Monitor A weekly column dedicated to everything that happens in the WIRED world of culture, from movies to memes, from TV to Twitter.
When you work in journalism, you get a lot of emails. For example, the total number of incoming messages “wish on your worst enemy.” (At the time of this writing, I have 35,101.) After a while, none of them are surprising; you just become a cypher in Matrix watching the characters flow across the screen, deciphering their meaning. This week one came up with a very disturbing message: I’m too old for this shit.
That’s not what was actually said, of course. It actually said, “Def Jam is signing with digital avatar music group The Whales.” When I opened it, I found out that the label I’d been consuming since the days of tape recorders, the one that signed Jay-Z, Slick Rick and the Beastie Boys, had a deal with a group of created cartoon whale characters. by Web3 called Wagmi Beach. This is a partnership between the label and The Catalina Whale Mixer that Billboard speaks is a “collection of 5555 NFT avatars on the Solana blockchain”. In layman’s terms, the long-respected record company just signed a bunch of digital collectibles to make music.
Please understand, this does not mean that I find this concept confusing. I grew up in the Gorillaz era. But what’s confusing is that Damon Albarn isn’t around yet. The press release promised a “star cast” of writers, producers and performers, but no one was named. Instead, Wagmi co-founder Alec Lykken issued a statement saying that Web3 signaled “a fundamental change in technology that will change how future generations will consume music and art”.
Of course, but What music? Def Jam has connections with the biggest artists in the world and I’m sure they’ll find people who will actually make a solid album, but it has to be some kind of metaverse where the cart is before the horse. The press release didn’t even say what genre of music The Whales would be making.
This isn’t meant to dismiss an idea just because it’s full of buzzwords and highlights specific details, but if Web3 really wants to revolutionize the art, it should do so as well. Yes, Dadaists will argue that everything can be art if you say so, but a band without music is something else. It’s hard to imagine Rick Rubin walking into the studio with a bunch of digital collectibles, even if they’re made by people with really great ideas about their vibe.
In this I want to be wrong. Perhaps The Whales are the next Gorillaz. Or at least they can hire Albarn to make them sound like they are. Maybe they can do every gig in Fortnite and never sign autographs. Maybe I’m the one who’s outdated.