UMG Signs Big Lots Gorillaz Knockoff

Casimir Stone
November 18, 2021

The last thing I want to talk about is Bored Ape Yacht Club again. But considering that I get paid to write about art and crypto, and that they just got signed by fucking Universal Music Group, it is now journalistically irresponsible to ignore them. 

So what does it mean for an NFT to land a record deal? My initial take would be that the alien species running the simulation likes to play with its food before it eats, like a cat toying with mice before it chomps into their brain. Then, the pragmatist in me conquers the doomsday prophet, and I remember one of the key features of BAYC: owners have complete freedom to license and profit off their avatars. And now that ape owners include Lil Baby, Jimmy Fallon, and Mark Cuban, big media is biting.

UMG signed a metaverse musical act of four virtual ape avatars (think: Gorillaz, but bad) to be managed by the same guy as Snoop Dogg. Meanwhile, Timbaland announced his own metaverse company, Ape-In Productions, producing not one, but two BAYC acts. Jenkins The Valet, an ape with its own backstory, is represented by Creative Artists Agency, promoting a forthcoming book on BAYC lore crowdsourced by NFT holders and co-written by Neil Strauss. And the business behind BAYC, Yuga Labs, recently landed a production deal with Madonna and U2’s Guy. 

These announcements emerged in the wake of a brave writer going undercover in the Bored Ape Yacht Club pop-up shop line at NFT.NYC. The piece, published in Input Magazine, delivers some Gonzo journalism worthy of Hunter Thompson — if, instead of bucket hats and gratuitous drug use, he was addicted to fedoras and JPEGs.

A standout passage from said piece: ‘The investment is not just in the artwork, but in membership to a club — one skewing white, male, and young — that grants access to worlds that otherwise might seem unattainable. “It’s like an adrenaline rush, to be where the culture is going,” [one such ape-holding young white male] says.’ 

Deafening irony aside, to this self-selecting sample, it makes sense that standing in line to drop $800 on a black hoodie for the sole purpose of signaling your allegiance to an in-group of its own making is synonymous with ‘where the culture is going.’ Personally, I suspect that, in the grand scheme of history, BAYC will go down in the footnotes as a flash pan phenomenon and early example of metaverse intersection with reality — a mile marker in a changing culture, not a destination. Then again, the ConstitutionDAO I doubted two days ago raised over $30m more in the interim. They may very well wind up writing the history books themselves. So who am I to say?

Either way, there is real institutional enthusiasm, fundraising power, and piles of money being thrown around in this space. Will it all go to waste on schemes of the pyramid and Ponzi varieties? More on that later. But to the right-click-savers among us, just remember: it doesn’t matter how silly all this seems. We’re always at risk of deep impact when white people with money get excited about something. 

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