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Will the Maturing Metaverse Kill the Live Concert Experience?

Photo by Aditya Chinchure / Unsplash

The 2022 MTV Video Music Awards saw two of music’s biggest stars perform a long-anticipated collaboration. Well, sort of. You see, while the audio was very much credited to Eminem and Snoop Dogg, the pair’s performance of VMA-nominated single ‘From the D 2 the LBC’ was a different matter. Instead of the artists hitting the stage, they sent their Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT avatars as stand-ins.

The performance attracted plenty of criticism, not least due to its blatantly commercial motives: the metaverse performance was intended as a promotional push for Otherside, a web3 initiative by BAYC’s parent company Yuga Labs. It wasn’t just boomers who slammed the performance though; some younger fans derided its cartoonish effects and poor quality graphics.

Well, you can’t please everybody. Whatever your thoughts on the first ever metaverse performance, though, the music business is increasingly and inevitably migrating to the metaverse. But for better or worse?

Metaverse Kills the Music Star?

With easy access to streaming services and high-quality audio equipment, modern technology has made it easy to enjoy music at home – including live performances. That said, there’s nothing quite like the live experience. The sweat. The bass that shakes the earth beneath your feet. Mosh pits. Crowd surfing. The intense aural sensation and overpriced food and drinks. OK, maybe not the latter.

Concerts and festivals provide a tremendous sense of community and camaraderie which can’t be replicated at home. They're also a great way to support your favorite artists. Artists like Rolling Stones, the seminal rockers who sold over half a million tickets in the U.S. in 2021. With streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music criticized for under-paying artists, live concerts are where most modern musicians earn their crust.

Technology has already drastically changed the music landscape – but with the metaverse, will it kill the fame and glory of concerts? Is it possible that artists will follow the lead of Eminem and Snoop and pre-record audio before dispatching comical or photo-realistic to perform to a roaring crowd in a digitized arena, row after row populated by the avatars of concert-goers who watch the action through a VR headset? It would certainly be the lazy option.

The idea isn’t altogether outlandish. Talent show The Voice will soon be in the metaverse after a collaboration between ITV Studios and Virtual Brand Group (VBG), meaning “virtual experiences, social games, persistent worlds and events where fans and friends can enjoy unique content, showcase skills, and challenge each other in creative musical play.”

Over 100 acts are also set to perform at the second Metaverse Music Festival, which is set in the Decentraland virtual world. These aren't struggling jobbing musicians either: Ozzy Osbourne’s infamous Ozzfest will be staged as part of the festivities, with the man himself putting in an appearance. There are 15 stages in total, and though the event is free to attend, one imagines that such experiences won’t be gratis forever.

Live Forever

Of course, it's far too early to ring the death knell for the live music experience. No matter how advanced VR becomes, one can’t imagine concert-goers foregoing a trek to a live arena to recline in an armchair with their Oculus headset. That said, we’ll definitely see more projects attempt to digitally recreate the concert and festival experience, adding effects like rain, pyro, merch stands and all the rest.

Some users might embrace the convenience and curiosity of metaverse music events, but for the majority, the in-person experience won’t be surpassed anytime soon. Bank it.