Even though he’s obviously got more than a little skin in the game, Jon Vlassopulos has some interesting observations about the music industry and the way we experience our favourite stars on stage. Video game fans may, or may not, know Vlassopulos as not only the vice president of Roblox, but also its head of music. In an interview with NME, he suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the ground rules for concertgoing.
Over the past 24 quite frankly miserable months, Roblox has hosted virtual reality concerts featuring the likes of Tai Verdes, Lil Nas X, and Twenty One Pilots. While no substitute for edging one’s way up to the front of the stage and making eye contact with the performer, those concerts have at least provided a break from rewatching every episode of Adventure Time. (Admittedly, that hasn’t been the worst thing. All together now: “Jaaaaammmes Baxxxxxxter”).
Roblox isn’t the only game that’s put on virtual concerts—recall, if you will, the full-blown, server-crashing event that was Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert back in the lockdown spring of 2020.
In the interview, which you can read here, Vlassopulos suggests that there are a whole host of selling points, including
- Artists can instantly reach a global audience without ever having to get on a plane, tour bus, or load into a 1973 Gremlin where the only way the drums fit if to strap them to the roof.
- Video games like Roblox and Fortnite already have massive built-in audiences, giving musicians the ability to reach a demographic that normally wouldn’t know 21 One Pilots from a commercial airline pilot.
- Virtual reality concerts are limited only by the imaginations of the people who put them on, which means artists have the ability to create worlds that only exist in the minds of Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes after he’s shotgunned two bottles of red wine, gobbled a handful of Orange Sunshine, and then fired up a bong the size of the Empire State Building.
- No one has to save nine months of dishwashing wages to attend a concert in the metaverse. If only that had been the case when you spent $600 to be in the front row the last time Lana Del Rey played Vancouver. (And admit it—that was totally worth it, even if you accidently deleted the selfie she took with you in the middle of “Born To Die”).
- The internet might as well be the world’s biggest merch table, and because every virtual reality concert has been a mega-event, fans clearly want to remember the experience. According to Vlassopulos, merch sales from Lil Nas X’s show topped US$10 million dollars. (Dispute that all you want, but not before considering that an estimated 30 million people tuned in).
Vlassopulos’ takeaway from all this, in case it’s somehow not clear, is that the future belongs to those who aren’t afraid to have digital versions of themselves join the world’s of Roblox, Fortnite, and maybe even Grand Theft Auto.
“We also expect artists to use virtual concerts to kick-off real ones,” he told NME, “like Twenty One Pilots did last year – and for labels to view them as an essential marketing opportunity just as important as social media or television.”
With the immediate future of concerts still uncertain in these COVID times, expect to see more ROBLOX metaverse events in the months ahead featuring everyone from established artists, up-and-comers, and DJs.
As for the years ahead, Vlassopulos predicts the rise, and then megastardom, of acts which only exist in the virtual world. Kind of like Gorillaz before Damon Albarn got greedy and hit the stadium circuit.
Or Universal Music's band KINGSHIP, the four members of which are non-fungible tokens (NFTs), doomed to perform forever in the metaverse and not on physical stages. Or maybe, you know. KINGSHIP is blessed. After all, it’s not like they’ll ever have to spend a day smelling each other’s beer farts in a tour van driving 14 hours from Toronto to Thunder Bay.