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Livestream goes VR. A new audience for artists or new competition to live music?

While the majority of us have been organizing our live music consumption around livestreaming on the various platforms competing for mindshare, another music presentation platform has been getting some buzz, virtual concerts in video game environments like Fortnite and the startup platform Wave.

Rap star Travis Scott broadest a live concert within the game Fortnite and drew 12.3 million viewers for a 10 min performance that was seen on repeats 45.8 million times according to Pitch, which was a record for Fortnite. Minecraft showcased 100 gecs, the electronic pop duo of Dylan Brady and Laura Les, to host its Square Garden Festival as a fund raiser for Feeding America. On the virtual stage were Charli XCX, Cashmere Cat, Tommy Cash, Alice Gas, Gupi, Benny Blanco, and Parry Gripp. The concert was also broadcast on the 100 gecs YouTube Channel and their website, reaching fans who don’t have gaming equipment.

Wave virtual concert platform

Virtual concert platform by Wave.

Minecraft also raised the bar with its Block by BlockWest festival. Originally scheduled for April 25, it was postponed to May 16 when it ran into tech problems.  However, they solved the glitches and the final result was stunning, fascinating and very entertaining.

Produced by Open Pit, the volunteer event organizer group who also produced Square Garden and other live and virtual concerts, it featured Courier Club – who designed the event and broadcast it on their website. Sharing the stages were Cowgirl Clue, Pussy Riot, Idles, Massive Attack, and many other bands playing on three stages with concert goer interaction, a VIP section and other goodies for the 5000 gamers on line and 134000 Twitch and YouTube viewers.

Of course, virtual concerts are not really new.  Second Life put performers on its virtual stages as far back as 2007 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and then moved on to stars like U2 and Rihanna. Last year, Second Life’s virtual reality platform spinoff Sansar Social, partnered with electronic dance music label Monstercat to bring live music to fans via virtual reality.

The Second Life Monstercat partnership intends to push the virtual livestream envelope with Sansar,.Built by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, creator of Second Life, Second Life has collaborated with Monstercat to form the Monstercat: Call of the Wild Experience to bring live concerts and virtual gaming together on July 12.

The project goes beyond concerts to facilitate virtual meet-and-greets, giveaways, and weekly shows following the launch.   Artists will be able to reach a global audience that includes both paying and free fans. Artist will get a cut of the ticket sales and virtual merch sales, without the expense of travel and set up. Fans will get to enj0y their favorite bands in a virtual festival setting without the sky-high ticket prices, long lines and travel and lodging costs.

Of course, it is not the same experience – moving an avatar around and conversing on a VR chat ap is not the same as real life, although it can be better in some ways because you can meet people you would not normally talk with at a concert or festival.  Plus, in many concerts and festivals, the music is so loud the only opportunity to talk is standing in the portapotty lines.

The other missing element is the intimacy with the artist that you can get from livestreams, at least those with smaller audiences. The meet and greet feature on VR concerts can be slow and cumbersome. It is such fun to have a livestreaming artist to give you a shout out or a wave when they see your name come up.  It doesn’t happen in VR.

Linday Sterling vbirtual concert.

Lindsey Sterling in Wave-produced VR concert Artemis

But VR concerts and the growing  industry behind them are here to stay.  The multiple stages, the chat platforms and especially the staging effects make them fun.  With Monstercat now producing weekly concerts in addition to special events and festivals, plus other game platforms’ events, VR/game concerts has become another serious competitor picking off a piece of the live music audience, making the reopening of live music and festivals just that much harder.  Or not, if it brings in new fans from the 2.5 billion-strong gamer world.

Patrick O’Heffernan



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (364 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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