Why Talent Agency UTA Is Going Big on NFTs
Photo provided by UTA

Why Talent Agency UTA Is Going Big on NFTs

If you need more proof that NFTs have officially invaded Hollywood, look no further than United Talent Agency’s client roster.

The Beverly Hills-based talent agency recently signed Deadfellaz, an NFT collection of 10,000 zombie portraits. UTA counts Larva Labs, the creators behind the CryptoPunks NFT project, as a client, too. Even Coinbase, the publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange, is now part of UTA’s portfolio.

The agency’s foray into the crypto world shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Digital artists are selling NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, for sky-high prices. NFT exchanges like NBA Top Shot have attracted large fan bases willing to shell out money for digital collectibles. And entertainment companies in the music, film and gaming industries have been quick to venture into NFTs—even if there’s still plenty of skepticism about the digital assets.


“At first, my instinct was that this would be disruptive of things like art,” Lesley Silverman, UTA’s head of Web3 and a former fine art agent, told dot.LA. “We as an agency quickly realized that there would be similar innovation around the way we think about the broader media landscape, and that NFTs, and Web3 more broadly, would impact all of them.”

Silverman was the first full-time digital assets agent at UTA, which claims to be the first major talent agency to launch a dedicated Web3 practice. Other Hollywood talent agencies have since entered the fray—including rival WME, which recently signed a pair of Bored Ape NFTs.

Lesley Silverman, UTA’s head of Web3.

Provided by UTA

Initially, UTA aimed to help its existing clients navigate the Web3 world and launch NFT projects, such as a collaboration between Oscar-winning film score composer Hans Zimmer and NFT artist ThankYouX. But the agency soon realized that crypto is blooding a new generation of creators, founders and influencers who could use representation, Silverman said. Her team now helps clients like Deadfellaz secure brand partnerships, merchandising deals and live events—just like how UTA helps build the careers of actors, musicians and other entertainers.

“Our role is really to sit at the intersection of our clients and the things that may seem out of reach,” she said. “Their big ideas, their exciting plans—and the folks who they want to be connected to in order to carry those plans out.”

UTA has four people across the agency who work closely within the Web3 space, with plans to grow the Web3 group in the coming months. The group has facilitated more than 30 NFT drops, partnerships and other initiatives since launching in early 2021, according to the agency. The division has also worked to build a diverse talent roster, adding female-led projects and creators of color, Silverman said.

With the Web3 landscape constantly evolving, UTA will “remain nimble” when it comes to its NFT strategy, Silverman noted. One approach that’s currently resonating with fans is tying digital assets to real-world goods and experiences; indeed, the agency brokered a deal last month that will let Deadfellaz NFT holders create custom Gilson skis or snowboards depicting their own NFT artwork.

“It’s measurable that consumers want those things, and we are certainly not going to take that information lightly,” Silverman said. “Those are two areas that we will definitely look to expand and advise our clients to pursue.”

UTA recently commissioned a survey which found that while only 6% of U.S. consumers aged 16-to-54 have owned an NFT, about 38% want to own one in the future. Though the study’s results were bullish about the Web3 space overall, they did identify some obstacles; for instance, many consumers remain concerned about crypto scams and market volatility, or simply don’t know how to buy an NFT or what to do with one.

If the crypto industry can reduce those friction points, Silverman believes more consumers will flock to digital assets.

“All of that will lead to just more and more consumers entering into the space and equating digital ownership with how they interact socially, how they participate in communities and how they participate in fandom,” she said.

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