Last week, the music industry made two big swings with non-fungible tokens (NFTs). Both Universal Music Group and Timbaland’s new company Ape-In Productions have each started new music groups comprised of cartoon ape characters from the Bored Ape Yacht Club digital art collective. UMG’s group is called KINGSHIP, and Timbaland’s group is TheZoo.
The metaverse in music. The Bored Ape Yacht Club has been one of the most successful NFT projects yet. The collection of 10,000 digital art tokens have generated around $1 billion and minted several new millionaires. Lil’ Baby, Stephen Curry, and others have all changed their social media avatars to the apes. It’s the new online flex.
These musician-based cartoon ape NFTs combine the status of digital art and the exclusivity of fandom. Timbaland plans to offer token owners access to merch, events, concerts in digital environments, and more.
Times are changing fast. Virtual ape bands aren’t new. Groups like Gorillaz paved the way in the early 2000s. What’s new today though, is the metaverse and NFTs.
Fans of TheZoo or KINGSHIP can likely buy NFTs for the whole group, specific band members, songs, albums, or other projects. They can display those NFTs on social profiles, the same way they would display vinyls, posters, or other signs of ownership. They can also gain a stake in the upside if the artist rises.
In the metaverse, these artists can host their own events, similar to the concerts hosted in Fortnite and other digital environments.
But metaverse or not, the music still needs to be good! Gorillaz had big hits like “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc.” You already know Timbaland’s new group will have its production on point, but will the lead voices behind the ape avatars be actual people, like Gorillaz? Or will the group’s singing and rapping voice be computer-generated, like brud’s Lil’ Miquela, the virtual influencer, or TravisBott, the A.I. creation meant to replicate the “Sicko Mode” artist.
TravisBott was still a work in progress, but A.I.-based music will become even more realistic. Soon, it will be harder to tell if the voice behind a Bored Ape is real or A.I. If you thought the Tom Cruise deepfake was too close for comfort, it’s gonna get wilder.
Listen, shit’s changing fast. It may still take time for these movements to reach the masses. But if Steve Harvey is out here tweeting “gm“—the unofficial greeting among web3 enthusiasts — then it may be here before we know it.
Read more about Bored Ape Yacht Club in its Rolling Stone interview with Samantha Hissong.