In recent years, especially during and after the pandemic, the music industry has witnessed a seismic shift as artists increasingly turn to the metaverse to connect with fans in unexpected, tech-driven ways. It's been a while since we haven't heard much of metaverse in the music industry, but it seems like it's gaining a new surge in 2024.
Metaverse concerts were on the rise in 2019 & after the pandemic with major artists performing
The rise of virtual reality concerts back in 2019 paved the way for immersive experiences, lifting the limitations of physical shows and bringing live music directly to fans' homes. The metaverse, a virtual space where users can interact with a computer-generated environment, has become a digital frontier for major artists, from Marshmello and Travis Scott to ABBA and Doja Cat, setting a new tone in the relationship between musicians and their audiences.
While the concept of virtual reality (VR) in music isn't new, its widespread adoption is a more recent phenomenon. Since the early 2010s, artists and tech enthusiasts have dabbled in the possibilities of VR. However, it's the combination of readily available VR headsets and improved internet speeds in recent years that has propelled virtual concerts into the mainstream. Major music festivals have embraced this trend, providing VR live streams that enable fans worldwide to virtually "attend" these events from the comfort of their homes.
And that's not surprising, considering that the financial constraints, physical disabilities, or geographical distances in the post-pandemic world impeding someone from attending a live performance in person are dismantled by the accessibility of virtual concerts. Equipped with a VR headset and a reliable internet connection, fans could find themselves seamlessly transported to the front row of a Beyoncé concert or immersed in the collective dance experience of thousands at Tomorrowland. Virtual concerts thus become a democratising force, making the magic of live performances accessible to a broader audience, irrespective of their circumstances.
The journey into the intersection of metaverse and music began with Marshmello's Fortnite concert in February 2019. Even before the concept of the metaverse fully materialised, Marshmello's performance was a moment that expanded the horizons of the music industry and marked one of the first crossovers between the music industry and Fortnite's rapidly expanding metaverse, laying the groundwork for future virtual experiences.
Travis Scott took the metaverse concerts to new heights in April 2020 with his Fortnite performance. In the midst of a global lockdown, Scott's concert became a cultural phenomenon. It attracted nearly 28 million viewers and showed the potential of virtual events in connecting artists with fans during challenging times.
Soccer Mommy, known for her indie rock style, embraced the metaverse through Roblox. The singer brought something innovative to it, though: she hosted three days of games and events, culminating in a virtual concert, proving that even smaller artists can leverage the platform to connect with their fanbase in VR.
The Weeknd's exploration into the virtual concert space took an interesting turn with a performance on TikTok. The short-video sharing platform was one of the early adopters of virtual concerts during the pandemic, so it featured The Weeknd's animated rendition of his popular track, "Blinding Lights," accompanied by virtual backup dancers executing the well-known TikTok dance associated with the song.
What distinguished this virtual concert was its interactive features. Real-time comments from viewers were integrated into the experience, appearing on light-up signs and becoming part of the virtual fireworks display. TikTok actively encouraged viewers to "share their love in the chat to light up the sky!" This inventive approach went beyond the conventional concert format, fostering a sense of participation and connection. Viewers attended not only for The Weeknd's performance but also to witness their own comments and usernames illuminated alongside the artist.
Justin Bieber's foray into the metaverse occurred on Wave in November 2021, where he delivered his first-ever virtual show. Bieber's Wave avatar, with its resemblance to the real-life artist, performed hits like "Peaches" and "Lonely" against a visually striking backdrop.
David Guetta collaborated with Roblox, presenting a 45-minute set in February 2021. This went beyond a mere concert, incorporating dance battles, puzzles, and virtual merchandise for attendees' avatars. Inspired by this show, Guetta announced the David Guetta Experience in 2023, a project featuring a narrative element and appearances from artists like Snoop Dogg and Akon.
Ariana Grande joined the metaverse through Fortnite in August 2021, also surpassing the conventional definition of a concert. Viewers were transported to interactive mini-games and features, transforming the experience into a multi-dimensional journey rather than a static performance.
2024 Metaverse shows renaissance
It's been a pause for a couple of years with no major artists performing in VR, and in 2024, the metaverse concerts are back again, with Doja Cat's announcement of her first-ever VR concert, "Doja Cat: The Scarlet Tour in VR," filmed during her arena tour. Collaborating with Meta and The Diamond Bros, this concert promises to capture the essence of Doja Cat's performances in a virtual realm. Doja Cat: The Scarlet Tour in VR will premiere on Saturday, 20 January, at 17:00 PT in Meta Horizon Worlds’ Music Valley.
Of course, all of these wouldn't have been possible without VR music platforms that played a crucial role, partnering with artists—Meta, Roblox, Fortnite are just a few to name. In 2024, striving to bring VR shows back to life, Soundscape is joining the scene. A VR music platform that made its debut at CES 2024, presents an initiative to reshape the industry through the launch of a musical metaverse, aiming to offer fans the opportunity to engage in virtual performances from a variety of artists and DJs.
Although Soundscape initially entered the scene in 2017, it has recently revealed an updated version of its metaverse at CES 2024. This new iteration features improved graphics and play mechanics, powered by Unreal Engine 5—an advanced 3D computer graphics engine widely used in video games and movies. Soundscape collaborates with artists to create distinctive VR concert experiences for their fans. Several popular artists, including Deadmau5, Slash, and Evanescence, have entered partnerships with Soundscape.
Are we about to see more VR shows from popular artists this year? So far, it seems like it.