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Gigging in the metaverse. Is this the future of live music?

Coachella
(Image credit: Coachella)

The age of the metaverse gig is upon us. Thousands of music fans are already forgoing the usual random ticket grab, costly travel, unwelcome space invasion, pushing + shoving and joke parking/food/toilets to attend gigs in an altogether more civilised, virtual form.

The numbers are massive...

And with popularity increasing, you can expect hundreds of bands and artists to step on board the virtual touring bandwagon. 

Even the upcoming 2022 MTV Video Music Awards feature a new award especially to honour trailblazers in the virtual gig space. Nominations in The “Best Metaverse Performance” category include:

• Rift Tour featuring Ariana Grande (in Fortnite)
• BlackPink (in PUBG Mobile)
• BTS (in Minecraft)
• Charlie XCX (in Roblox)
• Justin Bieber – An Interactive Virtual Experience (in Wave)
• Twenty One Pilots Concert Experience (in Roblox)

If that stream of words has left you baffled, allow us to explain what all the fuss is about.

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande's Rift Tour in Fortnite was a technical tour-de-force (Image credit: Ariana Grande)

Increasingly the boundaries between media are becoming blurred with more and more people playing video games and chosing to consume entertainment within their favourite games rather than switch off.

Popular first-person 'battle royale' shooter Fortnite (available for free everywhere from your desktop computer and games console to your mobile phone) started out as a simple 'game' but has evolved into a 3D virtual space where performers can host events and appear simultaneously to anyone active in the game at that moment.

It's therefore just a short hop to the concept of virtual gigs and with artists able to appear on platforms at predestined times, and even undertake virtual 'metaverse tours'. All without the audience passing through their front door or a single roadie breaking a single bead of sweat.

As for the artist themselves, it's entirely up to them whether they wish to perform in a 'mo cap' (motion capture) suit live in a suitably equipped performance capture space and have their virtual likeness replicate their movements beat for beat, or simply record it and play it back as 'live' later.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber warms up in his motion capture suit prior to his Wave gig (Image credit: Justin Bieber)

Either way these gigs are genuine, one off, never-to-be-repeated performances that fans attend and experience live. And, while entry is often free, the opportunity to 'buy the T-shirt' lives on with virtual gaming accessories and 'skins' (items of clothing usually covering your whole virtual likeness) themed to the event being available in-game 'for a limited time'.

While the costs of putting on such gigs aren't zero (with owners of the platforms stumping up the cost of creating the digital assets and then programming and hosting the virtual events) the money being made for everyone certainly outweighs the effort involved – particularly for the artist. 

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X entertains the crowd in Roblox (Image credit: Lil Nas X)

In fact the numbers are massive. Lil Nas X's concert in Roblox had 33 million views. While in April this year Travis Scott's performance in Fortnite drew 45.8 million viewers across five shows. Scott’s show had an incredible 27.7 million unique attendees. Marshmello DJed to 10.7 million people in Fortnite. And Ava Max had an album launch party (with merch available of course) for the release of her new album in Roblox.

Marshmello

Marshmello spins some tunes in Fortnite (Image credit: Marshmello)

So what do you need to attend your first virtual gig? Take your pick of one of the games/'interactive experiences' listed above and keep your eyes peeled. 

Or – for the most immersive experience currently available – grab a virtual reality headset such as the popular Meta Quest 2. (Meta being the company formerly known as Facebook who are investing hugely in rolling out their 'metaverse' – a place to live, socialise and work in a virtual space that they 100% control.)

The hardware and technology is best described as 'fun' and at £399 'relatively affordable' but it's only going to get better. And, in an interesting (frightening?) vision of the future, VR developer Jake Donaldson has recreated the complete Tomorrowland stage (from the recent dance music event) inside Meta's Horizon Worlds virtual space. Doing this for real (i.e. virtually) looks like an obvious next step.

In fact Coachella earlier this year already hooked up with Fortnite to bring music from the live event and – yup – a wealth of virtual merch-buying opportunities for attendees.

Makes you wonder if one day we'll ever bother attending a live gig again…

But for now… where's that (actual, real-life) mosh pit?

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