A New Frontier: The Arts in the Metaverse

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On September 6th, 1997, French composer Jean-Michel Jean performed for 3.5 million fans at Moscow State University breaking the world record for the highest attendance for a concert ever. The artist would continue to hold onto that title for nearly two decades. That is, of course, until 2020, when an upcoming hip-hop artist and a free-to-play video game decided to collaborate in the middle of a pandemic. 

27.7 million people; that’s how many people participated in Fortnite and Travis Scott’s Astronomical, a free, in-game concert. The event took players and their virtual avatars on a psychedelic, music infused journey all led by a giant, in-game recreation of Travis Scott himself and culminated with the live release of a brand new song. Taking place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event illustrated the financial and creative potential of live-streamed and virtual concerts. Most importantly however, the event gave us a glimpse of what the future of entertainment may look like and posed one question above all else: how will our digital future impact the arts industry?

 

‘Metaverse’ has become quite the buzzword this year. There’s a lot of talk of what it is and isn’t, and it seems to be followed by other new, complicated words such as NFT, cryptocurrency and blockchain. If you still need to brush up on some of these ideas, we have you covered. While there is no singular definition of what the Metaverse is or will be, there are signs of its ideologies and constituents beginning to seep into the arts and entertainment sector. This blog post aims to highlight different areas within the arts and entertainment industry that are changing and beginning to enter what many consider ‘The Metaverse’.

Music 

The music industry is one that has quickly been changed with the rising popularity of the metaverse-centric ideologies and NFTs. Live Streamed performances and performances centered around being live-streamable dominated during covid. Travis Scott’s Astronomical was a great example of virtual concerts in their entirety, but there are also excellent examples of novel ways of making legitimate, live performances engaging for at-home audiences. AJR, a NYC based indie band, hosted One Spectacular Night, a live streamed concert delivered to fans in the comfort of their homes. The concert was built with the telos of being 100% virtual and live-streamed whilst engaging on a level never seen before. To accomplish this, the group offered fans the ability to manually change which camera they were viewing the performance from. The concert also had a live chat function where fans would applaud using sound effects made by the band themselves, engage with other viewers, and purchase stickers to use in the chat. The band also included a ‘Gary-Cam’, a live-streamed camera view of their father (the band is composed of three brothers) reacting to the performance. The show sold 8 million tickets in the U.S alone and became a pandemic success story.

The advent and rise in popularity of NFT’s also promises to affect the music industry in a big way. The ability to embed music within NFT’s stands to deeply impact the relationship independent artists have with record labels and their fans. Some industry members speculate that a rise in NFT records will give artists the ability to connect with their fan base in a far more interconnected way. By minting a limited number of NFT copies of an original song, artists can give super-fans the opportunity to earn partial royalties on original music. It should be noted too that this has opened up the opportunity for the inception of a music-industry stock market. 

 

 

Fashion 

Improved augmented reality, the arrival of NFT’s, and a rise in popularity for digital collectibles have deeply impacted the fashion industry, pushing it to a far more digital and virtual space. Perhaps one of the biggest signs the fashion industry was pivoting towards taking virtual fashion seriously was Nike’s acquisition of RTFKT, a digital sneaker manufacturer. While terms of the deal were never disclosed, RTFKT was recently valued at $33 million, a definitive sign in the rising power of virtual fashion. Likewise, The Fabricant, a 100% digital fashion house, believes in a sustainable future that relies on digital fashion to counter the need for wasteful production of physical items. The brand rose to popularity when it allowed customers to “wear” the digital products they were buying via augmented reality and camera filters. Since its debut, Fabricant have worked alongside notable brands such as Under Armour, Adidas, and Puma to help them create digital fashion pieces for a new era. 

 

 

 

Theatre & Dance 

In the words of writer William Gibson, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” Out of the three areas examined in this blog, the theater and dance sectors have been the slowest to adapt to new Web3 trends and technologies. Nonetheless, to think massive change isn’t in store for the performing arts as well would be to bet against progress. In fact, progress is already manifesting itself in the sector. Third Act, a company that creates and maintains digital collectibles for productions, has seen success working with the stage production of Herding Cats to create collectibles and playbills in the form of NFTs. Similarly, it isn’t difficult to imagine how the aspects of Web3 that have changed similar arts industries (engaging live streaming, NFT collectibles and augmented reality) could just as easily deeply impact the theater and dance industry.

So What?

When was the exact moment we entered the mobile internet era? While you might feel inclined to say it was when the first iPhone was released in 2007, to do so would erase the major moments of innovation that came before it. The advent of the Blackberry occurred a decade before the invention of the iPhone; the invention of WAP standards 8 years before; the commercial deployment of 2G 20 years before; even the first mobile phone call occurred 34 years before Steve Jobs debuted the iPhone. In reality, there’s never a single moment that marks when we enter a new era – no easily visible event where everything changes. Instead, all we can do as marketers, entertainers and entrepreneurs, is listen to the world around us. While predicting the future may be an impossible task, trends are trackable. The case studies we’ve explored thus far yield lessons we can take with us into the future to be better prepared for the day we find ourselves in a completely new environment. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway here is that the world of entertainment is entering a time of rapid change and innovation. Technological improvements in the world of VR and AR as well as the advent of new technologies like Blockchain and NFTs are quickly opening new doors and areas to explore in nearly every sector of entertainment. In tandem, these technologies are changing the ways artists can connect with their audiences. 

Change is always intimidating. It signifies a shift in the rules and, in some cases, of the game entirely. It also means that opportunities for growth and innovation are abundant. If there is anything we can be sure of, it’s that this next decade will surely bring plenty of change for the arts, culture and entertainment industries. If you want to be a part of the conversation and want tips on how to stay on top of the change, you’re in the right place. Subscribe to our newsletter below for more Metaverse updates!

Miles Dorsey – Marketing Intern