✖ Music startup Wave ditches VR as Steam reports 71% increase in virtual reality revenue
And: Instagram tests creator monetization; vaccine passports; how the US industry lobbied for pandemic relief; how Jeezy used augmented reality to get voters out
To those that have been paying attention to immersive music experience startup Wave, the recent announcement that they are sunsetting their VR app on Steam should not come as a surprise:
The startup, originally known as TheWaveVR, had increasingly started to focus on immersive experiences that don’t require VR. The VR was replaced in their URL and social media handles by XR, which typically denotes mixed reality although it’s also used for ‘extended reality’ or ‘cross-reality’.
Will Wave still let online music subcultures thrive, as I wrote in 2017? They have and they will. Wave’s co-founder, Adam Arrigo, rightly remarks that artists need audiences to thrive and VR hadn’t taken off in the way they’d hoped. Startups being startups, tough choices have to be made and being spread too thin while juggling different priorities and audiences kills startups. For Wave, that meant getting out of VR (for now) despite growth in the space.
Steam, the world’s online largest gaming store & platform, just reported that 2020 saw 71% more VR revenue compared to 2019. A large portion of which can be attributed to a single game called Half Life: Alyx (39% to be exact). However, some of that revenue can be attributed to Beat Saber, a game that combines music & VR, which has been called “the closest thing VR has seen yet to a ‘killer app’“.
In other news, Bootshaus, a well-known club in Germany, ‘re-launched’ itself as a virtual reality version of its real-life location and has been hosting events since November. These types of developments are interesting, because of the challenges they knowingly or unknowingly take on.
Only ~2% of Steam’s users use a VR headset. That’s a gaming platform. What do these numbers look like for a club and their own audience?
Clubs are experts in targeting local audiences: how do you promote on a global scale (or at least across adjacent timezones) as you inevitably have to branch out beyond your usual audience?
People know what a club night is, so the promotion of one is straight forward. Selling them a new experience requires some form of consumer education and relies on different promotional techniques and strategies.
The way people socially coordinate to attend events in real life is different from the decision-making process to attend an online event.
And that’s not even considering the technical challenges and aspects of user experience design. This is exactly why it’s unreasonable to expect clubs to “reinvent themselves” for the duration of the pandemic – it’s a different business. It’s why government support is so important.
Having said that, those that do manage to translate their experience and expertise into the virtual realm are important to watch. We spend much more of our time online than before. Just look at the jump in Steam’s data delivery in 2020:
The pandemic has a lot to do with the jump above, but one should not be too quick to dismiss the new habits that are being established. As Theodore Krantz, the CEO mobile data and analytics company App Annie, recently said:
“The world has forever changed. While people stay at home across the world, we saw mobile habits accelerate by three years.”
Trends is exactly the right word. We may see a dip as we leave the pandemic, but the trend will catch up again. Every live music company, whether a venue or promoter, is already a media company with its channels on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and perhaps TikTok.
What type of media company will venues become now that the virtual experience is mainstream?
🗳 To get more voters to the polls, augmented reality startup Drops collaborated with Jeezy to place geofenced exclusive content near voting stations in Atlanta, Georgia.
⚠ Modern social media can let songs go viral and explode in popularity. It can also propel disinformation into the mainstream. Joan Donavan writes about the tradeoff between scale and safety. Meanwhile Mark Mulligan warns of the corrosive effect of music’s dependency on the attention economy.
👾 Sean Monahan (who coined the phrase ‘normcore’) explains how video games have replaced music as the most important aspect of youth culture. The writing has been on the wall for a while. In 2016, for one of the first editions of this newsletter, I wrote about music & gaming: “Music has lost its cultural monopoly for identity building.”
💸 Instagram plans to let artists monetize its platform. It’s currently testing ‘badges’ with 50,000 creators. Badges let fans tip artists during livestreams in exchange for perks (similar to Twitch or YouTube’s monetization features).
⚓ Sea shanties are making a comeback. On TikTok.
💼 Billboard discusses the four strategic pillars to successfully lobby for pandemic relief, as used by The Recording Academy, RIAA, A2IM, NIVA, and others.
🏟 The live industry can’t wait to put on events again. NME talks with festival directors about what music’s restart in 2021 may look like.
🛋 Emily Yahr looks back on how 2020 changed entertainment (from books, to film, to music) and through interviews explores which aspects may be changed forever.
🛂 Vaccine passports. Complicated subject matter, yet the live sector is interested as it may mean events can be put on sooner. Ethical discussions aside: I truly wonder whether a reliable vaccine passport system could even be implemented & adopted within the time we’d need to vaccinate enough of the population. (It’s possible, but many governments have lagged on track & trace, vaccination tracking, testing, and other measures.)
👩🏻💻 Safe, a European event safety project, is running a hackathon to identify Covid-19 solutions for live later this week. Mentors include senior staff from the O2 Arena, Primavera Sound, Roskilde Festival, and more. So it’s a good chance to move from the lab to real-world experimentation. You can still apply.
Poll: Member Profiles
When the first MUSIC x was sent out 5 years ago, it reached a few dozen people I all knew personally. Thousands of signups later and I still feel like MUSIC x represents a network full of innovators, decision-makers, artists, and technologists from around the world. In order to reflect this, I’m considering doing a monthly member profile in addition to the usual article & links. The question is, would you be interested in reading that?
Answer the Twitter poll [open tweet to see the poll]:
Bonus question for members of the MUSIC x Patreon: would you be interested in appearing in a monthly member profile section? [click]
I recently came across JINJER, a Ukrainian metal band. Someone told me to watch the below concert, which was the show that was supposed to kick-off their breakthrough world tour in 2020. This band’s potential is obvious and what the lead singer can do with her voice is insane (not to mention the skill of the rest of the band). It made me realize: it’s been a while since a serious metal band broke through to the mainstream. Is the time ripe for another System Of A Down moment?
✖ MUSIC x, founded by Bas Grasmayer and co-edited by Maarten Walraven.
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