Hybe, the South Korean agency behind K-pop megastar BTS, announced today that it plans to set up a joint venture with Korean crypto exchange Upbit to enter the non-fungible token (NFT) business.
Hybe will buy a 2.5% stake in Dunamu, a blockchain-based fintech startup that runs cryptocurrency exchange Upbit, for $423.1 million (500 billion won). At the same time, Dunamu will acquire newly issued Hybe shares, a 5.6% stake, in a Seoul-headquartered music agency for $592.4 million, according to the regulatory filing.
The joint venture company will create NFT photocards that will be traded on Hybe’s global fan-to-artist communication app, Weverse, said CEO of Hybe Si-Hyuk Bang, and chairman of Dunamu Chi-Hyung Song, in a joint statement during the company’s briefing on Thursday.
Hybe’s BTS NFTs will include moving images, voices of artists and more, Bang explained. On top of that, global fans will be able to exchange their digital photo cards in virtual spaces, Song said.
Hybe and its subsidiaries unveiled further plans to extend the BTS brand deeper into the digital sphere. In addition to the NFT JV, there will be a BTS video game, and a “webtoon” business.
Hybe is one of the most successful companies manufacturing pop bands at the moment and they are riding the wave. In the briefing, Lenzo Yoon, CEO of Hybe America, said that Hybe and Universal Music Group are preparing to unveil a global girl group debut, too. Separately, Hybe Japan will announce a boy band in Japan, Hyunrock Han, CEO of Hybe Japan, said.
South Korean K-pop giants are bracing for the arrival of NFTs to extend their revenue potential by turning their existing IP into digital assets.
South Korea’s four biggest entertainment companies, Hybe, JYP, SM and YG, have been competing to tap into the new tech. JYP Entertainment partnered with Dunamu to set up a K-pop-based NFT platform in July, while SM announced its launch to build a cryptocurrency and blockchain platform in 2019.