Reed Smith Guide to the Metaverse

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As one of the first of the content industries to be heavily disrupted and changed beyond recognition in the early days of the Internet, in many respects the music industry has, since the turn of the century, been one of the first to adopt change and new business models online.

Authors: Gregor Pryor

Since the possibility of performing and delivering live music performances to large crowds disappeared almost overnight with the advent of the COVID-19 epidemic, the music industry and, particularly, performing artists have been forced to innovate and find new ways to reach their fans. Naturally, they started performing online. It is worth noting at the outset of this discussion that live online streaming is not a new thing – the Rolling Stones were doing it in 1995, and many companies have delivered live streams of musicians over the years, including Internet pioneers such as AOL and Yahoo!, long before musicians started using platforms provided by modern players like Twitch and Facebook.

Several defining characteristics distinguish this new form of music consumption in the metaverse from traditional “vanilla” live streaming or even subscription streaming:

  • A walled-garden platform environment
  • The ability to build, or perform in, a virtual venue
  • The possibility of using an avatar or other visual representation of the artist, sometimes comingled with a true video representation of the artist
  • New production capabilities, including manipulating the virtual environment and combining digital visual production with the artist’s own musical production
  • The ability to interact with the audience, in real time
  • In some instances, the combination of more than one artist performing from a different location or virtual venue

There have been many fantastic examples of this innovative musical art form in recent years, but perhaps the most striking and commercially successful was the Travis Scott performance on Fortnite. The traction and audience for this event were phenomenal, with Scott himself commenting: “It was an opportunity to go to the max, to create a world that permits won’t let you do, fire marshals won’t let you do, building codes won’t let you do.”

Aside from virtual events and NFTs (covered elsewhere in this guide), another metaverse phenomenon affecting the music sector has been the emergence of virtual “artists.” While the idea of engaging with a virtual artist, created by artificial intelligence and not having a human personality, may be anathema to many true music fans, there is no denying that such artists are gaining huge traction among digital natives. A good example is FN Meka, described as a “robot rapper who is known for his extravagant style and Hypebeast aesthetics. He has the appearance of a cyborg with green hair and eyes, lots of tattoos, and a hand made of gold.” While this may all seem to be a bit of harmless, somewhat futuristic fun, it has a foundation of serious commercial potential. FN Meka has over 9 million followers on TikTok. As a means of comparison, at the time of this guide, Chance the Rapper – often spotlighted as one of the new breed of superstar rappers – has fewer than 2 million TikTok followers.

Key takeaways
  • First to be disrupted by the internet, music is familiar with change and new online models
  • Several defining characteristics distinguish this new form of music consumption
  • Travis Scott on Fortnite was a successful use of the new performance form
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