Virtual-Musician Startup Authentic Artists, Backed by James Murdoch and Mike Shinoda, Comes Out of Stealth

The worlds of music and gaming are being pureed together by Authentic Artists, a startup touting an AI-powered virtual artist platform whose backers include James Murdoch’s Lupa Systems and Linkin Park cofounder Mike Shinoda.

The San Francisco-based seed-stage company has created prototypes of 12 “supernatural” virtual-artist avatars, which it describes as ranging from a “lo-fi loving cyborg” to a “high-octane, half-iguana DJ.” Viewers are able to give those virtual artists input — yielding what Authentic Artists says is a new kind of gamified, co-creative musical experience.

Authentic Artists (at website authentic-artists.ai) says it has developed a proprietary audio-visual production platform that instantly composes and produces fully formed, high-quality songs performed by its AI-powered avatars. The music-driven characters can be employed for live-streaming performances or other applications.

The company was founded in 2019 by CEO Chris McGarry, who previously led music development for Facebook’s Oculus VR division.

“Virtual entertainment is the new cultural center of gravity, and today’s digital natives want agency over their worlds. Our adaptive artists will give it to them, co-creating new shared musical experiences and making new art and culture with fans across every connected platform,” said Chris McGarry, the Founder and CEO of Authentic Artists

Authentic Artists investors and advisers include Lupa Systems, the VC firm established by James Murdoch (former CEO of 21st Century Fox), OVO Fund, Japan’s Mixi Group, Bill Silva Ventures, Brian Ruder, co-head of global technology at Permira, Liberty Media SVP of corporate development Chad Hollingsworth, Charlie Walker, co-founder of C3 Presents, Roblox chief business officer Craig Donato, Liz Hamren, corporate VP of gaming engineering at Microsoft, Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and Young Guru, a Grammy-winning audio engineer for Jay-Z, Drake, Rihanna and DJ Khaled. (A rep for Authentic Artists declined to say how much funding the company has raised.)

“We’re very pleased to support the early growth of Authentic Artists,” James Murdoch said in a statement. “As technology continues to transform creativity and experiences, the opportunities for new forms of highly scalable social entertainment will be substantial. We look forward to working with this impressive team that is well positioned to lead the space.”

As evidence of its prospects, Authentic Artists points to the popular virtual concerts that took place on gaming platforms Fortnite and Roblox last year. “Music today can be so much more than just an album release or a live show,” Shinoda commented. “The ability to interact and even collaborate with listeners in live channels offers some of the most exciting possibilities in music right now.”

Other Authentic Artists include audio director Steve Pardo, formerly lead composer and sound designer at Harmonix Music Systems, the company behind “Guitar Hero,” “Rock Band” and “Dance Central:’; senior AI engineer Blake Wilkey, who designed and developed the AI platform for will.i.am’s i.am plus; executive creative director Jeff Nicholas, who has led creative initiatives for companies and artists including Live Nation, Rihanna, Hulu, Major Lazer, Apple Music and Lil Wayne; and technical director Ryan Martin, previously director of visual development at the AI Foundation and technical director at Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light & Magic VFX company.

“Gaming continues to evolve towards more immersive, social and creative experiences. I’m excited about Authentic Artists’ potential to spark new forms of play, expression and community and can’t wait to see that potential become reality,” Microsoft’s Hamren said in a statement.

Others looking to tap into the virtual music scene include Wave, an L.A.-based startup that produces interactive virtual-entertainment concerts whose investors include Scooter Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

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