As the digital realm becomes more and more prominent in our daily lives, we’re growing accustomed to a world where the boundaries between physical and digital are increasingly unclear.
Virtual venues and events are the new frontiers of virtual reality (VR): places where people can gather, regardless of their physical whereabouts, to experience something valuable together.
In this context, the underground club scene in the metaverse thrives.
As a musician and producer, I’ve been fascinated by this strange new world for a long time, so I decided to find out more about what it means to be part of a virtual music community and what artistes can learn from this new opportunity to share their works with others.
A PARALLEL LIFE IN THE METAVERSE
The technology was already here, but there’s no doubt the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the transition to a more digital lifestyle.
When nightlife came to a standstill, clubgoers and DJs found in the metaverse an escape route that’d allow them to have fun and stay sane during the lockdowns.
However, not only clubgoers and DJs benefited from the new technology. More and more entertainment companies and music venues embraced cyberspace to counterbalance the effects of the pandemic on their business.
In the music industry, results have been mind-blowing.
Hybe – the agency behind the K-pop band BTS, managed to recover its losses caused by the lockdowns in 2020. It registered an operating profit of over 30%, mostly coming from VR concerts.
Again in 2020, Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert had almost 28 million people tuning in.
Ariana Grande, Photo: Emma/WIkimedia Commons
Ariana Grande’s performance pushed the metaverse’s possibilities even further in 2021. Her event was an immersive live performance that took listeners on an interactive, multisensory journey unlike anything they’ve seen before.
While concerts are now back and clubs have reopened their doors, during the lockdowns, people realised there’s a new way to enjoy live music without leaving their homes.
The feeling of detachment from the self, the hyper-real audio-visual experience, and the sense of escape ingrained in the nature of the virtual world led to the creation of a global underground movement of people who found in their avatars the only way to be truly themselves.
RISE OF A NEW DIGITAL SUBCULTURE
The VRChat club scene is probably the cutting-edge of live EDM music in the digital world, with a sense of community reminiscent of the authentic club culture that seems so difficult to find in real venues today.
VR clubs like Rizumu and Loner Online attract thousands of people to their events, and their audience is growing every year.
Between April 2020 and January 2022, the VRChat community grew from 18,000 to 90,000 simultaneous users, with raves, clubs, and concerts being the most popular activities in the metaverse.
How is it possible that, despite less restrictive Covid regulations, these online music communities keep growing steadily?
Boundless accessibility, genuine passion, and the users’ desire to create avatars that truly represent them are what make cyberspace such an exciting place for the club culture and music in general.
THE METAVERSE OFFERS BOUNDLESS ACCESSIBILITY
Photo: Barbora Dostalova/Unsplash
Venues in the metaverse are accessible from anywhere. You just need a VR headset, and you’re ready to get to the dancefloor.
For instance, VRChat made it possible for people with physical disabilities to join parties and do things they might have never done in real life. By getting rid of the constraints of our limited physical shell, we open up a plethora of new opportunities that are exploited in the metaverse.
How about partying at the Amnesia, one of the coolest clubs in Ibiza? Or how about creating your own venues?
Regardless of what you want to do, possibilities in the Metaverse seem endless, and it’s precisely this abundance of opportunities that led music lovers to embrace this new technology.
Untouched by the physical constraint of actual clubs, which need top-billing DJs to attract local people and generate revenue to cover high maintenance costs, digital venues are a labour of love created by music fans for music fans.
With a potential worldwide audience and close-to-zero expenses, virtual clubs can be as bold as they want in their music selection and venue design.
GENUINE PASSION TO BE FOUND WITHIN THE METAVERSE
The people who run underground clubs in the metaverse aren't associated with big corporations, and often they don't even make a profit from what they do.
This is a labour of love for many, who felt the need to create digital environments that represent the culture they feel connected with.
The amount of work these people put into their digital world is astounding.
Loner Online looks and feels like a real club thanks to the incredible attention to detail. From the Tokyo skyline in the background to the restroom in the back, it offers an immersive multisensory experience that's impossible to forget.
The music, the lights, the dancefloor: everything about the most successful virtual venues is curated with such dedication that it’s not hard to imagine why these are becoming the only “places” where you can still find the authentic club culture.
A VIRTUAL AVATAR THAT MATCHES WHO YOU ARE
Photo: Julien Tromeur/Unsplash
This might seem like it has nothing to do with music, but trust me, it’s indeed related.
The possibility to create a new version of oneself from scratch, combined with the chance to build a network of friends unrestricted by physical surroundings, generates a powerful urge to escape the physical realm.
In this context, music plays a crucial role. It’s an aggregator, a tool that helps blend in, and for many, a way to escape reality.
Music in the metaverse connects people in ways no other artform can, as it’s the only medium that can seamlessly jump from the physical to the digital world unblemished.
HOW CAN MUSICIANS BENEFIT FROM THE METAVERSE?
The underground club scene was the first one to embrace the power of the metaverse fully. So what about all the other musicians out there?
Although VR concerts aren’t that popular yet, it won’t be long before virtual events become common practice and part of artistes’ source of revenue.
Low production costs and a potentially global audience is a combination too powerful to simply ignore for the sake of preserving the authentic experience.
Unreal Engine, possibly the most advanced real-time 3D creation tool, allows you to create incredibly detailed music venues where you can curate any detail, including the way audio frequencies propagate.
Imagine having the opportunity to create the venue of your dreams: you could host regular gigs for your fans or reward them for their support with private concerts, and so on.
Possibilities are endless, and with the technology evolving at an increasingly faster pace, I wouldn’t be surprised if the metaverse will completely revolutionise the way we experience live music.
TO LIVE IN TUNE WITH THE METAVERSE
Photo: Richard Horvath/Unsplash
If experiences in virtual reality can be as enriching, if not more, than their real counterparts, then where is the limit that defines the structure of reality?
You can share a meaningful moment with people in the metaverse, and when you bring that feeling back to the real world with you, it is real.
You can feel it! It has a tangible impact on your existence.
Live events, music communities and underground club scenes are gradually discovering the benefits of detaching themselves from the physical realm.
While experiences in cyberspace might never replace the ones in real life, the metaverse is becoming a haven for many creatives who want to express themselves in new ways, reach a wider audience, and free themselves from the constraints of their surroundings.
Throughout history, artistes have been able to embrace new technologies to enhance their craft. The metaverse is no different, if not in the magnitude of the change it can bring to music culture, compared to previous revolutions in the music industry.
As musicians, making the most of this new revolution is our big opportunity. To shape it and create a digital world that has meaning for ourselves and others is our big responsibility.
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Cover Credit: A Paper Creative
Writer | Marco Sebastiano Alessi
Marco is an Italian music producer, composer and writer. He’s the founder of Naviar Records, a music community and record label exploring the connection between experimental electronic music and traditional Japanese poetry.