Explore Issue 01 of LOOP Magazine

Featuring Sam Tompkins and Victor Ray as our cover stars, as well as internal spreads from Girli, Jords, Mysie, Finn Askew, Kara Marni and Master Peace

Buy Now

Robot Rapper with 9 Million TikTok Followers Sells NFT for $6,500 – What is Going On?

In the eyes of Factory New, the creators of Robot Rapper FN Meka, the answer is a hard no!

Now, you may remember a few months back when we looked at the developments in AI music and how impressive deepfakes had become at impersonating artists, however, Factory New are taking the idea of an AI artist to the next level, putting the theory into practice.

The record label sees itself as the ‘first of its kind’ employing an innovative model that specialises in ‘virtual beings’ and hosts a roster comprising purely of virtual AI artists. A model that they see as being the future of of the industry and the death of the traditional artsist.

In an interview with Music Business WorldWide, founder Anthony Martini questioned the necessity for human artists in the modern music industry:

“What is an ‘artist’ today? Think about the biggest stars in the world. How many of them are just vessels for commercial endeavors?”

Potentially a very contraversial opinion, especially for aspring future artist, but in a world where audiences are increasingly consuming artist’s content via online platforms and on screens, does it make a difference if that artist is a human being or a ‘virtual being’?

At this point, you are probably thinking, ‘Well, what about the Gorillaz? They are pretty cool! I like them and they animated characters?’, and you would be correct, this isn’t the first time audiences have experienced avatar artists, but what is going on at Factory New is a completely different story. The Gorillaz is a collaborative project conceptualised by Blur’s Damien Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, where all creative works (both musical and visual) are created and produced by humans. On the other hand, Factory New’s first signing FN Meka is the closest thing we have experienced to an AI artist. Minus the fact that the Robot Rapper is voiced by a human, everything else including lyrics, chords, tempo, and beats are generated by AI algorithms, and Factory New believe it won’t be long before the necessity for a human vocalist is made redundant by their technology.

Keeping with the futurist and technological theme, Factory New uses Augmented Reality to create content for its artists and decentralised finance models to sell digital products by utilising NFTs.

In the last few weeks, the label launched crypto-rapper Lil Bitcoin’s debut single ‘I love Bitcoin’ as a ‘1 of 1 NFT’, and sold an FN Meka piece of digital artwork as an NFT for $6,500. Now, if you are not familiar with NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens), don’t worry too much, because that is another rabbit hole of its own and is a story for another time, but essentially it is a digital format powered by blockchain technology that can either function as a one of a kind piece of digital art, like an original Picasso; or as a collectable item, such as a unique trading card.

Factory New is still in its infancy as a concept and its not like we are seeing AI artists dominating the charts but as FN Meka’s online presence and influence continues to grow with over 9 million TikTok followers and over 1 billion views online, this is not a novelty trend that can be ignored. The AI-generated music movement is picking up steam and its goal is to revolutionise the music industry as we know it.

The driving ideology behind this movement appears to be that the human elements of an artist make them less efficient and more difficult to work with than an AI artist. In the same interview with MBW, discussing the personal fall out between Taylor Swift and her manager Scooter Braun, Martini said:

“You look at Scooter Braun and Taylor Swift bringing that [personal fallout] to the surface; if Taylor wasn’t doing that, no-one would know about that situation and no-one would care. So what if Taylor wasn’t an artist, but an avatar? Basically a corporately-owned video game character.”

He later went on to discuss the ‘hit factory’ models that have been employed throughout the industry for decades:

“Most hits are written by teams of people who get paid to make music that will “sell”. We think machines can eventually run this process more efficiently than humans. How many fans ever actually meet the stars they idolize anyway?

Throughout popular music history, artists have danced with the blurred line between art and commerce, but now it appears that there is a new intersecting line that is blurring the line between the physical and virtual worlds, which makes for a very confusing and blurry reality for artists in the future – and we haven’t even touched the surface on the implications this could have on copyright and royalties. We will save that for another day though.

Words by Darren Hay

Posted On 3 October, 2022