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In June, Chinese language pop-punk singer Wowkie Zhang launched a music video by which he meets a digital character in a hyper-colored animated world paying homage to Pixar motion pictures. Sporting Gen-Z-style silver hair, an outsized yellow and black sweatshirt, and dishevelled pants, the avatar does hip-hop strikes to Zhang’s upbeat and catchy tune.

The digital character will not be a novel creation; as a substitute, Zebra Labs, which produced the video, is popping it right into a reusable piece of mental property that may be purchased as NFTs in marketplaces and featured in different digital occasions like video video games. The startup is ready for the bull market to return to launch the NFT venture, Scarlett Li, founder and CEO of Zebra Labs, tells TechCrunch.

Zebra Labs’ purpose is to “create mental property that’s deeply built-in with content material” and “run digital idols like celebrities,” says Li. A number of the avatars she creates are primarily based on real-life stars, whereas others are authentic characters. To generate income, Zebra Labs cultivates an viewers for his or her idols by means of brief movies, photographs, and social media posts, and in flip monetizes the fan base. It additionally licenses its digital idols to companions for a price.

Here is Zebra Labs making an attempt to construct a fan base for Zookie, who makes a cameo look in Wowkie Zhang’s music video, producing Douyin (Chinese language model of TikTok) clips of the character:

NFT, already broadly used to authenticate mental property rights, can be utilized to higher interact followers, reckons Li, who has beforehand helped set up a few of China’s greatest music festivals. “While you hit your 30s, you lose curiosity in exploring music, so a digital setting can drive viewing. [of music] once more.”

NFTs additionally present rising musicians with a extra direct avenue to earn revenue. In China, music distribution is within the fingers of music streaming giants owned by Tencent and NetEase. These platforms are likely to allocate person site visitors to musicians who have already got massive followings, “so to make a superb residing as a musician, you’ll want to have one million followers,” says Li. “NFTs can change that.”

As a veteran of music festivals, Li is happy in regards to the prospect of on-line live shows. He is evaluating it to Ariana Grande’s Fornite live performance, by which the singer descends on a colourful island in digital manifestation of herself in a glittery silver costume and sparkly white ponytail. Zebra Labs is in talks with a number of sport corporations to launch digital live shows for Chinese language artists inside a Minecraft-like sport and metaverse platform by 2023, Li says.

Zebra Labs lately raised $5 million to additional its imaginative and prescient of the metaverse. Funding got here from Chinese language gaming agency NetDragon and Japanese conglomerate Sumitomo. Bringing in a Japanese investor, in accordance with Li, may help the startup be taught from the nation’s lengthy historical past of managing mental property, exemplified by the success of digital idols like Hatsune Miku. The corporate can also be backed by SOSV, the enterprise capital agency recognized for its community of accelerators.

Following their collaboration with Wowkie Zhang’s music video, which garnered some 40 million clicks throughout quite a lot of on-line channels, Zebra Labs has one other 5 artists within the works. It additionally plans to launch a digital twin of Zhang by the primary quarter of 2023.

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Zebra Labs raises $5M to help Chinese celebrities enter the metaverse • TechCrunch

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