Universal Music Group (UMG.AS) is leveraging the popularity of non-fungible tokens (NFT) by appointing one of the digital collectibles’ most popular cartoon apes to manage an entirely virtual music group. On Friday, Universal’s 10:22 PM label announced that it paid $360,817 for Bored Ape #5537, a female character now known as Manager Not All, to oversee the Kingship group it formed in November.
Kingship, which will only exist in digital form, will have its website and Discord presence and will eventually compose new music and give virtual performances in the metaverse, a broad word for a realm where the physical and digital worlds collide. All of the band members, like Manager Not All, are NFTs – three Bored Apes and a Mutant Ape on loan from collector Jim McNelis. “For it to become part of culture, I think that would be an amazing thing,” said McNelis.
The concept of forming virtual bands out of digital characters isn’t new. On Warner Music Group’s (WMG.O) Parlophone label, Gorillaz, a virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and comic artist Jamie Hewlett, released seven albums. Hatsune Miku, a Japanese pop star, is a hologram. Universal’s 10:22 PM label sought for one of the most well-known NFT collections on the blockchain, the Bored Ape Yacht Club, which consists of 10,000 anthropomorphic apes, each with their dress, fur, and expressions, for Kingship. Bored Apes has become a status symbol for celebrities, with investors like Jimmy Fallon of “The Tonight Show,” Justin Bieber of Justin Bieber, Steph Curry of the NBA, and Mark Cuban of the billionaire investor Mark Cuban.
Kingship allows Universal Music to learn how to build characters and storylines that elicit interest in the metaverse. “It’s about understanding the ethos of the space,” said Celine Joshua, the creator of 10:22 PM, whose label serves as a testing ground for new types of entertainment.