For Universal’s NFT Band, Music Is Second to Brand Identity

On Thursday, Universal Music Group (UMG) announced it had signed Kingship – not a musician, however a set of 4 anthropomorphic non-fungible tokens (NFT).

Billed as a “metaverse group,” Kingship is a partnership between UMG and the NFT investor Jimmy McNelis, who owns the 4 tokens in query. Conceptually, it’s just a little like Gorillaz, the “digital band” created by digital musician Damon Albarn within the late Nineties. Each picture comes together with its personal fabricated backstory.

The distinction is that the place Gorillaz was the brainchild of a musician, Kingship is usually only a model partnership. Even for those who didn’t care concerning the schtick (the detailed lore, the Gorillaz-branded online games), you can at the least assess the music by itself phrases. So far, Kingship seems to be all schtick.

Read extra: The Social (Token) Network: Rally, Friends With Benefits and the Future of Branding

Three of Kingship’s tokens (members?) come from Bored Ape Yacht Club, one in every of as we speak’s priciest NFT collections. The tokens begin at round $150,000, however some have offered for figures within the hundreds of thousands. The fourth – a grotesque, zombified tackle a cartoon ape – comes from a spin-off assortment known as Mutant Ape Yacht Club. All 4 are nonetheless banked in one of McNelis’ personal Ethereum wallets, as opposed to with UMG.

The UMG subdivision behind this endeavor is 10:22 PM, which characterizes itself as a “next-gen Web 3 label.” Founded in 2018, the label was initially meant as a house for influencers (different signees embrace Chantal Jeffries and former Vine star Lele Pons). Kingship marks its first foray into crypto.

“There’s a cause why the person apes and mutants had been picked,” stated 10:22 PM founder Celine Joshua. “You’re going to see the personalities, the characters, they’re going to come to life as 3D. It’ll be virtually like the way in which Marvel seems at [its] vault and IP [intellectual property] and begins to storytell.”

That storytelling course of doesn’t truly contain music, for now. Joshua defined that whereas Kingship is, the truth is, an official UMG signee, the plan is to give audiences a style of the IP first – the tales and worldbuilding behind the 4 characters – earlier than any music comes into play.

Read extra: The Bored Ape Founders Haven’t Yet Joined the Yacht Club

“Before you even hear a single notice, you’re gonna know what they eat for breakfast,” she stated.

And for those who’re among the many fortunate few who truly personal a Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT, you’ll get “early entry to every little thing [Kingship does].” That might embrace the music itself, but in addition potential NFT drops and metaverse live performance experiences.

A standard critique of crypto is that it exacerbates wealth inequality – holders of particular tokens is likely to be granted early or unique entry to by-product NFT tasks. In this context, a helpful NFT can primarily be a license to print extra money. Mutant Apes, the most cost effective of which now goes for about $20,000, had been a free present to Bored Ape house owners.

Still, Joshua insists Kingship isn’t about selling exclusivity: “When Bored Ape Yacht Club began, they simply minted it. The group and the worth of it in fact elevated the ground value. This is identical factor right here, we’re not going to do something completely different. It’s going to be concerning the plenty, and ensuring that anybody who’s a fan might have one.”

But speculating on NFTs isn’t concerning the plenty, actually – at the least not but. Fees (particularly on the Ethereum blockchain) may be prohibitively costly, and the bro tradition round NFTs may be alienating for newcomers.

In an inversion of the standard main label A&R mannequin, Joshua and McNelis are betting on reaching a wider viewers via world-building alone. The closest analogue might be “Jenkins the Valet” – a model constructed round an invented persona for one of many Bored Apes – which proved there’s a marketplace for this type of factor. “Jenkins” has launched its personal spin-off NFT assortment, and just lately signed with Creative Artists Agency.

Kingship might symbolize one other function within the expanded universe of Bored Ape content material. Why shouldn’t a world with an ape valet additionally accommodate an ape band?

Joshua added: “We’re going to be talking to audiences the place this will probably be their first entry into NFTs, as a result of we all know that music bridges the educational curve concerned with tech and format modifications in our enterprise.”

Maybe. Whether Kingship’s area of interest try at world-building can accomplish that’s one other query.

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