Sony Music Japan to Shut Down Prism Project ‘Virtual Talent Management Agency’ Amid Evolving ‘Industry Trends’

sony music japan prism project
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The Sony Music Japan headquarters in Rokubanchō, Chiyoda, Tokyo. Photo Credit: Akonnchiroll

Sony Music Japan is officially shutting down its Prism Project “virtual talent management agency” less than two years after holding related auditions.

The Sony Music Entertainment division revealed the quick-approaching Prism shutdown via a formal release. Founded by a company called Anotherball in 2021 and brought into the Sony Music fold during 2022, Prism was at the time of the mentioned auditions aiming to “push the boundaries of the virtual talent space.”

“VTubers are a character, a talent, but at the same time, also a talented human being,” Sony Music Japan and Prism spelled out in August of 2022, with “VTuber” referring specifically to individuals who create and release YouTube content via virtual avatars.

Now, with the non-fungible token space and presumably the adjacent virtual-artist sphere having cooled, Prism is set to cease operating at March’s end, Sony Music Japan relayed. At that point, the rights behind the 18 digital entities on Prism’s roster will revert to their creators, fueling “independent talent activities” on the same YouTube and social accounts moving forward.

Predictably, a cursory glance at said 18 digital entities’ YouTube accounts shows that their uploads garnered a relatively small number of views overall. A “generation one” character dating back to 2020, for instance, racked up about two million cumulative plays across 950 uploads, for an average of roughly 2,107 plays per video.

Addressing the development in a statement, Prism producer Shogun noted the impact of underlying “industry trends” as well as staffing expenses.

“After careful consideration and discussion between management and talents regarding each talent’s goals as virtual performers,” Shogun relayed in part, “and with an eye towards industry trends and the considerable staff resources required not only to sustain but to further grow the brand, together we have made the incredibly difficult decision to cease talent management operations and make it possible for each talent to continue their talent activities under their current talent names with their current character IPs.”

Bigger picture, Prism’s shutdown is worth keeping front of mind amid the rapid expansion of AI music, video, and other media. Notwithstanding the associated content-volume explosion, fans’ evidently discerning tastes suggest that projects developed via digital tools, while comparatively affordable to make en masse, might not find a largescale audience.

Expanding on that nuanced point, Prism offered a number of multi-hour livestreams, featuring looped animations, English-language commentary from the appropriate (human) streamers, and a variety of tracks seemingly designed for background listening, that garnered few total views. But with a somewhat similar product, Lofi Girl has generated an astonishing 1.87 billion YouTube views to date, the appropriate channel shows.