August 25, 2022
Image: Factory New
Hello, and welcome to Protocol Entertainment, your guide to the business of the gaming and media industries. This Thursday, we explore what went wrong with Capitol Records’ first AI rapper, and how “House of the Dragon” fared with viewers. Also: Zuckerberg gets a makeover.
Talk about 15 minutes of fame: Earlier this month, Capitol Records signed its first virtual being as an artist. FN Meka was hailed as a virtual rap star, who had amassed more than 10 million followers on TikTok.
FN Meka also had a history of using the N-word in lyrics, and the character has been portrayed as a victim of police brutality. Activists were not amused and called for Capitol Records to terminate the partnership.
FN Meka is the creation of Factory New. The company bills itself as a virtual record label, and it defended the CGI rapper following the uproar.
That’s notably different from the way Meka has been portrayed in the past. Earlier this year, when the virtual rapper was first making headlines, Martini told Music Business Worldwide that he was very much the product of artificial intelligence.
Anonymous artists are nothing new. There’s a long history of artists performing masked or in disguise, for example Deadmau5, Daft Punk and Gorillaz.
The lesson here: Technology can’t be an excuse for ignorance. That’s especially true if the tech is not actually all that impressive, as music tech blogger Cherie Hu pointed out on Twitter this week. “Let's be clear: FN Meka was never an ‘AI’ rapper,” Hu wrote. “The persona's creative direction is still a manual process with clearly biased humans behind the scenes, and behind the cloak of ‘AI rapper’ they probably thought they could get away with absolving responsibility to The Algorithm.”
— Janko Roettgers
Why on-demand talent could be exactly what companies need right now: If you thought the rise of remote work, independent contractors and contingent workers rose sharply during the pandemic, just wait until the next few months when you see a higher uptick in the on-demand talent economy.
The premiere of the “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon” has been a huge success for HBO, according to both the network itself and third-party data.
U.S. viewers love dragons, too. We don’t know how much all those new international subscribers contributed to the show’s success, but data from Samba indicates the premiere was a big success with domestic audiences as well.
— Janko Roettgers
Microsoft paid a healthy sum for a Game Pass deal. In a Polish regulatory filing spotted by Twisted Voxel, Microsoft reportedly paid $600,000 to bring developer Big Cheese Studio's Cooking Simulator to its Xbox Game Pass subscription platform.
YouTube Shorts are coming to smart TVs. YouTube wants to take on TikTok in the living room, where the Chinese video service has been slow to find an audience.
Bungie’s live service epic Destiny is nearing its end. Bungie detailed the second-to-last expansion for the game on Tuesday, bringing the nearly decade-old franchise one step closer to its narrative conclusion. The studio hasn’t disclosed next steps for Destiny after that.
Plex has been hacked. The media center app maker forced all of its users to reset their passwords after hackers gained access to its servers.
Phil Spencer claims exclusives are fading. The Microsoft Gaming CEO spoke to Bloomberg this week, saying that he “feels good” about the progress being made on the Activision deal. He also said console exclusivity “is something we’re just going to see less and less of.”
Why YouTube has been making its own chips. All those videos we all upload to YouTube every day are being converted by the service’s own VCU chipsets.
Sony’s next VR headset will be released in early 2023. The bad news: You won’t be able to buy a PSVR2 in time for the holidays. The good news: You’ll have a few more months trying to get a PS5, which is necessary to use the PSVR2.NBC shows are moving from Hulu to Peacock. New episodes of shows like “Law & Order” and “The Voice” will become available on Peacock the day after they air on NBC starting next month.
Remember that brouhaha about Mark Zuckerberg’s VR avatar? After posting a selfie from Meta’s Horizon Worlds service that made Zuckerberg admittedly look a bit like a Mii character, and the inevitable online backlash, Meta’s chief exec returned with a much more detailed rendition. As Nick noted earlier this week, the do-over didn’t exactly placate Meta’s critics.
Still, I can’t be the only one who has been wondering about the backstory behind Zuck 2.0. Luckily, one of his employees took to LinkedIn this week to share the backstory, revealing that it took four weeks and 40 iterations to create the new Zuckerberg avatar. “Mark liked it enough to post it! Could not be more stoked,” wrote the character artist behind the creation. The feeling was apparently not mutual at Meta, as the post has since disappeared from LinkedIn. Perhaps we’ll get a behind-the-scenes story for Zuck 3.0?
— Janko Roettgers
Why on-demand talent could be exactly what companies need right now: The biggest benefit of leveraging on-demand talent is often tapping into the talent and skills that businesses can’t find elsewhere. Upwork’s recent report highlights that 53% of on-demand talent provide skills that are in short supply for many companies, including IT, marketing, computer programming and business consulting.
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