Ariana Grande to headline Fortnite’s Rift Tour
Ariana Grande will be the next artist to perform an in-game concert for the hugely popular multiplayer video game, Fortnite.
The Grammy award-winning artist is set to headline the forthcoming Rift Tour, a virtual ‘musical experience’ that will take place within the online game.
The Rift Tour comprises five shows in early August: Friday 6 August at 18:00 ET, Saturday 7 August at 14:00 ET and Sunday 6 August at 00:00 ET, 10:00 ET and 18:00 ET.
“Working with Epic and the Fortnite team to bring my music to life inside the game has been so fun and such an honour,” says Grande. “I can’t wait to join my fans and see all of your reactions to such an unforgettable, magical journey to new realities.”
“Fortnite is a place for the imagination and the impossible”
“Fortnite is a place for the imagination and the impossible. With the Rift Tour, we’re bringing a musical journey to life that players can experience, feel, and join alongside their friends,” says Phil Rampulla, head of brand for Fortnite developer Epic Games.
“We’re so grateful to have an iconic superstar like Ariana Grande and her team join us for a musical experience at metaverse scale, and for players and fans alike to experience the Rift Tour!”
The singer’s performance follows a virtual show at the in-game O2 in June, which was performed by the UK act Easy Life.
The iconic London venue became the first real-world arena to get its own venue in Fortnite.
Watch a teaser for Ariana Grande’s appearance on the Rift Tour below.
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The O2 London recreated in Fortnite
The O2 is set to become the first real-world arena to get its own venue in Fortnite, with players now able to explore the iconic London venue ahead of an in-game performance by UK act Easy Life this Thursday.
Created in Fortnite Creative, the Minecraft-like sandbox game within Fortnite proper, the virtual O2 is a faithful recreation from the outside, while inside players can discover “exciting gameplay additions” including hidden rooms, backstage areas and a new take on the O2’s bar, the O2 Blueroom.
Island Records-signed Easy Life’s in-game performance will available to watch from this Thursday (24 June) at 20.30 BST until 23.59 BST on Sunday 27 June. The show will then be posted to Easy Life’s YouTube channel from Monday 28 June.
Described as an “interactive music experience” rather than a virtual concert, the show promises an ever-changing virtual world influenced by Easy Life’s music and lyrics. During the event, Fortnite players will be transported to six unique areas, each inspired by a different track from Life’s a Beach, the band’s debut album.
The Leicester five-piece are the first British band to play a show in Fortnite, the hugely popular multiplayer video game, following the likes of Marshmello, Travis Scott, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5 and J. Balvin.
Simon Valcarcel, head of brand and consumer marketing communications for O2, the O2’s naming sponsor, says: “We couldn’t be prouder to work alongside both Island Records and Epic Games to bring such an incredible experience to O2 customers and music fans all over the world via Fortnite Creative.
“We were thrilled when we were approached with the idea to bring the O2 to Fortnite”
“O2 has a rich heritage in music and we’re committed to providing music fans with unique experiences so it’s only fitting that we’re bringing the world’s most popular entertainment venue into the world’s biggest game. We know how much everyone – us included – has missed going to gigs so we’re excited to bring the UK’s hottest up-and-coming band to music fans globally through Fortnite Creative.”
Nate Nanzer, head of global partnerships for Fortnite developer Epic Games, adds: “We were thrilled when we were approached with the idea to bring the O2, one of the most iconic entertainment venues on the planet, to Fortnite Creative. We’re always looking for exciting and authentic experiences to bring to our players, and we can’t wait for them to get hands-on with this interactive musical journey.
“We’re excited to have the UK’s break-out band, Easy Life, perform in the game and we think our players are really going to love exploring all that the O2 has to offer in Fortnite Creative over the next week.”
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Virtual concert venues top pocket money charts
Roblox and Fortnite, the videogaming phenomena which have hosted some of the biggest virtual concerts to date, have topped a survey of the main ways UK children and teens spend their pocket money.
The 2020 edition of the annual Pocket Money Index found Roblox and Fortnite, which placed first and second respectively, dominating the spending charts as people spent more time at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. Minecraft, which has also hosted several music festivals and concerts, placed eighth, while games consoles Xbox and PlayStation were seventh and ninth, respectively.
The pair, whose virtual concert highlights include Lil Nas X (Roblox), Travis Scott (Fortnite) and Marshmello (Fortnite), each rose four places compared to 2019, dethroning books and magazines (RIP) and sweets and chocolate (say it ain’t so!) from the top two spots.
“The pandemic has shifted our spending online, and that’s seen with kids’ spending habits, too”
Roblox and Fortnite were also respectively third and fourth in the top things 4–14-year-olds save their allowance for, behind only Lego and a smartphone.
“The pandemic has shifted our spending online, and that’s seen here with kids’ spending habits, too,” explains Will Carmichael, CEO of Roostermoney, which compiles the Pocket Money Index.
IQ calculated last summer that artists can reach an audience of least 750 million gamers across the top 20 online multiplayer games/platforms alone.
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Grand Theft Auto Online to open virtual nightclub
Renowned open-world crime game Grand Theft Auto (GTA) Online is opening a virtual nightclub that will host residencies from ‘a new wave of world-class DJs’.
The game’s developer Rockstar Games is following in the footsteps of online gaming platforms Roblox and Fornite, which have already developed virtual entertainment spaces and produced hugely successful in-game concerts.
GTA’s virtual entertainment space, dubbed The Music Locker, is being designed to look like a real music venue, located beneath The Diamond in-game casino and resort, while the acts will appear as their own custom avatars.
The Music Locker has already announced Detroit-based producer Moodymann, Berlin collective Keinemusik and UK underground star Palms Trax for residencies.
“The Music Locker’s impeccable sound system will be ready to deliver basslines directly to your midsection”
“If you’re ready to grab some drinks, find a partner and dance the night away, The Music Locker is the place to go, with stunning visuals and an impeccable sound system ready to deliver basslines directly to your midsection,” says Rockstar Games.
Though The Music Locker is GTA’s first foray into in-game concerts, the franchise has always secured high-profile artists for its in-game radio stations. Producer Flying Lotus was even given his own radio station (FlyLo FM) for 2013’s GTA V.
GTA Online is the online component of GTA V, released in 2013, which is reportedly the best-selling game ever to be released on Sony’s PlayStation 4, selling 130 million copies as of March 2020.
GTA’s reach could make The Music Locker a real contender in the world of in-game concerts, which has seen notable shows from Lil Nas X in Roblox; Travis Scott, Marshmello and J Balvin in Fortnite; Gorillaz and Beck in Animal Crossing and several festivals in Minecraft, as well as Korn in AdventureQuest and the Offspring in World of Tanks during 2019.
J Balvin to headline Fortnite’s in-game Halloween event
Reggaeton superstar J Balvin is set to deliver a special performance as part of Fortnite’s Halloween-themed event, Fortnitemares 2020: Midas’ Revenge.
The online video game, developed by Epic Games, hosts Fortnitemares every spooky season in the free-to-play Battle Royale mode in which weapons are disabled.
Each year, players have the chance to complete Fortnitemares challenges which provide players with season XP and different cosmetics including sprays and loading screens.
This year’s Fortnitemares will take place between 21 October and 3 November and will feature a performance from J Balvin on Battle Royale’s main stage on Halloween.
The Afterlife Party will take place on 31 October at 9 pm ET, with rebroadcasts available to watch the next day on main stage or with friends on Houseparty, the group video app.
Since launching last year, Fortnite Battle Royale has become the most successful free-to-play video game of all time
Users who attend any of the Afterlife Party showings in a Party Trooper outfit, available to buy in the item shop, will unlock an exclusive J Balvin style.
Fans can also drop into Fornite Creative from 25 October to 31 October to visit La Familia, an island made by community members Iscariote and Davidpkami where you can play minigames based on songs from J Balvin’s latest album.
Fortnite hosted its first-ever in-game concert with RCA-signed DJ Marshmello in February – a ten-minute show which reportedly became the most-attended ‘concert’ in history to date, with more than ten million people tuning in.
Since launching last year, Fortnite Battle Royale has become the most successful free-to-play video game of all time, pushing developer Epic Games’ valuation to nearly US$15bn as the number of Fortnite players – most of whom pay real money (or ask their parents) to buy in-game skins and other cosmetic items – soars over 200 million.
In May 2020, Epic announced that Fortnite had 350 million registered accounts with players spending 3.3 billion hours in-game during the month of April 2020.
Gaming platform Roblox steps up interest in music
Game creation platform Roblox has announced a partnership with Marshmello label Monstercat and appointed a global head of music, as the company makes moves in the music space.
In April, Roblox, a tween-friendly virtual gaming/social media platform, became the latest gaming platform to create a virtual concert venue, hosting an in-game live stream of the Lady Gaga-curated benefit concert One World: Together at Home.
Roblox users could complete quests based on the concert and wear free virtual merchandise, such as a caps, headphones and rucksacks, to show support for the event.
The virtual concert was part of Roblox’s growing interaction with the music business, as Jon Vlassopulos, a former director of business development at BMG and founder of Tinder-style swiping music discovery app Fab.fm, heads up music strategy at the company.
The partnership gives Roblox developers access to a new library of music content to use when making games for the platform
Roblox has also recently joined social virtual-reality platform Sansar and video game developer Psyonix in partnering with Canadian indie label Monstercat, which also has its own licensing subscription service to allow game streamers to use its music on YouTube and Twitch.
The partnership gives Roblox developers access to a new library of music content to use when making games for the platform, which is comprised of millions of games built by professional developers and the Roblox user community.
“Proudly announcing our new partnership with Roblox,” reads a post on the Monstercat Twitter page. “Our mission to empower creators continues with access to over 50 tracks, with more music added soon. Can’t wait to see your creations in-game!”
As well as “empowering creators”, the partnership aims to allow artists to use the site as a promotional outlet, targeting Roblox’s 150 million active monthly users.
The potential for crossover between gaming and live music has been exemplified recently by events such as Travis Scott’s ‘Astronomical’ in Fortnite Battle Royale, which drew 27.7m viewers, and Marshmello’s famous record-breaking 2019 in-game appearance, also in Fortnite, with IQ calculating that gamers could represent 750m new live music fans.
IMS: Covid-19 set to cost electronic sector $4bn
After slight growth in 2019, the value of the global electronic music industry is estimated to fall by 56% this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the latest edition of the annual International Music Summit (IMS) business report has revealed.
The yearly report, which is usually presented at the IMS conference in Ibiza, this year cancelled due to the pandemic, states the value of the electronic is sector is set to fall from $7.3 billion to $3.3bn this year, with dance and electronic clubs and festivals set to lose 75% of their income, equivalent to $3.3bn.
By 20 April, around 350 electronic music festivals had been cancelled or postponed, the majority in Germany, with almost 9 million fans unable to attend. According to event discovery and ticketing platform Skiddle, around 4,000 electronic music events in total have been affected by Covid-19 so far.
In Ibiza alone, 2m club tickets were sold last year, with clubbers spending €260m and contributing €500m to the local economy. Bigger clubs and mid-sized venues (over 300-cap.) on the island are to remain shut this season.
DJ and artist income is predicted to fall by as much as 61%, from $1.1bn in 2019 to $400m in 2020. Earnings of the top-ten electronic artists had increased 4% year-on-year in 2019, with the Chainsmokers ($46m) and Marshmello (40m) coming in as the highest earners.
Despite a bleak outlook for 2020, the IMS report notes that the positive trends that led to growth in 2019 – the first since 2016 – “should help fuel a strong recovery in the coming years”.
“The value of the global electronic music industry is estimated to fall be 56% this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic”
The report also details the sector’s livestreaming success. It it predicted that streaming will grow by 18% in 2020, with continued growth expected to generate around $100m in additional revenue for the dance and electronic sector this year.
In May 2020, seven of the ten most watched music streamers on Twitch were electronic focused, totalling 6m viewer hours. EDM promoter Insomniac racked up 2.6m viewers hours by running virtual versions of their events, including the Electric Daisy Carnival rave-a-thon. The promoter is putting on digital editions of Secret Project, Peekaboo and Awakening festivals later this month.
The IMS report also shows that DJs who performed in the video game Fortnite, following the initial success of Marshmello, saw their Instagram followers grow by ten times during and after the event.
Dillon Francis, Steve Aoki and Deadmau5 played the launch of the game’s virtual hang-out Party Royale mode, adding a collective 55,000 to their Instagram followers in four days.
Overall, however, it is believed that livestreamed events, as well as other alternatives including drive-in shows and socially distanced club nights, are “unlikely to be commercially viable, with live streams serving predominantly to raise money for good causes and capacities art physical shows greatly reduced.
Some platforms have started to adapt to paid-for models, the report notes, with Soundcloud introudincing a ‘support link’ button for fan contributions; TikTok launching ‘donation stickers’ for good causes; and Festicket allowing the sale of merchandise. Brands including Coca-Cola, Amazon and Henieken have also sponsored DJ live streams.
This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.
Tales from Covid: Yves Pierre, ICM Partners
As the coronavirus crisis continues to exert its impact on the live industry, IQ builds on its Tales from Covid series to discuss the opportunities for change that have started to emerge from lockdown life.
Ahead of this week’s IQ Focus session, Beyond Rhetoric: Race in Live Music, IQ catches up with panellist and ICM Partners agent Yves Pierre (Migos, Lil Yachty, Baby Rose, City Girls), to talk about the urgent steps the industry needs to take to tackle systemic racism and the new revenue models and opportunities that have emerged from the coronavirus shutdown.
IQ:It’s been a really tough few months for the live business. What has changed from a business point of view over the past few months?
YP:My role, in its essence, hasn’t really changed. I still offer the same service – looking for new business opportunities and getting creative. It requires the same mindset. Although the format is different, we are still tasked with presenting our clients with the best information possible.
The difference is, obviously, that we are going from live models to the various virtual platforms that are coming out now. We are having to explore different pieces of technology and need to be really well versed in everything to understand what we stand to make and all the different revenue avenues, such as merch packages and other bundles.
What we need is to develop an accurate strategy with those livestreaming companies and work with different promoters on that side of things to work out what we consider the business model to be.
“We need to factor in these [virtual] opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed”
Do you foresee virtual shows becoming a revenue-driver for acts in the long term?
I think there will always be a place for virtual events after this but maybe in not quite so prevalent a way as now. There’s no denying, though, that we need to factor in these opportunities as an added piece of income that we never would have normally accessed.
There’s no perfect model for online events yet. YouTube and Fortnite have been an early frontrunners, but we are going to see everything level up.
I am still figuring out the basics to judge how much people are willing to pay for various online events, how many people certain platforms can withstand, which kinds of formats require large overheads. It’s all still being tweaked and we are certainly not in a position yet to say which is best.
An interesting format I have tried with one of my artists, Lil Yachty, was an online paint and chat with a group at a university. This took him out of his comfort zone and allowed one on one engagement with fans – and it proved really interactive.
When live shows do return, what do you foresee as the main challenges?
I think it is going to be the mental aspect we’re going to have to work around. As an agent, I need to try and think as a consumer and think how comfortable I’d be in enclosed spaces with lots of people.
Mentally, this situation is taking a toll and the fear of there being another wave, and what that will mean, is massive. We are really going to have to step outside of this and look at the perspective of the consumer to figure out whether they’re ready.
There’s also the economic aspect – how much are people going to be able to pay for a show? A lot of people have lost their jobs, or been laid off and furloughed. There is a big economic element to think about, but we will have to deal with the emotional side first.
“Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case”
How do you foresee the industry recovering from this?
Sadly, it’s just going to take time. You could implement all the safeguarding measures you want, but time is what we need. I believe we can look this as a chance to reset, rather than view it as a loss. We have to be willing to pivot and try and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The business absolutely will change after this. We’ve already seen the beginning of Live Nation’s plans for the future, of course. Everyone is going to have to take a step back and reevaluate what things will look like.
We have realised content is king now. More than ever, we have to focus on what the artists are going to go for.
The key will be finding a way to engage with fans that aren’t in a venue. Being there in real life is not the be all and end. There is a world of opportunity online, we’ve realised that you have to look at all possible options.
I’ve certainly found this to be a great opportunity to look at different ways of doing things. Any large struggle and conflict can be the birth of change, and you’re not using your time wisely if this is not the case.
One push for change in the industry has been highlighted in particular in recent weeks, what now needs to be done to tackle racism and increase diversity in the live business?
There is a myriad of things on several levels that must be done. Heads of departments and those with the power in this industry need to partake in actual engagement with community. There is no value in giving money when people have no clue what money is used for. There needs to be real conversations with communities or advocates for those communities to obtain real information on where to donate.
Partnering with local communities will also help people gain the understanding of what it is like to live with discrimination.
“We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable”
Within the industry there are so many examples of discrimation towards Afro-American clients and workers. For example, the security measures that are taken against hip hop artists would not be implemented for other acts. This is unconscious bias. Some venues ban hip-hop completely – it’s a bias, and allowing that to happen is a bias. There is no sensitivity to what that feels like as an agent and as a client. All these things play a part in the problem.
As well as community engagement, representation of Black people at executive level is needed. Having one Black person on an executive board isn’t enough. It feels like an exception, and that’s not parity. We constantly have to raise ourselves to a diff standard to our non African-American colleagues. We have to commit to making sure there are more of us in a role and that goes for all people of colour in business in general.
We need equity in more than name and, until we get there, then there’s a problem. We are in a position where this is something that has to be led by African-Americans in these spaces, but our colleagues have to work with us. We can demand these things but, at end of the day, they are implemented by someone else. So we need a concrete commitment by these leading companies.
Are you hopeful that now is the time for long-lasting positive change?
I really hope so, but we also have to see more evidence. People have to be putting themselves on the line. This isn’t for us – in the long run, it’s not about us. It’s about the people around us and those coming after us.
We need these things to be implemented now. We need to able to hold those in charge accountable, and for them to be willing to be held accountable. Not wanting to feel guilty is not enough, and we have to be clear that words and stated intentions are not enough.
We need change and we need to be part of the process we are to achieve this.
How to stay ahead of the curve
It’s time to forget what you know – or risk getting left behind.
Now that I have your attention, let me explain that statement.
We will absolutely get the live business back on track, but it goes without saying that it will be a process to get there. With that, those that do not understand and embrace the role technology will play will inevitably become the new dinosaurs of our business – and nobody wants that title.
Technology in music was always gaining prominence. However, this global pandemic has simply sped up the process and forced us to rethink how we are to use it in its entirety. Just like how Napster backed the recorded music industry into a corner in the early 2000s and subsequently birthed iTunes and streaming, we are essentially going through our own moment in history that will be just as monumental for our business. This is an incredibly exciting time for the live industry – if we embrace the change.
The technology we have been using is not a ‘temporary solution’ while we are at home. Livestreaming, gaming platforms, virtual events and a more strategic approach to content is part of how we can rebuild the live industry to be more resilient. It also allows us to create strong revenue streams supporting the foundations of our business and allowing us to survive a future global crisis more efficiently.
It is vital we educate our audiences and be comfortable with exploring new processes as we work towards moving the needle. The aim is to create a new model whereby consumers are willing to pay for music content. Along with that, the existing culture and the attitudes of fans needs to adapt.
It’s time for us to hack the tech out there and make it work in our favour
We have understood how losing a year of business in live music has affected so many of us in these unprecedented times. From venues and festivals struggling to artist revenue decreasing, and thus having an adverse effect on managers, agents and promoters. And not forgetting – and most importantly – our incredible touring crews, who work so hard, day in and day out, on the road, away from their families, and are now suddenly unable to provide. I truly believe that technology can help change this.
We cannot be scared of failing. Jimmy Iovine once said: “Turn fear into a tailwind.” This is a scary time, but you and only you can decide how you move forward. I urge you to innovate and embrace a willingness to learn.
I myself have been trying a variety of things, from delving into TikTok and discovering their live feature to launching #ZoomFest with partners Ronnie Madra, Richie Akiva and Mike Jurkova, hacking at Zoom’s technology and original intent to bring artists and brands closer together for a unique experience that fans can re-stream in its entirety after the show.
Understanding how each tech platform works will be as important to us as agents and promoters as knowing how to cut a deal. Technology moving forward is part of the deal.
It is also our responsibility that we as a live business do not let tech companies dictate our every move. Let’s get behind these businesses and platforms to work closer than ever and to let our voices be heard. By working with them, we can ensure the best options are being created for our artists instead of it being an afterthought. If you wait for technology to fix your problems, it is going to overtake you. Get ahead instead.
Please remember we are not on pause permanently and change is a part of life, whether you like it or not. Technology is going to constantly evolve, so we know change is coming, while artists’ attitudes will continue to grow in terms of what they expect or how they want to run their business. That is a fact. We are only at the beginning – it hasn’t even started yet.
We are not on pause permanently – and change is a part of life, whether you like it or not
As an entire music industry, we will see much change in the rest of our careers everywhere, from streaming to how record deals are done to how audiences and artists want to experience music. Side note: if Joe Rogan can get a $100 million deal in place with Spotify for his podcast, you now things are about to get very interesting.
We need to learn and understand that the comfort zones we have been in for years in this industry stop now, and if we want to have the privilege of working with incredible artists we need to go back to the drawing board with an open mind.
My hope is that this article serves as a springboard and wake-up call to anybody who reads it. Start today and experiment and discuss. What could work well for your artist or festival? What does each platform do? How can content be monetised and add value to the audience? Where and how to brands fit in this equation?
In the spirit of us all working together as an industry and looking forward to a boom in the live industry, I have shared some examples for everyone to dive in, as well as a list of useful platforms and streams to check out to help you get started with this process.
Time for us to hack the tech out there and make it work in our favour. This will be our legacy.
Some things I have seen over the recent months that have worked well:
Yungblud: I highly recommend you check out his online TV show if you haven’t already and take note of the platform, the comments and the overall engagement. This artist is doing a great job leading the front during this time and authentically connecting with his audience.
Travis Scott x Fortnite: This incredible experience is one to check out.
Post Malone x Nirvana: I personally loved this stream because it was accessible to all and the songs of Nirvana are familiar to all of us. The editing was also on point.
Lewis Capaldi x Dice: Lewis did a great acoustic show via Dice which resulted in sales that could easily fill an arena, and proved the model of paying for content with his audience.
A guide of what is on offer to get you started in a constantly evolving world.
What it is: A livestreaming and virtual meet-and-greet platform.
Advantages: It is the only platform to effectively run live streams and virtual meet-and-greets in a flexible manner, allowing you to capitalise on VIP.
Where to find it: loopedlive.com
What it is: The leading digital ticketing platform, with the recently launched Dice TV.
Advantages: Strong database and direct relationships with venues and festivals.
Where to find it: dice.fm/tv
What it is: An immersive virtual environment available to access for free.
Advantages: You can literally create your own venue, branded event and concert within Sansar and charge for tickets, merch and more to generate income. An incredible platform to delve into. Recommend you check out what they are doing with Shangri-La at Glastonbury this year.
Where to find it: sansar.com
What it is: An online video game available to download for free.
Advantages: This really applies to a particular audience and can be very powerful, as we have seen from the performances of Marshmello, Travis Scott and more.
Where to find it: fortnite.com
What it is: Enables you to ticket your livestreams.
Advantages: Great livestreaming platform from the US.
Where to find it: veeps.com
What it is: Jimmy Iovine-backed ticketed livestreaming platform.
Advantages: Early days but I am loving the lay-out of the stream with chat boxes.
Where to find it: momenthouse.com
What it is: Another livestreaming platform enabling you to ticket your livestream.
Advantages: No performance is recorded or archived so all you see is live.
Where to find it: stageit.com
What it is: A ticketing experience through text message.
Advantages: Follow your favourite artists’ profiles and get alerts via text when they announce a show near you.
Where to find it: seated.com
What it is: A live streaming service popular with gamers, but everyone is on it now. Owned by Amazon.
Advantages: Huge audiences on Twitch so engagement can be high with the right event.
Where to find it: twitch.tv
What is it: TikTok is an incredible social media app based on video.
Advantages: Two main advantages in my opinion are firstly that the algorithm works in your favour, meaning content is more likely to be seen, and secondly you can go live. Music is also a key component of TikTok.
Where to find it: tiktok.com
Read part two of this three-part series, which focuses on the opportunities and positives for the live industry presented by the coronavirus, here.
Gamers: 750m new live music fans?
Live music professionals who fail to capitalise on the lockdown-era boom in videogaming will miss out on a confirmed audience of more than three quarters of a billion potential fans, new analysis of player numbers for some of the biggest online games reveals.
A total of 758.5 million people – more than live in Europe, and some 2.5 times the population of the US – regularly play one or more of the 20 most popular online multiplayer video games for which there is recent, reliable data on active users, according to IQ analysis.
Gaming is thriving during the Covid-19 crisis, with firms such as Epic Games, the company behind the Fortnite phenomenon, and Tencent, the Chinese publisher of hit multiplayer titles League of Legends and Honor of Kings, seeing sales soaring while consumers worldwide remain stuck at home.
Especially interesting for the concert industry is how successfully the virtual worlds of Fortnite, Minecraft and other online games lend themselves to live performance, as well as the apparent receptiveness of those games’ existing audiences to live music content. For comparison, One World: Together at Home – aka the star-studded, Taylor Swift-headlined virtual Live Aid – was watched by 20.7m people in the US; the figure for Travis Scott’s 20-minute ‘Astronomical’ event in Fortnite Battle Royale (albeit globally) was 27.7m.
Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from 877m to 2.7bn
Before we continue, a note on IQ’s numbers: the 758.5m figure includes only active users. so while EA’s Apex Legends, for example, has been played by at least 70m people on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the only available data on monthly active users (MAU) shows just shy of 7m playing regularly on console, which is the figure IQ has used. Similarly, Epic Games does not share data on active Fortnite users, so IQ has used the 27.7m who turned out for Travis Scott, even though the real number is far higher.
This, combined with the choice to limit the research to 20 games, means the aforementioned three quarters of a billion is a conservative estimate – with the actual total likely far higher. (Estimates of the number of videogamers worldwide range from around 877m for online gamers only to 2.7bn in total, including those who play single-player titles, casual mobile games and others).
Videogame concerts, it should be noted, are nothing new: Second Life, the forerunner of event-focused video game-cum-virtual hangout Sansar, hosted what was billed as the world’s first virtual gig in 2007, with Duran Duran, Suzanne Vega and, most famously, U2, also performing as virtual avatars during the game’s late-2000s heyday.
However, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the push towards digital forms of ‘live’ entertainment, with Travis Scott’s spectacular (albeit prerecorded) show in Fortnite in April and upcoming Diplo-headlined festival Electric Blockaloo in Minecraft among recent high-profile virtual events capitalising on the influx of new gamers.
A number of other multiplayer titles are nipping at Minecraft’s heels
Mojang Studios’ Minecraft, which launched in 2011, is both the best-selling video game of all time, with 200m copies shipped, and the most popular online game, with 126m monthly active users as of 18 May. It hosted its first music festival in 2016, and has held several more in the years since, including Fire Festival in January 2019 and the recent Block by Blockwest, with Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team.
However, Minecraft’s status as top dog of the notoriously fickle online gaming world is by no means secure, with a number of other multiplayer titles – such as tween-friendly create-your-own-game platform Roblox (115m MAU), esports favourite League of Legends (100m MAU) and two Chinese games, Fortnite-style mobile battle royale Free Fire (80m daily users) and blatant Minecraft knock-off Mini World: Block Art (80m MAU) – already nipping at its heels.
To date, none of those games have hosted a large-scale, artist-backed live music experience akin to Travis Scott or Marshmello in Fortnite – and the same is true of Fortnite’s battle-royale arch-rival, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), which has 55m active daily users excluding China according to developer PUBG Corporation.
Other as-yet untapped videogame phenomena include another free-to-play battle royale, Call of Duty: Warzone, which has been played by 60m people since its launch in March; mobile strategy game Teamfight Tactics, spun off from League of Legends by developer Riot Games, which had 33m active users as of September; and first-person shooter Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, another game played as a competitive esport, which recorded over 26m players in April.
“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry”
Given Fortnite’s success, it seems likely the next major in-game musical performance will be in a similar battle royale-type title; DJ Deadmau5, who recently performed in Fortnite’s new combat-free Party Royale mode, is known to be a PUBG player, while Taylor Kurosaki of developer Infinity Ward has suggested live events could be held in Call of Duty: Warzone in future.
What the future has in store for digital live performance – whether consumers will ever flock en masse to concerts in video games or virtual-reality worlds, or if ‘simple’ livestreamed video will suffice – only time will tell. What is certain, however, is that music and other traditional entertainment businesses, keen to claim their slice of the US$160bn global videogame market, will seek increasingly to partner with gaming companies in the years ahead, according to Stefan Hall of the World Economic Forum.
“Going forward, there will be more partnerships with the wider entertainment industry, as media companies seek to take advantage of the momentum gaming has produced,” says Hall, who also highlights recent reports linking Japanese tech giant Sony with efforts to improve the VR content, including concerts, available for its upcoming PlayStation 5 console as proof of the growing power of virtual experiences.
The latest IQ Focus session, The Innovators, will discuss the growth of videogaming, virtual worlds, 3D venues, livestreaming and more. Featuring Sheri Bryant, president of Sansar, alongside other technological innovators, the panel takes place tomorrow (27 May) at 4pm UK time on Facebook and YouTube: