A person looks at a piece during the March opening of Superchief Gallery NFT, a physical gallery … [+] dedicated to NFT art in NY.
AFP via Getty Images
Non-fungible Madonna? Ed Sheeran as an avatar? Twenty One Pilots traversing the metaverse?
Warner Music Group entered a global partnership with technology company Genies to create avatars and digital wearable NFTs for WMG artists. While musicians from Deadmau5 to Grimes to Shawn Mendes have dipped into the smoldering NFT trend, WMG’s deal marks the first time a major record company has entered the fray.
The move may be as defensive as it is forward-looking. NFTs have the potential to be big, if currently unstable, business. Indie artist and cryptocurrency proponent 3LAU scored $11.7 million on an NFT of his three-year-old album Ultraviolet. On the other hand, Kings of Leon recently released their latest album When You See Yourself as an NFT, the first band to do so for an entire album—to mediocre response.
As the NFT and blockchain market caught fire this winter, the labels have cautiously been eyeing the business as a long-term revenue earner as they sort their strategies to cash in on the action. Universal Music Group and Sony Music Group thus far are still sitting the fence.
With its new Genies partnership, WMG’s artists will now be able to “produce and distribute virtual beings that facilitate fan reach across immersive platforms and metaverses,” according to a statement.
Genies is a big name in the industry. It’s built avatars for artists including Justin Bieber, Mendes, Rihanna, Migos, Cardi B and J Balvin, and recently launched a 3D avatar and NFT SDK that enables creators to sell exclusive limited edition digital wearables such as clothing, accessories, and tattoos to accompany their fans’ Genies avatars.
Once a user creates a Genie, the Genie avatar can be immersed across social media platforms via Genies recent partnership with Giphy.
Genies also has a partnership with blockchain company Dapper Labs, the maker of the popular licensed collectibles NBA Top Shot, in which WMG is an investor. Through that arrangement, Warner Music Group artists and songwriters will be able to turn cultural moments and artistic endeavors into exclusive “Digital Wearables Drops” their fans can own and use on their Genie avatar.
“WMG is consistently focused on positioning its artists and songwriters at the forefront of the rapidly growing digital media ecosystem,” said Oana Ruxandra, WMG chief digital officer, in a statement. “As avatars and their customization become an increasingly relevant avenue for self-expression and merch generates diversified sources of revenue, WMG’s partnership with Genies will enable our artists and songwriters to tap into a new form of self-expression and audience reach.”
“Both music and avatars provide humans with the ability to fully express their authentic personalities. Cultural icons and figures are some of the most expressive people on earth and they should not be constrained by real world limitations. This partnership allows the leaders of culture to fully immerse themselves into the fantastical realm of the metaverse and build new, direct, and authentic connections with their respective followings and fanbases,” said Akash Nigam, CEO of Genies.
Other artists on the WMG roster include Anitta, Cher, David Guetta, Paramore, Linkin Park, Wiz Khalifa, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX.