They are a gang of rebel teens who sing punk pop songs about cyber-bullying.
But Skullz are actually an artificial intelligence-generated girl group, who will release NFTs rather than singles and develop “virtual brains” through meeting fans.
The trio – Orkid (guitar), Sneeka (drums) and Hyde (vocals) – have been called a “21st-century Spice Girls.”
However Skullz only exist as avatars in their own virtual “metaverse”, where fans can collect “VIP experiences”, “in-game wearables”, as well as listen to the trio’s emo-inspired music.
Developed by a blockchain-based record label called Soundr, the Skullz avatars are equipped with “biologically-inspired virtual brains” which allow their virtual personalities to learn and develop in direct response to interactions with fans.
The group will sell exclusive content and experiences to fans as “affordable micro-NFTs” – a digital certificate signifying ownership of a virtual artwork or physical object.
Skullz are in a race to corner the AI-generated pop market against Eternity, a Korean 11-piece girl group.
Internet users voted for the members from a choice of 101 faces created using DEEP REAL AI technology. Eternity’s first song, “I’m Real”, has already racked up 700,000 YouTube views.
Skullz are the brainchild of John Black, a music manager who helped Sandi Thom score a number one after she webstreamed concerts from her flat and Pete Kirtley, an Ivor Novello award-winning songwriter, and record producer who’s written & produced for Sugababes and Tiësto.
Kirtley told i: “This is the next great transition in entertainment, a bridge between the worlds of music and gaming.”
“Fans can hang out with band members backstage in the metaverse, take digital selfies with them and influence their songs and choice of girlfriends or boyfriends. The avatars expand their vocabulary and learn to think from interactions with the fans.”
Skullz spawned from a song Kirtley wrote after his daughter was cyber-bullied. “I thought ‘how could you put together a 21st-century Spice Girls in the metaverse that teenage girls could have a meaningful interactive experience with?’”
The girls would have an “alternative, rebellious” look, with Asian characteristics to appeal to fans of Korean K-Pop.
They play punky guitar-led anthems to stand out from “the monotony of algorithmic pop on Spotify,” Kirtley said.
Since the band members can’t be paid in the real world, a share of profits from their merchandise and NFT sales will go a cyber-bullying charity.
Skullz made their first NFT “drop” on Thursday, making available “affordable” experiences, such as £5 packs of cards and invitations to a special launch event.
With live concerts paused, virtual shows inside gaming platforms have become increasingly lucrative.
A show by US rapper Travis Scott on Fortnite grossed $20m including merchandise sales.
Avatar bands have cost advantages for record companies. Black said: “I’ve travelled to New York with an artist and their entourage just for three minutes on a breakfast show.”
“You can put Skullz straight on to Jonathan Ross’s sofa. The cost of promotion and the carbon footprint is much less.”
What happens when the Skullz develop minds of their own?
“It’s likely one member will rebel against being in an all-girl AI group and leave to launch a solo career,” Kirtley said.