Does the metaverse represent the future of live music?

Touring is a key aspect to being a professional musician. But while it is one thing for international superstars to embark on a world tour with all their entourage, it’s another matter for acts that with a smaller fanbase and bank balance. Could the metaverse solve the problem, especially when reaching out to audiences in places like Australia? 

Several acts have already made it work, and as the Metaverse continues to evolve, virtual live music is clearly not going anywhere. 

How does it work?

The concept is simple enough, but the execution takes as much time and effort as arranging a physical concert. The artist performs live in a remote location, for example his or her recording studio, and the performance is live streamed into the virtual world. 

Rather than have to create their own virtual worlds from scratch, artists have collaborated with open world games to use their virtual space. For example, both Travis Scott and Ariane Grande have played virtual concerts in Fortnite, while K-pop boy band BTS performed in Minecraft. 

Blackpink, who won the Best Metaverse Performance at the last MTV awards teamed up with PUBG Mobile. Incidentally, the fact that MTV recognizes Metaverse performances shows just how seriously this new performance platform is being taken. 

In most cases, performers either appear as themselves, superimposed in the virtual setting by webcam or as avatars that are essentially lip synching to a pre-recorded performance. But there is another way for a slicker experience that is genuinely live. When Justin Bieber took to the metaverse to promote the release of his new album “Justice,” he used a motion capture suit to direct the actions of his avatar in real time. It also meant that others could join him on stage and even influence the performance, adding that sense of unpredictability that is so important a part of a real live show. 

Following in the footsteps of live casino

It’s not just music acts that can reach out to Australia and other remote audiences via cyberspace. For example, online casinos in Australia have been doing this for years. They offer live games where players can interact with the dealer via live chat while playing blackjack or roulette and they have proved both popular among Australia’s discerning casino goers and resilient to attack by Australia’s casino and gambling regulators.

Virtual casinos have been around a lot longer than virtual concerts, but they saw a spike in popularity in 2020 and 2021 due to the same drivers that saw musicians start to experiment with the metaverse. However, that popularity has not diminished with the world’s return to normal. Yes, we can argue that playing from your phone at home will never completely replicate the experience of a night out at a top casino. But likewise, it is a great compromise, especially in places like Australia where the nearest casino might be some distance away. 

New tricks for old dogs

We mentioned the likes of Ariane Grande, Justin Bieber and some of the latest K-pop sensations earlier. But it’s not just 21st century Gen Z musicians that can take advantage of the metaverse. 

We live in an age when some of rock music’s true pioneers are involved in farewell tours, whether they are officially calling them as such or not. Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney are now in their 80s, Roger Waters will have joined them by the time his current tour finishes later this year, and the loss of Charlie Watts in 2021 proves that even the Rolling Stones are not immune from the sands of time. The metaverse could provide an opportunity for their music to continue. 

Just look at Ozzy Osbourne. He was as heartbroken as his fans when ill health forced him to call off his current tour. He has publicly stated that he is desperate to get back on stage as soon as he can, but let’s be honest, he is in his mid 70s and battling Parkinson’s Disease among other long-term health problems. Ozzy is among the first of the old guard to have performed in the metaverse, and was joined there at Ozzfest by other old rockers like Motörhead, and Megadeth. The music press were quick to turn on the cynicism, and admittedly, the avatars seemed to have been lifted from a 1990s PlayStation game, but it is easy to mock. The metaverse is in its infancy, and who knows where these first baby steps could take us? The fact, for example, that Motörhead’s virtual line up included the late great Lemmy certainly provides food for thought, even if it did not sit entirely comfortably with all the fans.