Why Are We Developing Virtual Performers and Not Artists?

In Beats + Bytes by Nue Agency

Every time I turn around, I see another story about “robots” taking over the music business.

I usually look to Asia to see where trends are going. So it’s wild seeing Japan, Korea, and China all very focused on creating virtual stars.

This week, Sony Japan announced the launch of the largest virtual talent development and management project in history.

And, of course, the talk of the town is Capitol Records’ signing of AI-guided, virtual rapper, FN Meka. His single “Florida Water” was shooting up the charts, already amassing a million streams, before intense blowback regarding Meka’s use of the n-word — despite his being created by white executives — tanked the project. Yesterday, the “artist” was “dropped” from the label.

Grand opening, grand closing.

Clearly, labels are interested in these experiments because of how easily they can gain traction. I mean…these virtual artists are getting endorsement deals, too. Pac Sun (whose creative director is A$AP Rocky) just announced a campaign with digital influencer, Lil Miquela – the brainchild of FWB’s Trevor McFedries – to be the face of their new campaign.

As you know, at Nue, we are big believers in the galaxy of metaverses that are being built. And I’m an even bigger believer in the power of Web3 and how it will revolutionize the culture of the world wide web. I also realize this is nothing new. In many ways, the music business pioneered the virtual persona with stars like Daft Punk & The Gorillaz.

And who could forget hologram 2Pac?! We’ve all tried 😉

I realize it’s the dawn of a new day. But when these are the only stories of the week, combined with a growing narrative of new music struggling to break through, there is an issue. It’s beginning to feel like overcorrection and it might be time for the pendulum to swing back toward artist development. New artists are the lifeblood of this industry. Is it easier today to profit off of a virtual artist, one you can send to an online meet and greet with a click? Maybe. But I don’t think that’s what we want the future of our industry to look like.

I understand more than most the power of livestreams, but this feels like short-term thinking. The metaverse and internet are tools to connect people. And people are what connect.

New artists need love and attention too. What new artists are you rocking with?

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Also published on Medium.