The Music Metaverse Is (Almost) Ready to Conquer the World

Turning Frank Ocean or Taylor Swift into an infinite jukebox may be difficult from a licensing perspective, especially in an era when stars have more control than ever over their public images and narratives. Still, it seems likely that some app or another will find a way to permanently bring music fans into the metaverse. Aruna Inversin, VFX supervisor and creative director of new media at Digital Domain, the company behind Coachella 2012’s virtual Tupac, has an educated guess about which. Beat Saber, a music-based VR game reminiscent of Rock Band or Guitar Hero, recently acquired by Facebook, is already one of the most popular apps in the metaverse, with more than $100 million in revenue from Meta’s Quest platform alone; add-on packages include music from Fall Out Boy, Lady Gaga, and Timbaland. Inversin suggests that Beat Saber could go to a “really famous artist” and hold a live multiplayer event with them inside the game, where users could interact with their avatar in real-time. “That can happen tomorrow,” Inversin tells me. “If you could find an artist that says, ‘Yeah, every Friday I want to do a track live on Beat Saber,’ they’re going to double their money.”

VR headsets are still a relatively niche technology, so some artists have been meeting fans in nooks of the metaverse a little closer to home. Monica Hyacinth, CEO and co-founder of Los Angeles-based startup CYBR, has worked on music-related virtual experiences built for a simple Web browser. Last November, CYBR launched a virtual listening party for the soundtrack to Roc Nation’s Netflix Western The Harder They Fall. From the comfort of a laptop, your cowboy or cowgirl avatar can stroll through the movie’s fictional Redwood City, visit the saloons, and play a quick-draw game designed by Jay-Z. The film’s director, cast, and soundtrack artists such as Koffee and Barrington Levy made appearances at the party as digital avatars. Users’ avatars could cluster, either among the stars or off by themselves, and talk. “Barrington Levy started spontaneously singing,” Hyacinth recalls. Reminiscent of a real-life party, the gathering continued until “like 4 in the morning.”

People could have private conversations in the listening party because of a technology called spatial audio, which aims to deliver audio at different levels depending on where its sources would be in real-life: an auditory equivalent to 360-degree video. As with VR, spatial audio has been developing for years, with heavy hitters like Dolby and Apple as well as smaller startups pushing the feature. London-based MagicBeans offers a downloadable demo where you can home in on different musicians within a quartet by navigating across the virtual space. (I find the experience absorbing, but wonder how much of the effect is in my head.) Later this year, MagicBeans co-founders Gareth Llewellyn and Jon Olive tell me, they hope to create an in-person environment where dozens of people, wearing headphones, can walk around and interact within an audio space.

https://pitchfork.com/features/article/the-music-metaverse-is-almost-ready-to-conquer-the-world/

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