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Legendary hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings is the latest to try its hand at creating a musical act built around NFT avatars, today announcing a collaboration with Solana-based project Catalina Whale Mixer to create a virtual band.
Called The Whales, the virtual band will pair colorful whale avatars from the Solana profile picture (PFP) collection with music from what the companies claim will be “an all-star cast” of musicians and producers. Those collaborators have yet to be announced.
It’s similar in approach to Kingship, a virtual band made up of Bored Ape Yacht Club avatars turned into band members, with plans to release music across the metaverse. Kingship comes from 10:22PM, a Web3-centric sub-label under the major music label Universal Music Group (UMG), and Def Jam also falls under the UMG umbrella.
WAGMI Beach, the studio behind Catalina Whale Mixer, was founded by music industry veterans, and pros will shape The Whales’ tunes. But WAGMI Beach CEO Carlo Fox said Whale NFT holders would help shape the project and can potentially have their owned NFT avatars become part of the band through an upcoming audition process.
“Instead of it just being like four guys in their garage that are deciding what it is, it's like this community of all these people determining the direction that it goes,” Fox told Decrypt.
Kingship ultimately tapped Grammy-winning hitmakers Chauncey “Hit-Boy” Hollis and James Fauntleroy to create its music. However, unlike Kingship—which wasn’t developed with Bored Ape Yacht Club creator Yuga Labs and solely used the IP commercialization rights afforded to all Bored Ape NFT holders—The original NFT project creator facilitated The Whales.
Fox said this approach lets all Catalina Whale Mixer holders potentially have a say in some aspect of the project. His team’s entertainment industry experience puts it in a position to “tee up these opportunities for our community.”
Expect upbeat, energetic music from The Whales, as Fox cited inspirations like popular non-NFT virtual band Gorillaz and veteran musician and producer Pharrell Williams (who’s involved with the Doodles NFT project). Benjamin Willis, another WAGMI Beach co-founder, said the working album title is “A Compilation of Vibes.”
“It’s not depressing, it’s not dark,” Willis explained. “It’s aspirational, it’s fun—you can dance to it, you can party to it. That’s kind of the idea.”
Def Jam and WAGMI Beach aim to roll out the first music from The Whales this summer, with plans to release tunes through traditional channels and as collectible music NFTs. Likewise, they’re planning performances through real-world concerts and festivals and digital metaverse worlds.
Willis said the deal was in the works for months and that there “were a lot of hoops to jump through” to pair the traditional record label with a Web3 upstart. Ultimately, however, the WAGMI Beach founders said they’re thrilled to have Def Jam’s backing on this new endeavor.
“Def Jam is one of the most important labels of all time, culturally—and from early hip-hop onward, they've always taken a leap on supporting what's new before it's popular,” said Fox. “We were very humbled and appreciative that they were able to see the vision and why this is something special.”