Please step this way folks! Have you heard about Metaverse? What you are about to see here folks, you won’t believe your eyes and ears. Colors, sights, sounds that are there, but are not really there. Interact with real live people from thousands of kilometers away like they are in your own studio. This is the new way that you fine artists can connect directly with your fans. Virtual musical worlds have already been crafted where fans and artists are not confined to just watching from behind a screen or in front of a camera, but can interact with each other in a virtual world, much like you would in a live concert or studio. Unlimited possibilities arise how music and interactions can be shared. So, what is Metaverse?
Once just a hypothetical concept coined in 1992 by Neil Stephenson, the author of Snow Crash, Metaverse is now becoming a reality. “The metaverse is an all-encompassing digital world that exists parallel to the real world.” (Stephenson, 1992)
Like many developments in computer technology, Metaverse was first implemented in the gaming sector. The virtual world platform, Second Life (an online game just what its name implies) is considered to be the first Metaverse. There are a host of virtual worlds, each having its own theme and purpose: buying virtual real estate, hosting live performance, social interaction and games, the applications are limitless. However, the Metaverse is not limited to only gaming worlds.
Metaverse in its most simple description; Is the merging of real and virtual worlds. I like to think of it as an immersive digital universe limited only by our imagination and our ability to realize and construct the necessary tools. In Metaverse you can be digitally present within the world of your choice via your avatar and peripheral devices: VR(virtual reality & AR(augmented reality) smart goggles and haptic gloves to name a just a few; To have life-like interactions with Metaverse.
Metaverse is the next generation of digital connection after Internet. The applications for Metaverse are limitless, however applications for Metaverse have only begun to be realized. Roblox, is a game making game where users can monetize from other users playing their games. Second Life, is a game where you can connect with other people and have a “second life.” Decentraland is a virtual ecosystem run on Ethereum blockchain technology so the users can buy and sell real estate with MANA currency, socialize, play games, exchange collectables, interact and explore. Worlds in Metaverse are persistent, meaning that there are no pauses, game-overs, or resets in the virtual worlds. Unlike in most online games and traditional online gaming, participants will be able to interact with anyone from around the world logged into the same virtual world. When services are decentralized and run by crypto networks, not a single entity, but the whole community is in control of what can and can’t be done within the world.
One application of Metaverse we’ve seen in music is in virtual performances. In these virtual performances artists are opening up a direct connection to their fans, connecting with fans in ways not possible in real life, as well, making connection to the artist more accessible for their audiences. One way is to have fans contribute to the creative process; Deadmau5 crowdsourced an audience to use in a new video. Virtual performances will allow fans, who are not so keen on attending live events for one reason or another, the freedom to attend; I find amplified live concerts unnecessarily loud, if only I could turn down the volume my experience would be much more enjoyable. You could shop for exclusive virtual or real merchandise, sound tracks or video, have private conversations with other attendees in listening parties, or make eye contact and dance with the performer.
Theoretically you could make your home studio Metaverse. Create a virtual world where you can make and produce your creations or instruct others on how to make and produce music or how to play an instrument. Obviously a digital representation of an acoustic instrument would never be able to compare with the real thing, but there could be possibilities that would enhance the experience not available in real life, such as i.e.; instant playback.
Currently, sharing music in Metaverse worlds is uncertain. There are so many factors to consider especially with copyright, ownership, and collecting and paying royalties, to say the least. NFT’s (Non Fungible Tokens) have taken a spotlight as one solution for music to be bought and shared directly from artists to fans, bypassing traditional distribution and copyright middlemen like labels and streaming services. This is one implementation of how music can be made available in Metaverse environments.
Streaming music will not be going away. Could you imagine being in a world without music? Rather dull I'd say. Same goes for virtual worlds. There needs to be music and the ability for users to choose the music they hear within the worlds. It may be that sync licensing will cover the usage of music in Metaverse allowing musicians to license their music to specific platforms for example. We have yet to see how this will playout. It is imperative that music creators stay on top of these developments to know how and when their music wil be used. This is very important for Musicinfo, as the development of AI and Metaverse are seeping into how music is being consumed, so that our artists can ensure that they are getting continual top value for their shared music especially from China.
Top music Metaverse platforms to look out for are: Decentraland, Wave, Fortnite, Roblox, Blankos Block Party, The Sandbox & Star Atlas.
China, the country with the greatest amount of smartphone users (900 million) sees virtual reality being made accessible through smartphones a business priority. In 2021 Baidu launched the first Metaverse app Land of Hope and Tencent Music has announced the launching of TMELAND, claiming to be China’s first interactive virtual festival. Also, Modern Sky the promoter of the Strawberry festival, has boasted making it virtual festival and making it Metaverse. XRSpace has created PartyOn, a music performance Metaverse, a kind of karaoke in Metaverse. Already this spring 2022 surpassing WeChat for the amount of downloads, is the app called Jelly (zhě lí). One other mention is the app Soul, stating its mission is to, “… to build a ‘soul’cial metaverse,” connecting people through common passions and hobbies.
There is a lot of hype surrounding Metaverse, and businesses are not holding back. Already 16,000 Metaverse related trademarks have been filed. Tech giant Tencent has announced a collaboration with Roblox to eventually bring Roblox to China. The Shanghai government has added in its 5 year plan, to developing Metaverse in its electronic information industry labeling it one of, “four frontiers of exploration.”
There are little or no regulatory requirements yet, concerning Metaverse in China, or outside of China for that matter. As Metaverse develops it will force our traditional ways of regulating intellectual information copyright to change. So much needs to be developed, from hardware to applications, copyrights and legal policies which will raise many questions. How are people going to be affected? How will people use or abuse Metaverse worlds? Can we even imagine the implications? Like everything, we will learn as we do and make many mistakes along the way. The hope is that we can move forward and minimize the negative impacts of Metaverse, from our experience in the development of Internet and Social Media. There are infinite unforeseen factors that will only reveal themselves once Metaverse evolves and mingles into our daily lives.
Soon wherever you look Metaverse will be in the air. It is only just beginning and the impact it will have on our lives are far from imagined or understood. One thing is for sure: It will have a reality altering effect on us all. Could it be that it will be the answer to all our problems? That it will feed our insatiable hunger to consume and travel. Will we be content to consume virtual representations allowing our natural resources and environmental systems to stabilize and become sustainable? Or, will it be that these virtual worlds replicating our once vibrant earth will be our channel to the world we once had after global warming has extinguished most organisms off the face of the earth? I know that humans are intelligent enough to have the foresight to be constructive in a sustainable humane manner, but I also know that too many of us are too immature to take responsibility for our past, present and future actions. This may be our last frontier. What will come after? Though we have wisdom, our inclination is to jump down into the rabbit hole and see where it takes us with little concern for our consequences. I wonder where we will end up?
Stephenson, N. (1992). Snow crash
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