Virtual talent has exploded onto the scene in recent years, and it’s a trend music companies are beginning to take seriously.
Although Vtubers – online personalities who obscure their real identities and perform behind computer-generated avatars – have been around for about a decade, they are now landing contracts with major music companies.
Not even a year later, SMEJ’s VTuber agency PRISM Project, is already onto its fifth generation of virtual talent.
PRISM on Friday (April 21) announced the three ‘Gen 5’ acts that will be joining its roster of virtual talents: Ami Amami, Kou Tsubame and Lana Shikami.
The three were chosen from among 3,000 applicants in 20 countries, and will make their streaming debut on April 28 beginning at 10pm ET (April 29 at 2pm Japan Time).
The three are joining Sony and PRISM “with an eye towards bridging the gap between the online and offline entertainment spheres,” PRISM added, though it’s unclear exactly what that might look like.
So far, PRISM has “signed” 15 virtual characters, all inspired in their appearance by Japanese manga, and all who present as female.
In a video released on Twitter, PRISM introduced the three new characters, displaying their distinct personalities as a “weather alert.”
Ami Amami is “rain,” and promises to “bring a smile to your face rain or shine.” Kou Tsubame is thunder – “powered up and ready to go.” And Lana Shikami is sunshine – “just like the sun, everything revolves around me.”
On its website, PRISM Project describes itself as a “multinational Vtuber agency from the future.”
“There are countless incredibly gifted performers who have both the skills and the drive necessary to succeed both in the classic sense as VTubers, but also in traditionally offline business spaces.”
Shogun, PRISM Project
Besides its partnership with PRISM, SMEJ also operates a virtual talent agency called VEE Virtual Entertainment, which on its website it calls “the largest virtual talent development and management project in history.”
“Within the virtual talent space, there are countless incredibly gifted performers who have both the skills and the drive necessary to succeed both in the classic sense as VTubers, but also in traditionally offline business spaces such as the voice acting and musical artist industries,” PRISM Project’s producer and spokesperson, dubbed Shogun, said in a statement.
It’s likely not a coincidence that PRISM’s virtual artists look like anime characters.
“Japanese anime is serving as an important gateway to introducing Japanese music” to the global community, SMEJ CEO Shunsuke Muramatsu told MBW in an interview last week.
Muramatsu said he’s “convinced” that virtual artists will become a much bigger phenomenon.
“Our ‘VEE’ VTuber project auditions in 2021 received over 18,000 entries at the time,” he noted
And although he still sees many “obstacles” in the field that may keep virtual artists from being accessible to everyone, he says that advances in technology could help overcome that.
“It … feels like a type of entertainment that would work well with other recent developments like the metaverse and Web 3.0, and with opportunities to further reach countries around the world beyond Japan and North America, it holds extraordinary potential.”
SMEJ is not the only company stepping into the virtual artist field.
Kakao Entertainment, for example, the entertainment division of South Korean internet company Kakao Corp., recently launched a new four-member virtual K-Pop girl group called MAVE.Music Business Worldwide