Universal Music Group Dives Into Metaverse With Celeb Avatars

Universal Music Group is diving head-first into the metaverse with avatars based off of singers. What does the deal with avatar creator Genies entail?

Rachel Curry - Author

Dec. 15 2021, Published 10:25 a.m. ET

Universal Music Group logo and Genies avatars
Source: Universal Music Group Twitter, Genies Twitter

Some companies are going all-in on the metaverse, and Universal Music Group is one of them. Despite the fact that UMG failed to go public in the U.S. via Bill Ackman's controversial SPAC earlier this year, the record label has other things on its mind—namely, its partnership with avatar creator Genies and launching celebrity musician avatars into the metaverse.

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UMG aims to deliver multi-purpose avatars that can gain value by wearing NFT outfits and add depth to a still-surface-level metaverse. Here's what that means and how the idea will develop in the real digital world.

Universal Music Group partners with Genies to create virtual celebrity identities.

umg lil huddy avatar
Source: Getty

Genies avatar of Lil' Huddy

UMG announced that it's partnering with Genies to create virtual identities for celebrity musicians under UMG's label. The roster ranges from the highest A-list artists like Justin Bieber and Rihanna to mid-level names like Lil' Huddy.

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Genies started making avatars for some of UMG's artists earlier this year, but UMG wanted to make the partnership official. Now, many more artists under the UMG label will secure their own virtual identities.

Where will the celebrity avatars live?

It's one thing to create a metaverse-ready avatar. It's another thing to have them function in the digital world. Virtual worlds like Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox already operate, but platforms from Meta and more are still en route.

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For example, Nike developed a virtual store within the Roblox world where users can purchase digital goods.

As the metaverse expands, it's poised to go beyond the gaming space. The UMG avatars are likely to inhabit different spaces, including potentially digital concerts, as the landscape develops.

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Genies has an upcoming NFT platform.

UMG's artist avatars will sport digital clothing that can be bought and sold via NFTs.

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NFTs are tied to the blockchain (usually the Ethereum network) via smart contracts, which turns the digital good into a collectible asset whose value can potentially increase.

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Nowadays, NFT success stories can feel like they're a dime a dozen. Someone just sold a Cryptopunk—the OG NFT—for $10.2 million, which makes it the most expensive on-chain sale yet. (An on-chain NFT is one in which the artwork and metadata are stored on the blockchain, which is more secure than storing the content off-chain, or off the blockchain.)

UMG artist avatars are a follow up to virtual band.

In November, UMG announced a virtual four-piece band made up of characters from the collection of Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs.

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The band, called Kingship, "has been incredibly fun and imaginative," according to Celine Joshua, the founder of Web 3.0 digital music label 10:22PM.

Kingship isn't the first to do this—just look at the Gorillaz, who spent their entire career flying under the radar behind a guise of monkey avatars (even during the band's infamous MTV Cribs episode that showed digital avatars giving a tour of an equally virtual music studio). Still, music executives are taking that inspiration and running with it into the metaverse.


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