Miku Hatsune was viewed as an oddity when she released her first demo track in 2007. A seemingly disembodied voice created by Crypton Future Media, Miku was a wonder at the time, only capable of existing via a singing-voice synthesizer technology called Vocaloid.
Over the years, Miku’s influence grew, and she became a virtual pop star. From influential collaborations to world tours, this animated and fully digital recording artist helped the music industry explore the possibilities of what was achievable through virtual reality, paving the way for those like Yameii and FN Meka to become viral sensations.
Now, with the power afforded to creators via Web3 and blockchain tech, virtual influencers are becoming a regular part of pop culture. From users creating entire personas around their owned NFTs to CryptoPunk rappers and Bored Ape DJ duos headlining events, physical and digital experiences are melding in new and exciting ways.
Just as the music NFT ecosystem has shifted in response to NFTs, yet another iteration of the recording industry is emerging in the wake of virtual artists. And at the forefront of that new iteration lives Player Zero, a Web3 record label that, like the advent of the virtual pop star, is changing how we perceive the future of music.
What is Player Zero?
Player Zero is a Web3 record label that, as record labels go, is about as digitally native as you can get. While most legacy labels are rooted in the real world and focused on acquiring and building talent and brands in real life, Player Zero is creating an ecosystem that revolves entirely around Animated Virtual Artists (AVAs).
A joint venture between hitmaker Dr. Luke and Web3 collective Digital Arts & Science, Player Zero aims to develop a vast roster of AVAs and corresponding metaverse experiences. To do so, Dr. Luke has already tapped a strong cast of music industry veterans who have worked with Demi Lovato, Zara Larsson, Twice, Fergie, and many more.
Similar to Miku, Yameii, and FN Meka, AVAs are virtual artists that exist solely in the digital realm. Some may be powered by Vocaloid and artificial intelligence, others may be the product of a team of producers, singers, and songwriters, but each AVA exists digitally, on the blockchain.
AVAs are powered by NFTs, which is perfectly illustrated by Player Zero’s first virtual offering, Amari. Although Amari is quickly turning into a metaverse pop star with her debut single “Deeper,” the character herself comes from the popular PFP NFT collection CyberBrokers created by crypto-art OG Josie Bellini.
However, Player Zero didn’t simply obtain the Amari NFT for use as an AVA. It collaborated directly with the CyberBrokers community to create her backstory, personality, sound, and more. As other AVAs are created in the image of NFTs, like Doodles, Meebits, Bored Apes, and more, communities surrounding these projects might be offered a say in its development.
“We love to partner with communities that already exist,” said Lawrence Vavra, music industry veteran and one of the founders of Player Zero, in an interview with nft now. “Because we’re members of those communities and have been really bullish on Web3 for the last year and a half now. So we have like, a bunch of cool NFT community AVAs, but still, we also have ones that we made from scratch.”
Through initiatives like Amari that dig straight into the heart of the NFT community, Player Zero has is building itself as more than a record label, in hopes of becoming a comprehensive entertainment brand rooted in Web3 music.
“To us, [a Web3 record label] really means that you’re able to make community-centric things come to life,” said Vavra. “We come from the record business, and we understand what goes into building an artist,” said Vavra. “As fans, we all know the musician, but there are, in most cases, tons of people — like singers, songwriters, and producers — behind an artist that help make it go.”
With Player Zero, Vavra said he and his team endeavor to give artists and creator communities the opportunity to release art in a digitally native way that circumvents the dilution of the music industry. This is why AVAs are created for the NFT community, by the NFT community, bound only by the constraints of blockchain technology and collective imagination.
How does Player Zero work?
Similar to other blue-chip NFT projects, Player Zero works on a membership-based model. At the very top of that model exists the Player Zero Founders Pass, which are essentially a golden ticket that gives holders access to nearly every future drop and initiative to come from the budding Web3 record label.
Founder Passes are exclusive, with only 100 ever to be released. The first 50 passes were minted at an exclusive presale event, the remaining 50 were only attainable via auction. One pass will be auctioned every 24 hours, and the final Founders Pass will be sold on November 3, 2022.
But Founders Passes aren’t the only way for NFT enthusiasts to gain access to the Player Zero ecosystem. Since AVAs are developed and released, Vavra said collectors will have the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of these characters’ “careers.”
“Every AVA that we put out is going to have a Genesis Pass, which should really incentivize early adopters to get into the project,” said Vavra. “Think about how it’s always worked: you come across a band, and you love this band, and the band starts getting bigger and bigger. Then it gets to the mainstream and as an early adopter, you’re on to the next thing.”
With Genesis Passes, Vavra said that early adopters have the opportunity to get rewarded instead of snubbed by their favorite artists. As AVA’s develop, collectors of their Genesis Passes will have a say in creative direction.
The Player Zero team collaborated with our community-led Writer’s Room to develop Amari’s backstory and motivations so that they fit within the parameters of the CyberBrokers universe.— CyberBrokers (@CyberBrokers_) September 16, 2022
Keep an eye out for Amari’s origin story, coming soon to @PlayerZeroHQ!👀 pic.twitter.com/WJ3WwCsAPu
To Vavra, greater control in creative direction could involve deciding which artists to collaborate with, what sort of merch they should release, or even which versions of their songs should make it through to streaming. In short, Vavra’s vision is for fans and early adopters have real incentivizes for building in the Player Zero universe.
Could AVAs be the future of Web3 music?
As the Web3 and metaverse era entices more to live their lives entirely online, AVAs seem to be perfectly in line with the interests of a digitally-native culture. Just as we saw concerts and festivals transition to becoming virtual experiences during the COVID pandemic, it’s possible that music acts could also become completely virtual experiences.
Crucially, Player Zero is vastly different from the other Web3 native music platforms that have emerged of late. Services like Sound.xyz and Catalog have empowered independent artists to release their creations on the blockchain, but Player Zero is more of an incubator for community-driven projects that both align with the general NFT ecosystem and the backend of the music industry (so, songwriters, producers, and more).
That doesn’t mean that the lines between established platforms and Web3 labels like Player Zero can’t be blurred though. Instead, it’s more of a reminder that the NFT ecosystem could be ready and receptive to such an entity. As far as Vavra is concerned, the NFT space and the world at large are undoubtedly ready for Player Zero, and a future where virtual beings can become chart-topping superstars.
“Even five years ago, I would’ve said that I don’t think people are going to really be able to connect with music unless there was a story behind the musician,” said Vavra to nft now. “I think now, because of Web3, because of Zoom, and because of COVID, people will connect with the music, and it doesn’t have to be a human person for them to connect.”
However, it’s too early to say for certain whether changes happening in the music industry due to Web3 will last. But as the metaverse continues to expand and consumers continue to show a desire for virtual experiences, Player Zero could become the a leading voice within the Web3 music ecosystem.