A new cryptocurrency targeting fans of teen boy band TFBoys took Chinese social media by storm over the weekend, but the pop trio’s agency has denied having any affiliation with the project.
The online currency, TFBC, is billed as “the world’s first blockchain-based fandom token.” According to its official website, TFBC will be used to buy, sell, and trade concert tickets, merchandise, and meet-and-greet access from participating vendors in a way that’s secure and transparent — and that cuts out opportunistic scalpers.
Blockchain is the technology behind the open-ledger transaction system used by online currencies like bitcoin and Ether. “Based on Ethereum [the network on which Ether is generated], TFBC is guaranteed to last forever on the internet,” reads text on the homepage. “The fan’s possession of it will be permanently recorded, too — and indelible for ages to come.”
But shortly after TFBC began attracting attention, Time Fengjun Entertainment, the pop group’s agency, issued a statement on Saturday saying that neither it nor TFBoys had given authorization for a product called “TFBC.” Furthermore, the agency wrote, those behind the TFBoys-themed cryptocurrency are likely engaging in unlawful profiteering.
In China, creating new cryptocurrencies (termed “initial coin offerings”) has been prohibited since Sept. 4 on the grounds that such activity “severely disrupts economic and financial order” because it can easily be packaged in the form of scams, illegal financing, or pyramid schemes.
On the TFBC homepage, however, is a disclaimer saying that the currency has no direct relationship with TFBoys or their agency, and that Chinese citizens are not eligible to purchase TFBC.
For everyone else though, the website is giving away 10,000 TFBC for free each day for 30 days, while fans who wish to buy more can do so at a price of 1 Ether (roughly $790) for 3,000 TFBC — while supplies last.
According to the TFBC website, there are a finite number of the coins: 59,993,157, the sum of the three boys’ birth dates (19990921, 20001108, and 20001128). By Sunday evening, around 4 million of the nearly 60 million TFBC had been gifted to or purchased by some 18,300 fans.
That doesn’t leave many left, considering the TFBC website also says it has reserved 60 percent of the coins for the three TFBoys, in the hope that they will distribute them to fans, build up the TFBC brand, and give both the coins and themselves a higher market value.
But in its statement, Time Fengjun Entertainment called this hogwash. “It’s pure rumor that the three members of TFBoys have received 60 percent,” the agency wrote. “We hope the public and the multitudes of fans will stay alert to this and avoid being scammed, and unnecessarily incurring emotional damage or financial losses.”
Since their debut in 2013, TFBoys have achieved a tremendous degree of popularity, both in China and abroad. The group — consisting of “little fresh meats” Wang Junkai, Wang Yuan (no relation), and Yi Yangqianxi — now has over 130 million followers on Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging platform.
To fans, it’s a risk to trust in an entity that doesn’t have solid ties to TFBoys. “As far as [consumer] protections are concerned,” asked pop idol investor Chen Yuetian on Weibo, “how can they guarantee the authenticity of their products and services?”
Some industry experts, meanwhile, see the advent of specialized cryptocurrencies like TFBC as the first step to applying blockchain to online fandom. “The scenario of using some sort of token for membership within a fan community has been imagined before, when people saw Ethereum’s smart contract,” Hong Hao, a researcher at Wanxiang Blockchain Labs, a research and development group in Shanghai, told Sixth Tone. “As a proof of membership system, it’s very practical.”
Given how influential TFBoys is today, a product like TFBC could do wonders to promote both the music group and blockchain itself, Hong said.
Beyond cryptocurrencies — the field with which it is most commonly associated — the technology is seeing a wide range of innovative applications. Chinese internet company Baidu, for example, will soon release “Laici Gou,” a blockchain dog-collecting game that bears an uncanny resemblance to a Canadian competitor called “CryptoKitties.”
Correction: A previous version of this story said that two-thirds of the nearly 60 million TFBC had already been gifted to fans. This was the amount gifted to or purchased by fans plus the amount reserved for the TFBoys.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: A promotional photo for TFBoys. From the group’s official Weibo account)