Over the past year, artists have found new and creative ways to stay connected to their audience, from concerts in Fortnite to YouTube livestreams. It’s become increasingly clear that although live events are coming back strong, fans will still be looking for digital experiences to further engage with their favorite artists even once the pandemic is over.
Ernest Lee, Co-CEO of AmazeVR, which is working to bring artists closer to fans through immersive concert experiences, notes that the pandemic was a major turning point for the music industry. “Last year was really a catalyst for a long-awaited change in the music industry,” he says. “It's helped make people more open-minded to seeing what's out there, what's possible for music, and the different ways that artists can connect with the fans. We're seeing more live streaming, virtual concerts, emerging, metaverses, etc. And all of this is really just the start for the disruption of the music industry.”
AmazeVR, which was founded back in 2015, was in many ways ahead of the curve when it comes to connecting artists and fans in the metaverse, but it wasn’t until last year that interest really picked up.
“Before the pandemic, it was a bit tough to really get people on board just because the music industry was going smoothly,” explains Lee. “With touring revenues, with streaming revenues, there were already set ways to success, so it was hard to get people to see our vision for the future of music.”
Once the pandemic hit, however, everyone was starved for new experiences and ways to connect, which allowed AmazeVR to kick things into high gear. In order to create these immersive experiences, AmazeVR films live actions artists and content and digitally place them into surreal CG environments to “provide an otherworldly experience” that fans can view using VR devices.
Lee hesitates to call them concerts, because they are designed to be totally new experiences. “We’re creating these worlds, these environments around each of the songs that we're going to create for the show. So it's not necessarily a concert anymore, but really just an artist’s immersive experience,” he says.
AmazeVR worked with Roc Nation last year to create a proof of concept of this type of immersive music experience, and the company is now working with a top Grammy-winning artist that will be released early next year. In order to achieve a high level of quality, AmazeVR builds their own cameras in-house. The company also has its own proprietary software and VFX pipeline, which is Unreal Engine based.
Another component of AmazeVR’s product is haptic motion chairs. “We create our own haptic motion code to interact with the motion chair, so it feels like you're moving through time and space,” explains Lee. Amaze VR plans to first release these immersive “concerts” in theaters, where they can be experienced as intended. The company has partnered with a top theater chain with haptic motion chairs, which will be outfitted with VR headsets to be able to provide the full experience.
Following the theatrical release, the experiences will be made available on at-home VR headsets through the AmazeVR app. The company is also working to use these productions to build communities. “We're also building the foundation for social interactivity, both for offline distribution and online, as we eventually build out our online musical metaverse. So people will be able to build new communities surrounding different genres, different artists, and different commonalities that fans will find.”
Lee views these musical experiences as ways that artists will be able to connect with fans in addition to their live concert tours, which is certainly a growing trend. They will only serve to complement – rather than replace – in-person shows.
“I think the need for these experiences was present even before the pandemic, but the pandemic itself helped spark the future and the next evolution of music,” says Lee. “There are so many directions you can go, and it's exciting that we're one of many teams building that future.”