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The Deals: WMG Partners With Blockchain Gaming Developer, Tauren Wells Signs With Capitol

Also: WK Records signs Fuego and OCESA Seitrack strikes a booking and management deal with Virlán García.

Warner Music Group (WMG) struck a partnership with blockchain gaming developer Splinterlands that will allow select WMG artists to create and develop unique, play-to-earn (P2E), arcade-style blockchain games.

P2E games use blockchain technology to provide players with rewards, including NFTs, that hold real-world value. Players have the ability to trade, sell or lease anything they earn in-game.

“I don’t think we can underestimate how massive the opportunity around P2E gaming is,” said WMG chief digital officer & executive vp Oana Ruxandra in a statement. “Our partnership with Splinterlands pulls focus to our artists and their music as we all work together to develop and maintain tokenized games. As we build, we will be unlocking new revenue streams for our artists while further solidifying fans’ participation in value created.”


Founded in 2018, Splinterlands operates the popular blockchain game dapp (decentralized app) of the same name. The Splinterlands game currently boasts 1.8 million registered users and 450,000 daily users. It’s described as “a community experience” which is developed and grown with players’ input.

Capitol Records/CCMG signed 10-time Grammy-nominated Christian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Tauren Wells. His debut release on the label is the song “Fake It” feat. Aaron Cole.

Wells’ 2021 duet with H.E.R., “Hold Us Together (Hope Mix)”, is a 2022 Grammy nominee for Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song. He also scored a nomination this year for Best Contemporary Christian Album for his LP Citizen of Heaven (Live).

Wells, who recently wrapped up his sold-out, 23-city Citizen of Heaven tour, released his debut album, Hills and Valleys, in 2017.

Walter Kolm’s WK Records signed Latin trap artist Fuego for a full record deal, the company tells Billboard. The partnership was unveiled following the release of Fuego’s reimagined version of his hit “Una Vaina Loca,” in celebration of the song’s 10-year anniversary. The new track features stars Manuel Turizo and Duki.

“It feels good when you put in the work and the label that you partner up with does too,” said the Dominican-American artist born Miguel Ángel Durán Jr. “Excited to share all this new music with the world.”

“We are excited to partner with Fuego/Supremo Music. He’s always been an artist with a lot of talent and a visionary. Now he will have the team behind him that shares his vision and belief for the music,” added Oscar Guitian, general manager at WK Records.

For his first release under the new deal, Fuego teamed with up-and-comer Colombian singer Ryan Castro for “Pendiente al Paso (Remix)” produced by Los Martinez Brothers. – Griselda Flores

OCESA Seitrack announced a management and worldwide exclusive booking deal with Virlán García, a 24-year-old norteño and banda singer-songwriter from Sinaloa. According to the company, SeitrackUS, along with Javier Díaz, will be in charge of booking in the United States. Additionally, OCESA Seitrack and SeitrackUS will plan Virlán’s upcoming releases jointly with Sony Music.

The singer behind hits such as “Ya Estás Harta,” “Quién Te Entiende?” and “Esto Tiene Que Durar,” Virlán most recently released his Híbrido – En Vivo sessions on all streaming platforms. Overall, García has placed 10 songs on Billboard’s Regional Mexican Airplay chart, including two top 10 hits, “Quiero Reintentarlo” and “Mi Vida Eres Tu.” On the Regional Mexican Albums chart, he’s placed one set so far, 2017’s Mi Vida Eres Tu, which peaked at No. 17 on the tally. – Griselda Flores

Warner Records signed rising Memphis rapper Fresco Trey.

According to the label, Trey’s latest single, “Need You,” has garnered over 73 million views on TikTok, in addition to 7.6 million streams worldwide across platforms. Last year, he released the EP Heartbreak Diaries, which included the track “Feel Good” feat. Lil Tjay. Last fall, he released the single “Draft Kings” in tandem with sports, tech and entertainment company DraftKings. This year, Trey was featured on the NBA 2K22 soundtrack.

Aaron Bay-Schuck, co-chairman & CEO at Warner Records, said Trey has “proven that he knows exactly how to forge a direct and honest connection with his fans. He’s shown from early on all the essential qualities we look for in an artist and is most certainly on a path to becoming a global superstar.”

Backbone, a platform that powers game streaming and core gaming on mobile devices, raised $40 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures (an early investor in Discord, Roblox and Sonos), Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures and celebrities including The Weeknd, Kevin Hart, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Marshmello and Amy Schumer. Also making an investment was Electric Feel Ventures, the fund of Post Malone’s management company Electric Feel Entertainment.

Also participating in the funding round were early-stage investment fund BoxGroup as well as Jason Citron of Discord, Nick Fajt of Rec Room and Patrick Spence of Sonos.

Launched in 2021 by former Google gaming employee Maneet Khaira, Backbone makes virtually all gaming services available in a single place through its Backbone One device, which instantly connects players on mobile devices with game titles in the App Store and Apple Arcade; cloud gaming services including Xbox Game Pass, Nvidia Geforce Now, Amazon Luna and Google Stadia; and Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5 and Steam games.

“Just as Sonos and Roku have done for music and television streaming, Backbone unifies all the game streaming services and core gaming experiences on mobile devices,” said Khaira in a statement. “This funding will be central to scaling the business, including recruiting new talent to fully realize Backbone’s potential. But more importantly, it will help us connect with, and better serve, gamers on a larger scale. This is just the beginning.”

“There are nearly three billion mobile gamers worldwide and counting. Backbone is transforming mobile gaming for these players by turning the phone into a console-like experience,” added Index Ventures partner Damir Becirovic. “Backbone has built a unified experience that makes it simple for gamers to find games, connect with their friends, and enjoy content in a deeper and more engaging way, which we believe represents the future of mobile gaming. What’s more, this is one of the fastest growing brands, by revenue, that we’ve seen in quite some time.”

Disney Music Group tapped A&R research and talent discovery company GreaterThan to be the label’s A&R research and scouting source globally for its flagship label Hollywood Records, its publishing division and multiple joint venture labels and platforms.

Madison Sweere and Miranda Richardson – two of the original scouts from GreaterThan’s A&R Scout Launchpad pilot program – will lead new music talent discovery for DMG.

The partnership, which was led by Disney Music Group senior vp, A&R and head of creative Mio Vukovic, marks a reunion between Vukovic and GreaterThan founder Paula Moore, who worked together as A&R vps at Warner Bros. Records. While at the label, Moore built the A&R research platform Flypaper, which discovered and presented hundreds of artists who went on to be signed, including The Killers.

GreaterThan currently has a team of over 350 A&Rs worldwide.

Lickd, a service that provides video creators with access to label-owned music, announced a partnership with music licensing company Audio Network. Under the deal, users of Lickd’s pre-licensed chart music will have access to Audio Network’s production music catalog of over 100,000 tracks on top of the more than 1 million chart songs already available on Lickd.

The partnership will allow creators on social platforms to use the music from the Audio Network library in any content they create, including branded sponsored content, as many times as they like anywhere in the world.

“Being able to provide the largest and highest quality production music selection to creators, means that alongside our unique offering of chart music, we now provide the most complete music service to creators anywhere,” said Lickd CEO Paul Sampson in a statement.

“Both companies have built tech-enabled services to deliver clear and simple licensing at accessible price points, and we’re confident this partnership will only further this mission of bringing the best music available to all content creators across the globe,” added Audio Network CCO Andy Williams.

Creators are currently being offered 60 days of free access to the combined service from the time of sign-up.

Nashville-based IV and the Strange Band signed with Shooter JenningsBlack Country Rock label, which will release the group’s debut album later this year.

Fronted by Coleman Williams, IV and the Strange Band is “heavily influenced by the Nashville DIY house show punk scene,” according to a press release. Williams comes from country music royalty: his great-grandfather is Hank Williams and his father is Hank Williams III.

“Coleman and I have a lot of mutual friends, and until now we’d never met before,” said Jennings in a statement. “When one of those friends connected us and I had a chance to hear the music, I flipped out and became one of his biggest fans. I immediately saw the importance in his story and point of view, told in conjunction with a fresh take on where country music could go from here. He’s the fourth in line of men who have done things their way, blending and bending genres and keeping the story going for generations to come.”

IV and the Strange Band are slated to open several shows for Eyehategod in April. More 2022 tour dates will be announced soon.