Earlier this month, Ariana Grande, rocking her traditional high ponytail, dazzled audiences with her hits “Raindrops” and “Be Alright” against backgrounds of dreamy, candy-colored sets. It wasn’t your typical concert. Grande, wearing a shimmering dress made of shards of glass, towered over her fans and smashed them with a bejeweled hammer upon her entrance. At one point, she sprouted wings and flew across a landscape of floating bubbles and ornaments, blowing kisses back at her fans dressed as mini Ariana Grandes.
All of this could only happen within the world of “Fortnite.” The virtual concert is expected to top the 12 million concurrent players the Travis Scott "Astronomical" event saw last year. In the three days after Grande's event, video streams of her hit “Be Alright” surged 123% from 42,000 streams to 93,000 streams, according to MRC Data.
Video games have long served as a way for consumers to discover new music. But over the past year, the pandemic gaming boost and new metaverse technology have further merged the worlds of gaming and music, reaching new audiences of concert-goers and music streamers. So much so that the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics featured the theme songs of “Dragon Quest” and “Final Fantasy,” to popular role-playing games.
Music labels, talent agents and brands are all looking to be part of the equation, namely to reach young audiences who might be experiencing their first concert in a virtual setting. Even legacy gaming companies are seeking new ways to position their games as platforms for music discovery. And even with in-person concerts coming back, experts say the assimilation of music and gaming, such as virtual concerts, has staying power.
“We are right at the beginning of a massive new industry,” says Jon Vlassopulos, VP, global head of music at Roblox. “Artists, labels, publishers, venue and festival owners, video platforms, all have a chance to reinvent themselves and capture first-mover advantage. Virtual performances are now an integral part of the music landscape even with the return of IRL [in real life] concerts and other types of events and will become more immersive in the months and years ahead.”