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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!”

Republic Records-signed Ariana Grande is the latest artist to perform within Fortnite, after the likes of Marshmello, Travis Scott, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, Easy Life and J. Balvin.

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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Geoff Sawyer to facilitate games/music collabs at UTA

UTA has appointed Geoff Sawyer as an agent in the video games division to foster collaborations between the agency’s music clients and the gaming industry.

He joins UTA from Red Bull where he was director of global music services and oversaw the team responsible for music solutions for the entire company.

Prior to that, Sawyer was director of licensing and creative partnerships at Beyond Marketing Group, where he negotiated and managed brand partnerships between Toyota and artists such as Slayer, Steve Aoki and Joey Bada$$.

With his new position, Sawyer will be based in LA and will report to UTA partner and head of video games, Ophir Lupu.

“The line separating gaming and the entertainment industry is disappearing completely”

“Geoff has an unparalleled reputation for facilitating successful connections between recording artists, brands and media networks,” says Lupu.

“As gaming continues to cement itself as a critical component of pop culture, we believe that the number of meaningful collaborations for musicians will continue to increase and Geoff’s expertise will be invaluable in finding these new opportunities for our clients. We are thrilled to welcome him to UTA.”

Sawyer says: “The line separating gaming and the entertainment industry is disappearing completely. And the symbiotic relationship between games and music stands to deepen greatly as technology advances and audiences converge. I am elated to join the legendary team at UTA and to serve our incredible music clients with opportunities previously unconceived.”

Within the music-gaming sphere, UTA has helped negotiate Marshmellos performance in Fortnite; Dominic Fikes appearance in the first edition of Fortnite‘s ‘Spotlight’ Party Royale in-game concert series and Post Malones headline slot for Pokémon’s 25th anniversary virtual concert celebration.

 


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Lil Nas X delivers one of the most viewed in-game concerts

Lil Nas X has garnered over 35 million visits for his in-game performance in Roblox, marking a hugely successful debut concert for the online gaming platform.

The double Grammy award-winning rapper behind worldwide smash ‘Old Town Road’ delivered a free-to-access concert experience which was aired three times across the weekend (14 and 15 November).

The in-game performance featured a set of stages inspired by Lil Nas X’s songs and videos – created using the latest shadowing, lighting and physically based rendering (PBR) facial recognition technologies available on the Roblox platform – and was preceded by a Q&A with fans.

The show, which took place in partnership with Nas’s label, Columbia Records, rivalled Travis Scott’s record-breaking in-game concert in Fortnite in April.

The in-game performance featured a set of stages inspired by Lil Nas X’s songs and videos and was preceded by a Q&A

According to developer Epic Games, the premiere of Astronomical drew more than 12 million players and across five shows and two encores – four more showings than Nas’s Roblox concert – is believed to have attracted around 45.8 million viewers.

Scott’s record-breaking feat trumped Marshmello’s 2019 Fortnite concert which saw 10 million players tune in to watch the electronic music star’s in-game performance. Both Fortnite concerts were free to access.

Other notable videogame shows this year include J Balvin in Fortnite, Gorillaz and Beck in Animal Crossing and several festivals in Minecraft, while 2019 saw Korn play AdventureQuest and the Offspring World of Tanks, among others.

While Nas’s concert was Roblox’s first, the platform’s existing moves in the music space include a partnership with dance music label Monstercat and a recent album release party for singer Ava Max which was attended by 1.2m players.

Roblox is a collection of more than 50 million user-created video games (sometimes compared to YouTube, but for games rather than videos). The platform’s popularity has exploded this year, particularly among children, and now boasts more than 150m monthly users.

 


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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.

 


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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.

 


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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.

The full report is available to download here.

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Music execs invest in virtual concert platform Wave

Mega-manager Scooter Braun is among those to have invested in Wave, a music-tech startup that creates virtual worlds for live concerts.

The Los Angeles-based company recently received $30 million in funding from investors including Superfly co-founder Rick Farman and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin. Braun invested via Raised in Space Enterprises, which he launched last year with former BMG president Zach Katz.

The funding round, which was led by venture capitalist firm Maveron, brings Wave’s investment total to $40m.

Wave transforms artists into digital avatars in real-time and casts them onto stages in customised virtual worlds. The company recently announced a concert series, One Wave, with performances from John Legend and Tinashe.

“[This] support shows the entertainment industry is looking for new, interactive ways to connect with today’s digital generation”

The funding will be used to create “new virtual environments and formats, and interactive experiences”, such as in-game activations and social experiences, as well as accelerating it expansion into global markets, specifically Japan and China.

According to Wave CEO Adam Arrigo, the new financial support “shows the entertainment industry is looking for new, interactive ways to connect with today’s digital generation”.

“I want to work with today’s most forward-thinking leaders in music and technology,” says Braun, who manages acts including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

“The future of the industry depends on it. Adam and his team at Wave are bridging these two very important industries to create transformative experiences for the next generation of concertgoers, with a refreshingly artist-first approach.”

Avatar-based virtual concerts have proved to be an immensely popular format, with digitalised appearances by Marshmello and Travis Scott in Fortnite attracting tens of millions and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic further accelerating the push towards digital forms of ‘live’ entertainment.

 


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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 FortniteMinecraft 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:

Innovators take the virtual stage for IQ Focus panel


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Marshmello, Kane Brown to perform live in immersive VR

An upcoming performance by Marshmello and Kane Brown will be broadcast live to fans on US television and in virtual reality (VR), thanks to a collaboration between ABC’s Good Morning America (GMA) TV show and MelodyVR.

Marshmello and Kane Brown, who collaborate on the single ‘One Thing Right’, are performing at the GMA Summer Concert Series on Friday 30th August at Rumsey Playfield, New York. BTS, Ellie Goulding, Blink 182 and Pitbull are among acts to have played the GMA series this year.

Using the MelodyVR app, fans will be able to watch the free-to-stream performance live in VR on their phones or tablets. The show will be broadcast from multiple angles, allowing fans to select their vantage point – be it onstage, from the front row or in the midst of the crowd.

“We are thrilled to be working with the ABC team, to help deliver the closing GMA 2019 Summer Concert as a unique broadcast in virtual reality,” says MelodyVR founder and chief executive Anthony Matchett.

“We are thrilled to be working with the ABC team, to help deliver the closing GMA 2019 Summer Concert as a unique broadcast in virtual reality”

“This partnership represents a huge milestone for music entertainment – making live music accessible in person, on national television and in VR around the world, simultaneously.”

Marshmello, who earlier this year played a record-breaking in-game Fortnite concert, says he is “stoked” that fans will be able to watch live in virtual reality.

“I can’t wait for crowds in the park, on TV and at home in VR to come together for this,” says the EDM star.

Launched in 2018, MelodyVR has teamed up with artists including Post Malone, Fall Out Boy, Liam Payne, the Streets and the Chainsmokers.

The GMA performance will be accessible to any smartphone user in 360-degree video. A fully immersive VR experience will be available to owners of Samsung Gear and Oculus VR headsets.

The broadcast will begin at 8.15 a.m. local time (ET).

 


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Lindsey Stirling performing live as avatar

Electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling is putting on a new kind of interactive virtual concert, performing live to fans in avatar form.

The concert, put on in collaboration with streaming platform Wave, will take place at 3 p.m. (EST) on Monday 26 August.

Stirling will perform through her avatar, powered by art body motion and face capture technology. Fans will also be able created their own avatars and attend the virtual show by downloading the Wave virtual reality (VR) app, supported by HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.

Throughout the concert, Stirling will interact with fans “in a variety of direct, mysterious and surpris[ing] ways”. Limited edition concert merchandise will be available to buy.

The show, streamed live from Wave’s Los Angeles studios, will be available to watch live via the artist’s YouTube channel and Facebook page, or Wave’s Twitch channel. Fans that miss the live performance can watch it back for 24 hours after premiere time.

“[Stirling] is the perfect artist to be the first to use Wave on YouTube”

“Lindsey is a trailblazer, entrepreneur and incredibly talented artist,” says Adam Arrigo, Wave chief executive and co-founder. “We’re excited to be collaborating with her and helping her extend her reach to fans around the globe using the power of our platform. With her pioneering spirit, she is the perfect artist to be the first to use Wave on YouTube.”

The show is the latest in a growing trend of virtual concerts and artist-to-fan interactions, which include Korn’s upcoming in-game appearance in AdventureQuest3D, Marshmello’s record-breaking Fortnite concert and Monstercat/ Linden Lab’s Call of the Wild Experience, a virtual world for artists and fans.

VR livestreaming is also becoming a popular way to broadcast shows to fans, with the UK’s MelodyVR producing its first ‘Live in VR’ event in December 2018.

During the virtual concert, Stirling will debut material from her new album Artemis. The artist is kicking off a number of European dates on 12 September; full information and ticket prices can be found here.

 


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