MBW Reacts is a series of short comment pieces from the MBW team. They are our ‘quick take’ reactions – through a music biz lens – to major entertainment news stories.
The Walt Disney Co. is making such a big push into the metaverse that it’s hired a dedicated executive to oversee its strategy.
That person, Mike White, has been appointed SVP of ‘Next Generation Storytelling and Consumer Experience’, who, Reuters reports, will work alongside Disney’s creative teams to “define how consumers experience Disney’s coming metaverse”.
White’s appointment follows Disney’s metaverse expansion plan announcement in November – plans that were highlighted even further in January following reports that it had patented tech to build a theme park in the metaverse.
Writing to employees last week, Disney boss Bob Chapek told them that, “For nearly 100 years, our company has defined and re-defined entertainment by leveraging technology to bring stories to life in deeper, more impactful ways”.
He added: “Today, we have an opportunity to connect those universes and create an entirely new paradigm for how audiences experience and engage with our stories.”
Disney’s not the only media giant with its eye on the metaverse. YouTube also hiring for a key Web3 role.
According to a job ad spotted by Bitcoin.com, the company is hiring for a Director, Product Management, YouTube Web3.
This person will need to have an “understanding of cryptocurrencies, blockchain, consensus mechanisms, NFTs, and other Web3 technologies”, states to the ad. The appointment follows the platform’s recent blogpost outlining its NFT, metaverse and blockchain plans.
Spotify is also hiring for an engineer to work on a team “responsible for driving growth through new technologies, like Web3.”
Oh, and don’t forget about Facebook, which has rebranded its entire corporate identity around a longterm metaverse strategy that includes an initial $50 million metaverse research and development investment, and a hiring spree in Europe over the next five years.
Facebook, Disney, Spotify and indeed YouTube’s Web3 plans tie into the wider tech, media and entertainment business’s current fascination with virtual worlds, goods, properties and characters.
Although it was accelerated by the Covid lockdowns of 2020-2021, when virtual offices, meetings, concerts and conferences were all a necessity, the notion of the metaverse is getting more popular as we enter a post pandemic era.
This is particularly true in the music business, where the earning potential from metaverse projects and associated Web3 categories like NFTs and crypto is getting too significant for most artists and the three major music companies to ignore.
At Warner Music Group, for example, CEO Steve Cooper recently told analysts on the company’s earnings call that, “Web3 represents an exciting future for the music industry that will help our artists reach millions upon millions of new fans in interesting and innovative ways”.
A couple of WMG’s recent Web3-related investments and projects include an investment in Roblox gaming platform in January last year, and a partnership with The Sandbox platform to build a music themed world.
Sony Music meanwhile, joined a $30 million investment round in NFT platform MakersPlace last August, and partnered with children’s brand Pinkfong to launch an NFT collection for children’s entertainment phenomenon Baby Shark.
UMG has also been making moves into Web3, with its “next-gen Web3 label” 10.22pm subsidiary for example, set up by former Sony exec Celine Joshua. UMG also struck a partnership with NFT platform Curio last week.
Universal has also just hired an exec to drive forward its Web 3.0 business. That person, Richard Cusick, has joined the music company as Chief Product Officer, Global E-Commerce.
According to UMG, Cusick will build a product team charged with translating UMG’s business objectives into what it calls “innovative products and experiences across E-Commerce, Web3.0 and direct artist and fan-focused initiatives”.
With investment in Web3 clearly ramping up at the majors, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing more senior experts hired to oversee the Web3 strategy at these companies.
They’ll need to start hiring them soon, though – before Disney and other media giants snap up all of the top talent.Music Business Worldwide