Virtual avatars are taking the mic in the music industry

·3-min read
Four avatars from the Bored Ape Yacht Club -- including a mutant monkey and another with golden fur -- were chosen to form KINGSHIP.

The jaded monkeys of the Bored Ape Yacht Club certainly aren't lacking in ambition. After conquering the world of NFTs, the collective has teamed up with the label 10:22PM to form their own band. The group is composed of four of the 10,000 avatars that constitute the Bored Ape Yacht Club. And they're not the only ones in the music industry betting on virtual artists.

This new-style music group, called KINGSHIP, was recently launched by 10:22PM founder Celine Joshua, whose aim is to create the first "metaverse band." She partnered with Jimmy McNeils, an avid NFT collector and owner of several avatars from the Bored Ape Yacht Club . Four of them, including a mutant monkey and another with golden fur, were chosen to form KINGSHIP.

Although the band is made up of fictional characters, Celine Joshua says each member has "their own story and personality." "Just as we would with any artist or creator, my team and I will work with KINGSHIP to sharpen their vision and develop their unique sound," she adds in a statement.

While the label has yet to share any of the band's tracks, it predicts a bright future for the group, including merchandise in the form of NFTs, but also events staged in the metaverse -- that parallel digital world that so fascinates Mark Zuckerberg. "I started 10:22PM to push the boundaries of innovation in the music industry and with KINGSHIP, we're literally inventing what's possible in real time," says Celine Joshua.

Virtual influencers take the mic

The record company, which belongs to the Universal Music Group, isn't the only one investing in virtual avatars. While big names in music like Björk and Gorillaz have long seen the potential of these digital alter egos, some go as far as to say that the stars of tomorrow won't necessarily need to exist in the flesh to break into the industry. Such is the case of Whet Records, the new Warner Music label specialized in pan-Asian EDM. Its latest recruit is none other than HAJIANG, a virtual influencer who's particularly popular in China.

According to Jonathan Serbin, co-president of Warner Music Asia, the influencer's move into music is a natural next step in her career. "There's a deep connection between Ha Jiang and her growing and very passionate fan-base. We're going to pair her with some amazing songwriters and producers and make some impactful music that will introduce her to a whole new audience," he told Music Business Worldwide.

The future of popstardom?

The virtual group NPC has relied on the talents of the Canadian singer Grimes and the British DJ Chris Lake for its first track, "A Drug From God." It features the five members of the virtual band: Oxytocin, Cortisol, Adrenaline, Dopamine and Tomorrow. The girl band is inspired by the themes explored by Grimes in her last two albums, "Art Angels" and "Miss Anthropocene," such as the role of new technologies in society.

But that's not all. "NPC can do all the things humans cannot," explains the band's news release. "NPC will eventually be playable, customizable, and able to cater to each individual listener's unique desires. Decentralized Popstardom. Made, not Born." But to make this happen, the group will first have to win over listeners to find its fan base.

Caroline Drzewinski

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