This article first appeared in Creative Moment written by, Chris Brown, Associate Creative Director.
It’s 1981. And we bear witness to a revolution.
We had heard music – now, we were visually consuming it. MTV launched in millions of living rooms globally. Regularly, we’d wait impatiently to see Michael Jackson, Madonna and Prince showcase their latest videos. But we couldn’t interact with them; apart from re-enact a few moves or pump up the volume.
Skip to today.
The scarcity of music has reduced significantly, and we are no longer anchored to rooms, or stadiums, to experience performances. Assuming the ‘Metaverse’ gives access to three-dimensional social worlds online, how could it re-define music experiences beyond our flat screens?
Who benefits from this revolution?
First up, the 'Die Hards'.
These are the people following their favourite artists – wherever they go. But nowadays followers have significant online/virtual presence, so in the Metaverse, artists can actually go to them.
Then there are 'New Fans'. These early adopters of virtual worlds will be niche, tech-savvy demographics looking to the Metaverse to provide progressive experiences. Likely meaning there’s a chance for a new set of fans to be exposed to artists they’d not ordinarily listen to.
And of course, let's not forget the 'Artists'.
New dimensions of expression await. A chance to stand out from typical launches – creating and owning virtual worlds that follow their rules and embodies their work. But as artists saturate the Metaverse, the trick will be in making waves in fresh ways. It’s easy to envisage how someone like Bjork would rise to this challenge.
The popularity of subscription services like Patreon and Masterclass demonstrates fans pay to get closer to people they admire. These spaces could be owned by artists, creators, brands (eg. Spotify Island) or even fans (you could host your own virtual gigs). The crucial thing here is to offer genuine value exchange – you can’t do it superficially. Raising sonic standards could be a fruitful opportunity; how does an audio brand elevate the Metaverse?
What will it re-define?
Let's begin with the humble album.
What makes an ‘album’? A series of ‘tracks’ you experience? I’m obsessed with conceptual albums so can’t wait to see how they could affect the aesthetics of 3D worlds and complex narratives. Unreal Engine is enabling the building of virtual environments in realistic fidelity, whilst making them as emotionally connecting and re-playable as music. Writing purpose-made albums for the Metaverse would disrupt the norm.
Then there's music videos and live shows.
We could star in music ‘videos’, and ‘on stage’ alongside artists… with abundant sharing opportunities for us to show off! Digital skins and NFT merch signpost ‘I was there’ moments, with monetisation giving back to musicians.
Let's not forget the science of sound.
Re-framing how audio is felt, visually unpacking the science behind its varying personality – in 3D. A deeper study into synesthesia: ‘seeing sound’, which could offer interpretations of music for the hard of hearing, as well as an immersive method for trauma therapy. Qualifying the notion that the Metaverse is a fully diverse space.
A place where artists and fans converge to create new tracks. We’ve already seen the success of Travis Scott’s ‘Astronomical’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘Rift Tour’ in Fortnite but imagine these with much more on-demand personalised 1-2-1 moments where celebrity avatars bond with your avatar? Brings a whole new dimension to the term ‘featuring’. And with the Metaverse existing on the Blockchain, what’s made can truly be yours to own, giving elevated ownership to fans and a closer connection to the artist’s success. Beats sitting in Row Z and zooming in 12.6x on your camera!
Metrics will be important too. The number of attendees, dwell time in worlds, first visitors, who created/shared the most… even creation of Metaverse Music Awards! Popularity will be measured accurately as user analytics carry powerful value these days (and tomorrow).
It’s early in our Web3 journey, so it’s hard to claim to know how this pans out. But at Imagination, we’re anticipating this revolution to be in three-dimensional collaborative virtual worlds accessed through headsets, phones and browsers. Not our televisions.
And I envisage music to be the artform that will enable some of the most interesting and emotive experiences in the Metaverse.