relates to Scope One.

Nichols: I want to dig down a little bit more into the natural gas component of this. Your report mentions Crusoe Energy as well as Vespene. Can you describe what people are using this vented methane for and kind of what the potential of this might be in terms of reducing GHG emissions from a market-based mechanism? There’s pure incentive here, which I find fairly novel.

Consolvo: If you think about Crusoe Energy and their partnership with Exxon to co-locate around what they’re doing around the oil and gas wells — a company like Crusoe can co-locate next to them and rather than letting that methane enter the atmosphere directly, they convert it to energy use. So now you have a company like Exxon who not only is able to reduce the greenhouse gasses that they’re responsible for, but they’re able to monetize it.

So the question that I’m asking is: Why the hell isn’t every single oil and gas producer reaching out and partnering with bitcoin miners to do exactly that?

Some of it is just a matter of perception with some of these companies. But again, I think it goes back to education. Imagine being a big executive at some oil and gas producer and someone’s telling you, “Hey we need to partner with these bitcoin miners and here’s why”. You’re probably thinking, “Wait a minute. That sounds kind of crazy”, right? Especially given preconceived notions you might have about Bitcoin. But I think that is something that will likely change over time given the benefit that each party has.

Nichols: As far as how much landfill natural gas is out there, can you speak to that as far as the potential of Bitcoin to capture this? You do mention Vespene in the report, I would be curious for a bit more color there.

Consolvo: They were probably one of the truly unique use cases that I came across before doing the paper. They’re basically co-locating at landfills to use the methane that seeps out of those areas — I think landfills are one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases, so that’s another example that you could start to see a lot more adoption just given the benefits to both parties and what it can help do to your greenhouse gas emission profile.

Nichols: The last piece on the energy subject I’d like to go over is the grid management aspect of Bitcoin as far as demand response. You mention winter storm Uri in Texas as an example. Can you speak to the importance of balancing load on the grid and what role Bitcoin can play in that? Why is demand response important for the grid as we bring more renewable energy generation online?

Consolvo: I’m not an energy expert, but I think the long and short of it is when you have a public utility that’s generating power, they have to generate more power than they’re actually going to use, given the different fluctuations in demand throughout the day. It’s called a duck curve, where the amount of power that we use fluctuates throughout the day and it kind of looks like a duck when you map it out on a chart: Most power consumption takes place around the early evening when everyone’s getting home from work. Let’s say we get home from work at 6 p.m. Well, at 6 o’clock in December, the sun’s not shining, so you’re not really able to tap into solar energy. Wind supply can be a little bit more problematic, just given the lack of adequate predictability.

But what demand response does is, when certain events take place in this example, winter storm Uri — granted, there were some major issues that happened with the actual infrastructure that caused some of these things to happen. But miners are incentivized to shut off because the power starts to become too expensive. So they get beyond their breakeven point if they weren’t able to shut down or they didn’t shut down.

Well, now everyone’s paying a significant price for energy. There are some regulations on that so I’ll be careful with how far I go with this, but they’re basically able to balance the price and the economics of it all, because they can shut down at a moment’s notice, pretty much. And they’ll do that the minute the price to mine becomes too expensive. They’re able to give a lot of that power back to the grid when it actually needs it.

Nichols: What would your response be to someone who says “bitcoin mining is a waste of energy”? I think you’ve done a good job of showing the utility of bitcoin mining as far as grid management, emissions reductions and monetizing wasted renewable energy, but that could serve as a nice segway into the S and G parts of the ESG discussion.

Consolvo: The first thing I’d say nowadays is, “Hey, to each their own”. There are probably things I might feel that are a waste of energy for people too. How much time do people spend video gaming, right? I don’t have any issue with that, but that’s fine if you think it’s a waste of energy. Where I start to think there’s a problem is if policy is influenced based on whether or not you think your use of electricity is any more beneficial than mine.

If I want to mine bitcoin in my house, if I want to mine bitcoin at scale, like a large bitcoin miner, I’m paying for that energy just like you are. There shouldn’t be any stipulations or additional rules like this tax that’s been mentioned on miners. To me, that doesn’t seem like that’s a fair treatment. You’re entitled to your opinion, and I respect anyone’s opinion on whether or not they think it’s useful or not. But, I think to me, that’s ultimately what it comes down to.

Now to answer your second question in terms of the social aspect, I think we in Western society probably don’t have as much of a need for bitcoin as other countries, and I think that’s a really important part that we try to cover via the social aspect. Here in the United States, women can open bank accounts, women get paid, women have jobs. That doesn’t apply to every other country. The example we put in the paper was this was a way for them to have a job and have their value that they’ve created not stolen from them.

If you look at El Salvador, they are very dependent on international remittances. If you’re in El Salvador, a lot of these folks that might migrate to the United States send money back home.

Well, the money they send back home is probably going through a Western Union-type company that takes their cut. Again, I’ll point back to the paper but the amount of effort that they have to go through to get that money, I don’t see how you can’t think that bitcoin doesn’t solve a fundamental problem with the way these monetary rails are set up.

Nichols: To move on to the governance piece, you guys talk about the decentralization of Bitcoin, the incentives of miners, and the lack of single points of failure in the network. What value for society do you think that type of decentralization might offer?

Consolvo: The value that it solves is that there’s no one that can come in and abuse their power. If you just look around the world at the various governments that have certainly abused their power over the years, that’s a fundamental issue. The way the governance is built into the protocol — in the asset class in general — I think inherently solves for that issue. I don’t ever have to worry if someone’s gonna come in and freeze or seize my assets or if they’re gonna change the rules — say, to increase the 21-million supply — because it helps their objectives. They don’t have the ability to do that and I think that’s pretty powerful and it’s not something that we’ve ever seen before prior to Bitcoin.

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Nichols: For the last part of this, I want to set the stage for what the Bitcoin community should be doing when it comes to ESG — what is the importance of engaging with people who are ESG-minded for Bitcoin and Bitcoin companies? That also leads into why KPMG is looking at Bitcoin through the ESG lens.

Consolvo: This is an extremely important topic for a lot of companies, one of which is KPMG as well. When you think about these ESG proponents or ESG-minded people, it comes down to education. Many of these ESG proponents just think “oh, Bitcoin’s using way too much energy, that’s a problem, that’s not gonna fit into my portfolio” or whatever else they might be using bitcoin for. So I think it comes back to education again.

Nichols: What do you think integrating Bitcoin into the ESG conversation might yield? There’s obviously a lot of ESG funds investing in publicly traded companies. So what can bitcoin miners specifically do? I think that’s probably one of the largest sticking points here — what they can do to engage with that community to get them to see the importance of Bitcoin, for the reasons you just said.

Consolvo: I just really think it comes down to education. I think a lot of Bitcoin companies are doing it, but it’s making people aware of what value Bitcoin actually provides. It’s dispelling some of the myths and misconceptions about Bitcoin that are still out there today. But I do think that the body of people who kind of view Bitcoin as bad for the environment, used by criminals etc., is starting to dwindle. I think it’s never going to fully dwindle for probably as long as I’m here, but what they can do is just continue to make it known what purpose the miners solve other than just creating a secure protocol for a speculative asset. I think a lot of people view it that way. It’s a lot more than that.

Nichols: One thing that I think is not discussed enough in the environmental conversation around bitcoin is its finite supply. There’s a big conversation around climate change and how we discount the future costs of climate change back to the present. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on the difference in a discount rate on a bitcoin standard versus a fiat standard.

Consolvo: What I view that is very beneficial to Bitcoin is it really promotes saving and not consuming. I think we currently live in a consumption-based society and if you think about being a consumption-based society and the amount of money that we will print at various times in order to jumpstart the economy, that’s just creating consumption. If you’re an ESG proponent, I don’t see how you can have those two things relate to each other — they’re contradictory. If you’re going to be in a consumption-based economy, you’re going to use resources and you’re gonna have a huge impact on the environment, whereas bitcoin promotes saving, and if you’re saving, you’re not consuming. Therefore that to me seems like just a natural positive impact on the environment over a long period of time.

Nichols: Also, needing to exponentially grow GDP at a given percentage per year in an open-ended manner, that is simply not a possibility on a long-term time scale. So I think that’s something that has gone under the radar as far as the environmental and social consequences.

Consolvo: That’s spot on. You’re inherently going to be having a significant environmental impact based on consuming that much and by meeting these GDP targets or inflation targets, etc.

Nichols: Lastly, what has the response to your report been?

Consolvo: The response has been pretty overwhelmingly positive. I couldn’t have imagined the amount of outreach that I was going to get from this paper prior to doing it. I figured the Bitcoin community would be very pleased with it, and I even underestimated that. What I’m really curious about is, what about the naysayers? Did I present anything to them where they said to themselves, “You know what, I was wrong about this. I never realized that bitcoin can do this or do that. I never realized that there’s people in Afghanistan that have a huge need for it, or people in any of these countries with massive hyperinflation”.

So I mean, those are the people I’m curious to hear from.

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ZBD Launches Bitcoin Prize Pool For 1047 Games’ FPS ‘Splitgate’

ZBD, a New Jersey-based gaming technology company built on the Lightning Network, has announced a partnership with indie gaming studio 1047 Games to enable bitcoin payments for players of Splitgate, a free-to-play competitive first-person shooter (FPS). The two companies will activate a PC-based tournament, “The ZBD x Splitgate Winter Invitational,” for players beginning December 10. The winning team will receive a payout of 0.5 BTC (approx $18,000 dollars) instantly sent to the ZBD wallets of the winners.

1047’s Splitgate takes sci-fi elements, fast-paced gunplay and vertical mobility via portals to create a dynamic mutli-player environment balanced around movement, positioning and mechanics. The game originally launched in May 2019 and was touted as a competitor to games like Call of Duty and Fortnite. To date, it has received 18 million downloads, but has seen momentum slow down since 1047 ceased development on the title in September 2022, reportedly in favor of focusing on a new game from the studio.

Despite the slowdown, it appears 1047 is still exploring new ways of engaging its player base by using bitcoin Lightning payments to instantaneously settle its tournament payouts. While not a novel application necessarily, as ZBD itself has enabled bitcoin payments across 100+ games prior, this is a notable milestone for the gaming industry as it has generally been lost in the morass of Web3 vaporware. To see a thoughtfully-designed and truly competitive game integrate Bitcoin is indeed refreshing.

1047 CEO Ian Proulx expressed excitement for the partnership in a press release sent to Bitcoin Magazine: “We’re always excited to hear innovative solutions to reward our players, such as what ZBD has done, and the tournament that they plan to hold later this month.”

For a competitive FPS game in particular to find success with Bitcoin may lead other gaming studios of the popular genre to explore similar bitcoin-based incentives for player retention and in-game performance. Additionally, gamers are digitally-native and arguably primed to be Bitcoin-curious given that proclivity for the amount of time they spend online.

While Lightning payments are by no means widespread in the gaming industry, this foray by ZBD into a more competitive FPS arena could be a signpost that gaming studios are beginning to take a deeper look at integrating internet-native money into their player experience stack.

For anyone out there who likes clicking their opponents’ heads and wants a shot at some cold hard bitcoin, you can join the ZBD Splitgate tournament by registering on ZBD’s website.

Marathon Digital Holdings Launches Pilot Landfill Methane-Powered Bitcoin Mining Project

In a press release, Marathon Digital Holdings announced a partnership with Nodal Power, a renewable energy developer and operator, to launch a pilot project for mining bitcoin powered solely with energy derived from landfill methane. The already-active 280kW mining project is located in Utah and represents a step forward for the companies in implementing environmentally beneficial bitcoin mining technologies.

Marathon’s announcement comes after the release of a report co-published by Marathon and Bitcoin Magazine Pro: “Cashing in on Trash: Bitcoin Mining Offers an Economical Solution to Mitigating Landfill Methane Emissions” outlining the potential for bitcoin mining to profitably reduce methane emissions from landfills. According to the report, over 50% of U.S. landfills vent their methane emissions directly into the atmosphere, meaning they employ no greenhouse gas emissions mitigation solutions. This trend of vented methane represents both an environmental problem — methane emissions are 80x more potent in terms of the greenhouse effect compared to CO2 — but also an economic and energetic inefficiency, with massive quantities of the energy dense gas not being put to any use.

Ostensibly, bitcoin mining can change this calculus in a positive way.

“Do you want to pay to be compliant, or be paid to be compliant… if you’d rather be paid, you should look into bitcoin mining”, Marathon’s Chief Growth Officer Adam Swick said in an interview with Bitcoin Magazine on the topic of increasing federal methane regulation at U.S. landfills.

In a request for comment, Swick framed of the cost-benefit analysis for landfill owners, highlighting the emerging alignment between environmental health and the profit-seeking incentive of mining: “to any landfill owner, municipality, private or public entity that has a landfill and is struggling with what to do with their methane – we’d love to talk about how to improve economics at your site and my belief is that you’ll be highly impressed with what bitcoin mining can do for your landfill.” Swick went on to say that this “really is one of those rare win-wins” from both an ESG and capitalism perspective.

Daniel Batten, Co-Founder of CH4 Capital, a venture capital firm focused on methane mitigation (also cited in “Cashing in on Trash”) said the following of Marathon’s announcement: “Ever since [Fred] Thiel assumed the CEO role, Marathon has been consistently pioneering the use of recycled and renewable energy. First with its migration of 100MW to the King Mountain wind farm, and now with using greenhouse negative energy from landfills.” Batten has been a longtime advocate for landfill methane bitcoin mining, arguing that it has the potential to help the bitcoin network’s overall carbon footprint become carbon negative as early as December 2024.Charlie Schumacher, Marathon’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, emphasized that miners can serve as an important part of sustainable energy infrastructure: “I think what is starting to happen is people are realizing that bitcoin mining is actually a technology solution for the energy sector… if you think about it from the energy side, miners could be your first customer for a new generation project as it comes online. Bitcoin mining can also be the way that you could hit your ESG goals through [methane mitigation or heat recycling]… You can view these positive externalities that come off of mining as the primary use case for the customer, which is very exciting.”

This launch of the Utah pilot project and continued exploration of bitcoin mining’s ability to bolster environmental protection and critical energy infrastructure come at a time when discussions are ongoing with regards to data center energy use more generally, such as those engendered by the Biden Administration’s “Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence”.

While this 280kW implementation is a small step in rolling out landfill mining operations, Swick noted the potential magnitude of mitigating landfill methane through Bitcoin’s incentives: “People are just starting to wrap their heads around how big of an environmental impact this is because again, people hadn’t even considered these stranded landfills in the past because there was no other solution. So this can be bigger than people think.

Bitcoin Alpha Competition Winner Animus Technologies Awarded $1 Million In Seed Capital

In conclusion of the inaugural Bitcoin Alpha Competition, Samara Alpha Management and Bitcoin Magazine Pro selected Animus Technologies, a Los Angeles-based digital assets fund, as the victor in what was a “breakthrough moment” for the fund manager. As winner of the competition, Animus was awarded $1 million in seed capital and access to Samara Alpha’s institutional-grade infrastructure for managing their fund. Animus and their CEO Maxmilian Pace were recognized on-stage at the Bitcoin Amsterdam conference for their AI-based model for capturing alpha in the Bitcoin market and were hand-selected for their innovative approach amongst 150 other talented applicants.

Animus, which began six years ago at the University of Southern California, was the result of three close friends with a passion for Bitcoin and artificial intelligence who saw an opportunity in a nascent market using a toolset that was being underleveraged in the form of artificial intelligence. Their flagship model employs a long-only strategy that integrates real-time market sentiment data processed via AI to capture excess returns in the Bitcoin market.

Animus’s CEO Pace expressed that winning the Bitcoin Alpha Competition was “massive” for their operations, both in terms of the $1 million prize, but also due to Samara Alpha’s institutional-grade infrastructure and industry reputation:

“When running a fund, you need admin, tax and audit help, formation, so many things; being able to streamline that, from a cost-perspective, is amazing. It’s not exactly easy to pick the right service provider for those things, and that’s an additional barrier for emerging fund managers breaking into the space. Now, we can focus on what we’re best at, which is signal formation and creating value through research.”

In a request for comment, Samara Alpha Management’s Chief Risk Officer Roy Tse noted:

“Our partnership with Bitcoin Magazine on the Alpha manager search has been a tremendous success and we were impressed and pleasantly surprised by the number of innovative strategies we have seen. We are excited to provide $1mm in seed capital to the winners, Animus Technologies, and look forward to nurturing and helping their business grow.”

When asked why Animus uses Bitcon as a vehicle for generating returns rather than traditional assets, Pace opined that Bitcoin is “inherently speculative; it is inherently a psychology problem. The fact that narratives are impactful for individual trading behaviors means that those narratives then have a strong effect on the price and the story that underlies this asset. We’ve seen that this week with the [false] ETF news coming out. An ETF didn’t come out, it was just news about the ETF that moved the market sharply.” Ostensibly, their AI models for teasing apart that sentiment allows them to capitalize on these emotional bouts of volatility.

Pace also offered insight on the current state of Bitcoin market as it traded around $34,000 after the recent run-up in price:

“For the first time in a long time we are seeing greed become prevalent in the market, something we haven’t seen for the last 18 months at any point. If you look at the past 2 years, it’s been extremely bearish. I think the recent uptick in sentiment bodes extremely well going into the halving and everything that’s going to be built off the heels of the innovation we’ve seen in the bear market. There’s so much building that goes on during that then comes to light when the market turns around. Here’s what I’ll say: don’t be scared that we are up 50%. Zoom out. The reality is, it’s about time in the market when you’re dealing with an exponentially growing technology.”

As the Bitcoin industry seems to be awakening from the slumber of a grueling bear market, the innovators, die-hards and battle-hardened HODLers are excited to show off what they’ve accomplished in the meantime. Bitcoin Amsterdam was an opportunity for companies like Animus and Samara Alpha Management to connect and form relationships that will pay dividends long into the future.

Watch the Bitcoin Alpha award ceremony at Bitcoin Amsterdam by clicking here.

Rich Men North Of Richmond: A Bitcoin Anthem?

This is an opinion editorial by Spencer Nichols, Product Marketing Associate at Bitcoin Magazine and host of The Cosmic Bitcoin Podcast.

Folk music artist Oliver Anthony took the internet by storm with a video of his song “Rich Men North of Richmond,” recorded in the woods near his off-grid home in Virginia, and has created something resembling the Bitcoin song of the year. Anthony’s raw emotion and lamentation of the “new world” along with his observation that “the dollar ain’t shit” has certainly aided him in receiving accolades from the Bitcoin community.

It’s of course no coincidence that Bitcoiners gravitated toward this song given its criticism of “rich men North of Richmond” — glares at the Washington uni-party — but what I find most important is Anthony’s cathartic, grieving tone. In my opinion, those who recognize the decay of trust and our fiat-induced collective inability to make sense of the world, feel loss, anger and pain over what could have been, and disbelief over the current state of the world. Anthony’s blues-laden vocals capture this all-too-well:

“For people like me and people like you

“Wish I could just wake up and it not be true

“But it is, oh, it is”

Rather than a highly-produced, pop-adjacent and niche celebration of Bitcoin or Satoshi Nakamoto — a la Gramtik’s 2016 song “Satoshi Nakamoto” which lauds “buying whips with cryptocurrency” — Anthony has given the Bitcoin community something to latch onto that normal, everyday people can as well. A confluence that has been … less than common for Bitcoin culture. It’s worth noting that Anthony has captured an emotion that the Bitcoiner and blue collar disenfranchised can both appreciate without needing to have mutual understanding of cryptography, nodes or the appeal of permissionless money. It’s simply a message that speaks to the problems that both of these cohorts can easily recognize.

In sharp contrast to the cultural zeitgeist in Bitcoin post-2020 bull market, Anthony’s mashup of folk music and authentic Americana with a modern twist doesn’t feel contrived or built on bullishness and moonboy hype. I acknowledge this paints Bitcoiners with a broad brush, but the popularity of “Rich Men North of Richmond” goes to reflect that many outside of the Bitcoin community harbor convergent sentiments to our own: trust in this country has been broken, and “it’s a damn shame what the world’s gotten to.”

Of course, there are also parallels to CBDCs and digital panopticon fears that are palatable for Bitcoiners. Anthony writes, “These rich men north of Richmond. Lord knows they all just want to have total control. Wanna know what you think. Wanna know what you do.”

Is This Truly A Bitcoin Song?

I think it is important to note that while this song has been well-received by Bitcoiners, in part due to their typically right-leaning, anti-authoritarian political affiliations, we must be careful not to call this a Bitcoin song, per se, and not use this as a type of “blue collar-washing.” While Bitcoin is certainly a useful tool for the economically disaffected given its roots in the Great Financial Crisis/Occupy Wall Street movement, it would be disingenuous to hold Anthony up as representative of Bitcoiners, given the tech-forward financialization of Bitcoin and the looming entry of market participants like BlackRock and others of their ilk that stand to benefit.

Anthony’s music has certainly found a fanbase in Bitcoin circles and for good reason, and perhaps this can serve as a useful signpost to create more bridges between the Bitcoin community and those further afield. But I do not think it would be fair to claim Anthony or a caricature of the culture he represents (struggling men from Appalachia) as representative of Bitcoin. This is for two reasons: 1) to not portray Bitcoin’s cultural movement as something it isn’t, and 2) to not allow Bitcoin influences from Wall Street, Silicon Valley and elsewhere to use his aesthetic and appeal as an expedient facade.

I found Anthony’s song incredibly moving, and was very happy to hear his point-blank criticism of the dollar resonate with so many people. Admittedly his political ideology (as far as it is expressed) appeals to my own, but I don’t think it genuine to hold Anthony or his song up as being a Bitcoin anthem. As much as I’d like to LARP as a folksy mountain man with hard-earned grievances — shoutout my fellow Bay Area millennials — I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t think too many Bitcoiners are blue collar mountain men, either. I think we should be careful not to use Anthony or his message as a means of achieving our own interests, but we can still appreciate his music and message for what they are.

“Rich Men North of Richmond” has definitely struck a chord. Its rawness, seeming lack of commercialization and folksy nature have appeal for good reason in comparison to the popular music of “fiat land” today. Its alignment with many ideals in Bitcoin are not an anomaly, but its popularity amongst Bitcoiners may belie a desire to paint Bitcoin as something of a populist movement of impoverished, blue collar folks. I’d posit that, on average, this is not currently true for Bitcoin.

Those caveats aside, this song might help us understand how to break outside the echo chamber of market watchers, number-go-up maxis and techno-libertarians. There’s certainly an important lesson here in showing how divergent the typical Bitcoin elevator pitch is from what evidently has actual mass appeal. While we can debate whether “mass adoption” is really the game to be playing, for the sake of argument let’s assume that is indeed our aim. Thus, this should serve as an important data point for how to tailor our messaging.

This is clearly an important song and cultural moment, but it is not a Bitcoin anthem no matter how much we wish it were. Kudos to Anthony for his newfound success and for illuminating an important discussion through his art.

This is a guest post by Spencer Nichols. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.