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Universal Music Group forms ‘NFT supergroup’

Universal Music Group (UMG) is capitalising on two of the biggest trends of the last year – NFTs and the metaverse – with the formation of a new ‘NFT Supergroup’.

The multinational music cooperation is collaborating with collector Jimmy McNelis to convert four of his ape NFTs into a band called Kingship.

McNelis, an early buyer of Ethereum, acquired hundreds of ape NFTs from the creator of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, which gave anyone who bought one of the apes full commercial rights to use the image.

McNelis was later approached by Universal’s 10:22PM record label, a “next-gen Web3 label” which was set up by former Sony exec Celine Joshua.

Joshua pitched him on the idea of creating a new group and picked four characters that she thought would work as a band before signing the ‘metaverse group’ to the label.

10:22PM is now working with a team of crypto artists and animators to turn the two-dimensional apes into three-dimensional beings.

One of the band’s members, the golden ape, is currently valued at over $300,000 USD

One of the band’s members, the golden ape, is currently valued at over $300,000 USD. McNelis has a collection that he estimates is worth more than $100 million.

The company will record music for Kingship that it releases on streaming services and the band will perform and participate in video games, virtual-reality applications and across the constellation of digital experiences known as the metaverse.

Joshua and her team are going to create these characters stories’ from scratch. They will put together a marketing campaign to introduce the apes to potential fans, explain how they met and describe who they are. “It’s just like just like the way we introduce new artists to the world,” she told Bloomberg.

Kingship is just one of the ape-themed virtual bands to follow in the footsteps of Gorillaz, an English virtual band created in 1998 by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett.

US music producer Timbaland is also cashing in on the trend, starting new company Ape-In Productions that will also use Bored Ape Yacht Club characters to form a music group.

Timbaland’s group, named TheZoo, features six Bored Ape characters – such as Lincoln Aperaham and Safari Ferrari – and will release their first song ‘ApeSh!t’ on Wednesday, according to Variety.

 


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Criticism over Sir Lucian Grainge’s 2021 earnings

Music industry bodies, artists and MPs have hit out after it was reported that Universal Music Group (UMG) boss Sir Lucian Grainge’s 2021 earnings will exceed what all UK songwriters combined made from streams and sales of their music in 2019.

One-off cash bonuses totalling £123 million following UMG’s flotation on the stock market in September and the sale of an additional 10% stake in the company to China’s Tencent could see Grainge’s pay packet top £150m this year, according to the Guardian.

In comparison, government body the Intellectual Property Office calculated that UK composers and lyricists earned £150m in 2019 from streaming, downloads and sales.

Crispin Hunt, chair of songwriters’ association The Ivors Academy, slams the “imbalance” in remuneration as “just plain wrong”.

“Nobody’s against success being rewarded, but not if that success is at the expense of those who create the value,” says the former Longpigs frontman. “This is evidence of a business which is completely out of control. For songwriters who are struggling to make a living, there’s only one word for it – obscene.”

There is no other industry anywhere in the world that would tolerate this gross unfairness

Gomez musician Tom Gray, founder of the #BrokenRecord campaign, tweets: “To earn the same amount as the CEO of Universal this year, a solo artist on a standard contract would require 180,000,000,000 streams,” tweets musician Tom Gray, founder of the #BrokenRecord campaign. “That’s right, 180 billion! And people think it isn’t a #BrokenRecord industry.”

Musicians’ Union general Horace Trubridge adds: “To the best of my knowledge Sir Lucian has never played or written as much as a note of music. No one buys his records or queues for his gigs, yet he enjoys rewards and riches beyond the wildest dreams of even our most popular artists and writers.

“There is no other industry anywhere in the world that would tolerate this gross unfairness and it has to stop now.”

Grainge has not commented on criticism of his pay.

Earlier this year, the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) called for a “complete reset” of the market in its report into the economics of music streaming, following a wide-ranging inquiry.

It concluded that “comprehensive reform of legislation and further regulation is needed, not only to redress the balance for songwriters, performers and composers, but to tackle fundamental problems within the recorded music industry”.

Conservative MP Esther McVey says: “It’s shocking that record label owners are earning more out of artists’ works than the artists themselves”. Labour MP Jo Stevens, shadow secretary of state for DCMS, adds: “Artists get a pitiful amount while streaming sites and record companies cash in.”

Labour MP Kevin Brennan’s Copyright (Rights And Remuneration Of Musicians etc) Bill, which seeks to “create a new right to fair remuneration for musicians when their work is played on streaming platforms” will receive its second reading in parliament on 3 December.

 


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