Live Music In Virtual Landscapes: The Future of VR

Live Music In Virtual Landscapes: The Future of VR
October 10, 2019

A new landscape has been presented for artists to capitalize on, and it doesn’t even exist within the space of the physical world. Well-known artist/DJ, Marshmello, performed live concerts in February of this year within a 12-hour span that amassed over 10 million viewers and it was all done within Epic Games’ Fortnite. There is no physical venue in the world that can even get close to this attendance size and due to the massive success of Marshmello’s Fortnite performances, it is creating a new avenue for artists to capitalize on.


What does this mean?

The technology industry is finding more solid ground within the entertainment industry and as VR adoption continues to grow, that form of media consumption has the opportunity to become the standard platform to enjoy live concerts on a global scale. This is based on both how cultures are adapting and growing through technological digital platforms, and that VR is providing new immersive experiences that can only be done through that platform. Video games are exploring ways to capture consumers attention through in-game concerts. By creating a space for consumers to come together via an in-game landscape through digital concerts, it shows the influence music has on a large market.

Live Music in Virtual Landscapes is Paving the Road for the Future of VR

A general stigma on what VR is is that it’s only experienced through head mounted displays (HMD), VR can be a virtual landscape that one or many can experience. This is useful in the short-term because as HMDs continue to grow in user adoption, concerts can be experienced through virtual spaces that can be accessed with current technology like computers, tablets, and smartphones. By utilizing hardware that is already in the pockets of a majority of the population, artists, record labels, and the live music scene, can begin seeing how markets respond to concerts that are broadcasted within virtual landscapes. After the major success of Marshmello’s concert within the popular multiplayer battle royale game, Fortnite, it creates an even stronger argument for live concerts to continue and grow across the virtual landscape. While Fortnite is a free-to-play game and Marshmello’s performance didn’t involve purchasing a ticket to attend, its value came through the massive exposure and press surrounding the success of the event.


The virtual space gave Marshmello a space to show off his music in new ways and attract an audience on a global scale. While not explicitly stated, viewers of the event were logged in across the United States, and the world as a whole. Artists looking to take advantage of the Fortnite platform have the opportunity to reach an estimated 250 million players with registered accounts. This is a massive market that Marshmello has capitalized on, along with artists like Drake and Travis Scott through live streams of them playing the game with major players in the video gaming community. As these artists connect and market themselves outside of the standard music industry avenues and into these consistently growing and diverse video gaming communities, their overall social presence and music streaming numbers expand.


Marshmello Social Media Growth

Within the week of Marshmello’s Fortnite performance:

- YouTube: Weekly Views increased by more than 100 million

- Instagram: Follower count increase of 1 million in four days

- Twitter: Over 147K new followers (2000% increase of previous week!) along with 50,000 mentions the day of the concert

Why Does in-Game Concert Development and Prep Matter?

Fans of Marshmello and Fortnite looked forward to the virtual concert and treated it just as a fan getting ready to see an artist in a live venue would. We are entering an age where it doesn’t matter if you’re attending a concert in the physical space or in the virtual space, the excitement behind witnessing a one-of-a-kind event is universal. Virtual landscapes are providing opportunities for more people to experience unique events that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible to them, whether it is from a feasible standpoint, or one’s location. Many parallels leading up to a concert are created in a virtual space, from fliers promoting the event all the way to loading in the production of the stage.


While loading in for a virtual event seems like an unnecessary step for a virtual concert, it actually creates hype for fans who know that artist and curiosity for those who don’t. Peter Rubin of WIRED breaks down this setup process, “Promoted in the game via fliers and a set of special challenges — not to mention a performance area that took shape over the course of a week, appearing as though it was being constructed a bit at a time — players began to think of it not just as a mysterious reveal […], but a specific thing. The activity was the draw.”

In-game view of stage being built before the concert


This shows the depth of hybridization for not just the performance itself, but the lead up as well that plays an integral part in creating buzz. The commitment to treating the marketing of a virtual concert just as one would for a physical one is part of what made Marshmello’s Fortnite concert so successful.


Capacity Perks in the Virtual World Compared to Real World Limitations

The virtual concert within Fortnite showcased a clear advantage of performing concerts in a digital space over physical venues, unlimited capacity. Attendance for Marshmello’s concert surpassed 10 million attendees separated between a multitude of servers putting players in groupings as large as 100 each. To put that attendance in perspective, the largest physical concert to take place was at the State University of Moscow back in 1997, when Jean-Michel Jarre performed in front of a crowd of 3.5 million attendees. The event was also free, but it’s still a fraction of the attendance that Marshmello had in Fortnite. What also made the digital concert noteworthy was that many of the attendees weren’t necessarily fans of Marshmello previously, so it gave the artist access to a target market that he may not have had the opportunity to penetrate through a physical performance.

“Promoted in the game via fliers and a set of special challenges — not to mention a performance area that took shape over the course of a week, appearing as though it was being constructed a bit at a time — players began to think of it not just as a mysterious reveal […], but a specific thing. The activity was the draw.”


- Peter Rubin, Senior Correspondent, WIRED


A final note on the concert is that players could purchase in-game merchandise such as character costumes and dancing emotes relevant to the show and provide them a way to show they were in attendance after the performance during regular gameplay. We can link this to how when people attend real-life concerts, they may buy tour merchandise to showoff and remember after the performance. What is key about this digital concert is how much it committed to making an event out of it before, during, and after the event itself. This strategy shows the level of hybridity there is when it comes to blending the virtual space and its assets to the live entertainment’s.


What This Means is…

As seen from the success of Marshmello’s Fortnite performance, digital/technical landscapes create a new market of opportunities for artists to take advantage of. On the other side of the coin, technology companies that are developing these virtual worlds benefit off of artists’ interest in using their platforms because it brings their fanbase with them. Online video games have been creating worldwide communities for years and now the live music industry is starting to capture and capitalize on that market. Artists can now take their craft and bring it to an online community logged in from around the world and create social cultures that develop exclusively through virtual reality.


Knowledge for the Aspiring Artists

While this Marshmello x Fortnite scenario isn’t possible for every artist, it shows that there are more options than the traditional live touring strategies. There are untapped markets outside of the music streaming services and physical venues to capture audiences. Whether you’re an artist making the next big hit in your bedroom, or your indie label is seeking the next step in your career, there is something to be said by tapping into the gaming community and the multitude of unconventional virtual venues it has to offer.

Thrive in the Streaming Era

Given the current digital and streaming landscape for the music industry, artists who have thousands of followers can’t rely on the royalties they receive from digital service providers (DSPs) like Apple Music and Spotify. With the digital streaming trend only increasing in the U.S. and worldwide, it’s in every artist’s interest to not only pursue live performances for the greatest ROI, but seek out digital live performance opportunities. These digital performances can target new markets, have a wider reach, and require significantly lower overhead costs given there is no need for touring production and staff.

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