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CAA signs AI tech and content firm Futureverse

Talent giant Creative Artists Agency (CAA) has signed AI and metaverse technology and content company Futureverse.

Deadline reports that the businesses will collaborate to create new opportunities for talent and IP, “spanning web3, the metaverse, virtual games, worlds and experiences, AI, and beyond”.

The strategic partnership will enable Futureverse to “bolster its strategic entertainment efforts to accelerate the creation of technology experiences in collaboration with well-known IP”.

“We are thrilled to be working with Futureverse, who are establishing themselves as leaders in the technology and entertainment space,” says Phil Quist of CAA. “This relationship is not just a meeting of minds, but a fusion of capabilities that will accelerate our shared vision for a smarter, more connected world.”

Co-founded by Shara Senderoff and Aaron McDonald, Futureverse announced the close of a $54 million Series A funding round in July 2023, led by 10T Holdings, LLC, and including participation from Ripple.

“Futureverse’s strategic collaboration with CAA has forged a strong alignment in fostering the development of mutually beneficial business models”

In the last year, Futureverse has linked up with the likes of Warner Music Group, FIFA, Authentic Brands Group (ABG), Mastercard, Wimbledon, Death Row Records, Wētā Workshop, Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant. It launched AI-powered game AI League in cooperation with FIFA on iOS and Android and has partnered with ABG, IP Rights holders of the Muhammad Ali Enterprises, to release the first AI-powered boxing game, Muhammad Ali – The Next Legends.

In August meanwhile, it announced the publication of research in the advancement of music AI with the launch of JEN 1, an “unprecedented universal high-fidelity model for text-to-music generation”.

“At a substantial moment in the evolution of technology, it’s critical to architect a thoughtful and creative approach to the integration of both talent and IP into the dynamic landscape of innovation,” says Senderoff. “Futureverse’s strategic collaboration with CAA has forged a strong alignment in fostering the development of mutually beneficial business models that empower creators with groundbreaking tools and lucrative revenue opportunities.

“As pioneers in AI, web3 and metaverse infrastructure, driven by a deep appreciation for art and humanity, we see an incredibly bright future for the world of entertainment. Joining forces with CAA amplifies and accelerates the dialogue and partnerships that reinforce and expand our shared vision.”

Artémis, an investment firm led by billionaire French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, acquired a majority stake in CAA in September this year.


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Q&A: Anne McKinnon, Ristband

In the most recent issue of IQ, we talked to some of the architects who are helping to shape the industry of the future, to quiz them on their blueprints and predictions for how we may all be operating in a few years’ time. In this final excerpt, we hear from Anne McKinnon, co-founder and CEO of Ristband, a metaverse platform for creators.

IQ: You have an international reputation for technology journalism. How do you see various tech breakthroughs coming together to improve live events in the future?
The metaverse isn’t just one form of technology. It’s the amalgamation of a series of technologies. I think we’ll look back on this period as a really magical time, where the convergence of Web3, VR/AR, cloud computing, etc, reshaped the world.

The a-ha moment for me was the first time I saw Miro Shot perform their mixed-reality concert in Paris, blending gaming tech and virtual worlds in a genuinely powerful and credible live experience. The show stood out because it wasn’t about some kind of novelty technology. At its core it was a live concert, with that magical connection you get from being in a space with an artist performing.

It was one of the key inspirations for me to launch Ristband. We spent a lot of time experimenting with different ways of capturing the excitement and energy of a live performance, but it quickly became apparent that trying to ‘simulate’ a concert would be a waste of time because nothing will ever compare to it. But the question is, “Why do hundreds of thousands of people watch Glastonbury on TV? Why do people who are not in a stadium still enjoy the World Cup? And more to the point, how can we harness the possibilities of these emerging technologies and fuse them with the core of what a concert is? This is the code that Ristband is trying to crack.

“Travis Scott reportedly earned over $20m in revenue from digital merchandise sales for a single concert in Fortnite”

The live music industry operates on slim profit margins. Are there additional revenue streams that the business is missing out on by ignoring metaverse opportunities?
Absolutely. Live music is incredibly expensive to put on – the logistics of huge gatherings of people, security, health & safety, legal implications, lighting rigs, backlines, and transportation costs. The advantage of operating in a virtual world is that these overheads are dramatically reduced. To reiterate, this isn’t about replacing live events. However, being able to exist in the physical and virtual world simultaneously represents a huge untapped revenue stream for the live music industry and artists in general, not to mention other positive aspects such as sustainability and accessibility.

The revenue models of the metaverse are also familiar extensions of the models that already exist in the real world, such as ticketing, merchandising, and memorabilia, combined with revenue models of the gaming industry that churn out mind-blowing returns that have previously been inaccessible to the live music industry.

For example, digital goods offer an amazing extension of the merchandising business. Travis Scott reportedly earned over $20m in revenue from digital merchandise sales for a single concert in Fortnite, in comparison to the $1.7m he made from a single night for his Astroworld tour. This is just a small fraction of the revenue opportunity that’s available. In 2021 alone, over $100bn was spent on in-game digital assets.

What is new here, is how these models are applied in the emergent metaverse where, for the first time, music and gaming culture are colliding en-masse. At the centre of it all is a shared fandom and love for music with a new generation of fans who crave new experiences – an opportunity that cannot be ignored.

The likes of livestreaming and metaverse platforms offer fans who, for whatever reason, cannot attend live shows an ideal way to connect with their favourite acts. How do you see the metaverse developing in terms of concerts in the next five years?
Approaching the music metaverse from a music industry perspective, it was clear that no one in the tech and gaming space had spoken to artists, booking agents, promoters, or the music industry as a whole. We wanted to build a tool that focused on the way people who work in music discover, nurture, and promote music to help artists reach the audiences they deserve.Our early stages of R&D were about working out how we could use the granular data insights the metaverse offers to help artists and their teams find ways to use the metaverse in a practical sense. The idea that the live music industry is about to be ‘disrupted’ is total nonsense. The metaverse is a new tool to extend its capabilities.

We’re in the earliest stages of music in the metaverse, and also the metaverse itself, and what we’re noticing is that it’s actually the merging of music culture and gaming culture to create something entirely new. It’s not just a game, and it’s also not just a concert. The world is changing, and the industry is adapting.

“There’s a huge opportunity for the music industry to capture market value and for emerging acts to hone their skills, build their audience, and get discovered”

How can Ristband help in the development of emerging talent to help create the next generation of headline acts?
Very early on, we realised that live venues and festivals are dramatically underserved by the technology and gaming industries. We experienced this first-hand when we showcased unsigned artists at our launch at the SXSW music festival this year, where 23-times the number of physical attendees joined remotely in Ristband.

More broadly, we’re also seeing kids who grew up on Roblox, Fortnite, and Minecraft looking for what’s next in popular culture. It’s natural they’re looking for the next step in music culture in virtual worlds, and this is where there’s a huge opportunity for the music industry to capture market value and for emerging acts to hone their skills, build their audience, and get discovered.

Take Splash, for example, a Roblox game that 21m kids had played by 2020, each making use of an in-world tool to create a track and then getting in line to perform on a digital stage. While kids in Roblox aren’t yet the age group for going out to experience live music (the majority are under the age of 16), these kids are already making music, performing, and playing games. They are the next generation of fans, and some of them will go on to build successful careers touring stages and festivals in the real world. In the same way that internet culture transformed the music industry, immersive virtual worlds are bringing an entirely new dynamic to what it means to be a music fan, artist, or industry professional.

Long term, how different do you think the live music business will operate compared to how it does now?
There are lots of exciting approaches and innovations in the metaverse and Web3. It’s not just about artists getting paid the maximum amount, it means agents and promoters can operate more efficiently and artist discovery becomes more authentic.
As much as these emergent approaches and technologies are exciting, we have yet to see a solution that is genuinely efficient, effective, and profitable. The future of the music industry, the metaverse, and music culture itself will not be decided by a technology company or based on hype or votes, it will be dictated by the same energy that has guided the music industry since the beginning: song writing, incredible live concerts, and the profound connection that is shared between a fan and their favourite artist as they walk onstage for the concert of a lifetime.


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Saweetie set for virtual Super Bowl gig on Roblox

Hip-hop artist Saweetie is to star in a free virtual concert as part of the NFL’s Super Bowl LVII event lineup.

The Saweetie Super Bowl Concert Presented by Intuit on Roblox will take place in Warner Music Group’s Rhythm City, a music-themed social roleplay experience on the online game platform.

The American rapper will perform a family-friendly, fully motion-captured concert to celebrate the 2023 Super Bowl and promote a message of female empowerment. The show, which premieres on Friday 10 February at 7pm ET and will re-air every hour on the hour until 12 February, will also be paired with a collection of digital items that will be sold on the Roblox marketplace.

“I’m really excited to bring this iconic moment to the metaverse and share my music with a whole new audience in such a unique way,” says Saweetie. “As an artist, innovator, and football fan, to be able to perform during Super Bowl LVII weekend in this new world – Rhythm City on Roblox – is something I never imagined that I would be involved in. I am very grateful and happy about this opportunity.”

“The Saweetie Super Bowl Concert Presented by Intuit will be an anchor entertainment event bringing fans together in the metaverse”

The Philadelphia Eagles will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII in State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona on Sunday 12 February. Rihanna is scheduled to headline the coveted Halftime Show.

“The Saweetie Super Bowl Concert Presented by Intuit will be an anchor entertainment event bringing fans together in the metaverse and further cementing the tradition of content innovation at the Super Bowl,” says Ed Kiang, VP of video gaming at the NFL. “Working with Roblox has enabled us to create interactive shared experiences.”

The Saweetie Super Bowl Concert and Rhythm City are experiences developed in partnership with gaming and content company Gamefam.

“Bringing a cultural moment like the Super Bowl to the metaverse with such innovative partners marks a shift in how brands are coming together to create the next generation of metaverse gaming experiences,” adds Gamefam chief business officer Ricardo Briceno.

As previously announced, Paramore, Dave Matthews Band and Imagine Dragons will top the bill at the fourth Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest at Phoenix’s 18,000-cap Footprint Center from 9-11 February 2023.


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Woodstock to launch in the metaverse

Woodstock Ventures, the founders and producers of the legendary Woodstock Festival, are partnering with premium metaverse builder Sequin AR to develop 3D virtual environment, Woodstock World.

Sequin AR, which has previously worked on projects featuring Madonna, Mariah Carey and Ariana Grande, is building exclusive behind-the-scenes content, interactive archives and the chance to revisit history-making performances from the 1969 original Woodstock.

The platform will utilise archival 2D content alongside motion capture recreations, enabling fans to interact with historical tracks and artists in real-time., as well as discover new music from breakthrough artists.

“Woodstock was and still is all about people, from all aspects of life coming together for an experience that makes them one,” says Sequin AR CEO Robert DeFranco. “The metaverse provides a way for people all over the world, of all ages, to meet other people who love the same thing they do – and you don’t need an expensive plane ticket or a time machine, just the device you use every day.”

In 1969, Woodstock changed music history and defined a generation… Woodstock World allows everyone everywhere to have an even more magical experience”

Using Unreal Engine 5 and Sequin AR’s proprietary metaverse platform, Woodstock World “will integrate avatars, blockchain, streaming video, analytics and hosting to deliver a fully consolidated experience”.

“In 1969, Woodstock changed music history and defined a generation, combining the power of shared experience with culture’s greatest musical talent,” adds Joel Rosenman, co-producer of the original Woodstock and spokesperson for Woodstock Ventures. “Woodstock World allows everyone everywhere to have an even more magical experience liberated from the boundaries of time and space.”

Earlier this month, it was revealed that Woodstock is coming to South Korea in 2023, marking the first time the legendary festival will take place outside the US.

SGC Entertainment says it has signed an official copyright agreement with the Woodstock Music and Art Fair to host a three-day festival under its name with the theme of “freedom, peace and love.” The festival is slated for 28-30 July at the Hantangang River Geopark complex, in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province.


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Chapter and Metaverse

Technology companies around the world are investing incredible amounts of money to develop engaging virtual reality worlds in the metaverse, and many have identified live music performance as integral to their plans. Here, IQ profiles 20 companies to keep an eye on as live concerts in the metaverse become more common.

Touting itself as “the first fully decentralised virtual world,” Decentraland’s remit from day one was to hand over control to the people who create and play in its virtual space. Through its DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation), users are in control of the policies created to determine how this VR world behaves: for example, what kinds of wearable items are allowed, moderation of content, land policy and auctions, among others. The organisation has a calendar of music events, including the DCL Music Metaverse Festival on 10 November.

AmazeVR claims to be “ushering in the next stage of music.” Through its proprietary camera technology and software, the company produces virtual reality (VR) concerts, creating entirely new musical experiences that bring fans closer to artists than ever before.

Most fans of music don’t have the luxury of seeing their favourite artists in concert for a myriad of reasons – schedule conflicts, geographic location, or financial burden, to name a few. However, AmazeVR concerts offer the immersive experience of seeing your favourite artist up close and personal, even from home. The company’s goal is to allow fans to be able to experience their favourite artists anytime, anywhere.

The platform captivated fans earlier this year with the first-ever VR concert tour featuring Megan Thee Stallion in her Enter Thee Hottieverse tour across 15 major cities in the US with over 15,000 concertgoers. Moving forward, these VR concerts will be accessible online, and the developers envision them be- coming a key component of all artists’ release strategies and album rollouts, setting a new paradigm for both artists and their fans beyond the existing live, in-person concerts.

With the VR market topping nearly 15 million active users in the Meta Quest ecosystem alone, artists can expect even more diverse opportunities to reach their fans via VR and the metaverse and build their brand through exclusive online interactive events, digital merchandising, and revenue sharing from VR app marketplace activity.

AmazeVR is preparing to launch its music metaverse service across all major VR app stores in the first half of 2023 with a line-up of established and emerging artists, both from the US and Korea (through the company’s joint venture with K-pop giant SM Entertainment), including, again, Megan Thee Stallion.

Dot Big Bang
With over 2m plays on its main hub and incredible performance in just a browser, dot big bang offers artists a chance to reach fans from across the globe – no matter the technology they own. As long as fans have a browser and an Internet connection, they are able to be a part of dot big bang’s online world and take part in an artist’s performance.

Promoting accessibility above all else, dot big bang offers players an experience they can have anywhere, anytime.

dot big bang is the chosen collaborative platform for 13.4m subscriber YouTuber PrestonPlayz, who has successfully hosted a number of sessions, with his audience jumping into custom games by clicking a link on his social channels. dot big bang offers instant engagement and collaboration all through the click of a link – and no sign-up is required, meaning fans and performers can quickly host and join an event whenever they want.

As a game development platform as well as a collaborative gaming platform, dot big bang can be used to create the perfect venue experience for fans, thanks to its accessible development tools.

You can reach out to dot big bang at [email protected] or via Twitter, Instagram or Discord.

Epic Games’ Fortnite
With first-of-its-kind music experiences such as Travis Scott’s Astronomical and the Rift Tour Featuring Ariana Grande, Fortnite remains a pioneer in bringing interactive experiences to the virtual space. Since its beginnings, Fortnite has become a coalescence of popular culture – amassing over 400m registered accounts globally – and has continued to expand its reach into music alongside film, fashion, and beyond.

Working with a series of international artists through the Soundwaves Series (finishing this impressive musical line-up with French-Malian singer Aya Nakamura), Fortnite has introduced its worldwide audience of millions to a variety of music from across the globe. Each experience is carefully crafted for each artist through Fortnite’s impressive creative toolset, which places the experience-building capabilities in the hands of any creator or brand that wants to realise their own unique virtual experience.

Fortnite also offers additional ways to discover music through its in-game car radio, playable character outfits (e.g. Silk Sonic and Coachella Cosmetic Sets), Emotes, and Lobby Tracks. UK’s easy life and O2 experience gave fans a brand-new song, exclusively made as an in-game Lobby Track.

Fortnite is available on console, PC, Android, and cloud-based game-streaming services, making it easily accessible to the core fan or casual audience.

So confident was Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg about the prospects for the metaverse, that he last year rebranded the company as Meta to highlight its shift in direction.

The corporation is investing billions of dollars in the development of the metaverse and has already recognised music as central to engaging users. In addition to launching its own platform for virtual gigs – Horizon Venues – Meta has acquired music VR operations Beat Games and Supernatural, as it looks to secure market share in the environment.

The company recently rolled out its new Meta Quest Pro VR headset, to mixed reviews, while another new function is its Avatar Store, which could have interesting possibilities for virtual merchandise for any artists that choose to use the platform.

While there are no historic VR gigs on the Napster platform, the company recently hired Roblox music chief Jon Vlassopulos as its CEO and disclosed it has raised an eight-figure sum in new financing, which it will use to fund acquisitions in the Web3 sector, as it looks to follow the Roblox pathway into hosting live music content. Indeed, Vlassopulos has stated that he hopes to make music as popular as Web3 gaming within the next 24 to 36 months.

Niantic is the developer of the world’s most successful mobile AR game, Pokémon Go, and is expanding its reach into the live music sector. It’s already run a project with Ed Sheeran in late 2021, while its Lightship software development kit has been used by the likes of Coachella Festival and Warner Music Group. Niantic has also reportedly invested in Pixelynx – another early adopter of Lightship.

Pixelynx is a new venture that is focussed on blurring the lines between music, blockchain, and gaming.

Founded by a number of electronic music luminaries, including artists Richie Hawtin (Plastikman) and Joel Zimmerman (deadmau5), Pixelynx is “building technology and acquiring equity in a range of start-ups that will form the foundation of how music is experienced in the metaverse”.

The company says it is building a global network of artists, visionaries, and start-ups that are passionate about re-imagining how the music industry evolves through Web3 and the metaverse. Its goal is to establish a transparent alternative to the metaverse services that are being developed by the “monolithic giants that control the current network of platforms that musicians, fans, and gamers rely on.”

Ristband is a music metaverse platform where events taking place in the real world can have a digital twin of the physical world happening in real time, combining the excitement of a live event with the power and reach of digital social experiences.

The Ristband team includes artist Roman Rappack as its chief creative officer. His band, Miro Shot, has experimented extensively with AR, VR, and mixed-reality technology at its concerts for a number of years.

The company is the recipient of a grant from Epic Games, which it is using to help create a metaverse that can be used by independent artists, rather than just the A-list acts that dominate charts and airwaves.

Spearheaded by former global head of music Jon Vlassopulos, gaming platform Roblox has leveraged its global appeal to facilitate a number of album launches and virtual performances, with the likes of Lil Nas X, Tai Verdes, Twenty One Pilots, David Guetta, George Ezra, Charlie XCX, and Lizzo, to name but a few, enjoying various degrees of success with their events.

Roblox has also been embraced by the likes of The Grammys and the BRIT Awards to attract a different audience, while Electric Daisy Carnival pioneered the way for festivals to become involved.

Built on the blockchain, The Sandbox offers a wide range of exploration across its metaverse, consisting of 166,464 unique pieces of LAND, each belonging to a user. Founded in 2011, it is a community driven platform where creators can monetise Voxel assets and gaming experiences.

Snapchat’s parent company has teamed up with Live Nation to launch AR experiences for the likes of Lollapalooza, Wireless Festival, Rolling Loud, and Electric Daisy Carnival. Say no more.

Stageverse is attempting to attract artists and bands to create their own unique virtual environments in the metaverse, providing ‘Stage’ land plots for interested parties that will represent their address in the metaverse. Each individual plot of land has specific coordinates and a listing on the Stage map.

“Stage land plots act primarily as gateways to other expansive spaces via portals, and landowners can personalise and build on their plot in many different ways to promote the ‘front-door’ to their expansive world,” explains the company.

Among the first acts to partner with Stageverse were Muse, who used footage from a 2019 concert to offer fans different viewpoints, as well as various items of virtual merch.

Tencent Music
In addition to its investment in Wave, music stream- ing monolith Tencent rolled out a virtual festival called TMELAND last new year. Tapping into the popularity of its karaoke business, the company also announced it was developing a metaverse feature that would give users their own individual rooms where they could invite friends to meet and interact.

The company has also teased the possibility of establishing virtual showrooms that artists could use for the likes of album launches. Tencent has more than 600m users.

While there appear to be no plans for the video-hosting service to develop a metaverse platform, Chinese parent corporation ByteDance has dipped its toe into the market with the 2021 acquisition of VR headset manufacturer, Pico. Watch this space…

A games industry stalwart, Unity is marketing its development platform as an ideal toolkit to create music experiences and earlier this year revealed it had inked a partnership with Insomniac Events, whose festivals include Electric Daisy Carnival and Wonderland. The new partners are apparently working on “a brand-new, persistent metaverse world” specifically for live music.

Vatom has been helping artists and brands make their metaverse dreams come true since 2015, and has hosted concerts and meet & greets for artists including Mary J Blige, Macklemore, Ellie Goulding, and Silverstein, as well as global events for brands such as Volvo, and always-on workspaces including Arup Associates.

While most people hear the term ‘metaverse’ and immediately think of a handful of people using avatars to interact in a gaming environment, the Vatom philosophy is different. At Vatom, online gatherings are not just about high-fidelity, they are part of a feature complete ecosystem that is fully scalable to support events with more than 10k attendees. Vatom ‘Spaces’ support digital collectibles, custom avatars, spatial audio, and have a full team of Vatom experts on hand to help your event run smoothly from the box office to the main stage.

Whether you are looking to host your first event and rent one of the venues in Vatom’s Soundtown – everything from the rooftop pool to the recreation of legendary Los Angeles jazz bar, Harvelles – or want to take the next step and build out your own always-on global lounge for your festival, Vatom has your back. If you want to add Smart NFTs, and a custom marketplace to drop virtual merch, they do that, too.

Volta is a self-serve XR creation platform that gives artists and creators the ability to design and broadcast experiential content that goes beyond the 2D screen and reaches into the metaverse. Volta integrates seamlessly into artists existing workflows, allowing them to build new immersive worlds that were previously unimaginable. What once required a state-of-the-art production studio and a six-figure budget, is now free.

In the coming months, Volta will be introducing a feature that will enable new forms of engagement and revenue for artists. The company has already built the ability to let fans have an impact on visual content via the chat window in several streaming platforms (Twitch, YouTube, etc.). Fans type in keywords of an artist, choosing to enable one-to-one interactions (“boom” = a futuristic explosion of light); many-to-one interactions (the more people that type “boom” the bigger the explosion when the beat drops); and unified interactions (eg fans can literally play tug of war with the virtual camera angles).

These interactions can be gated by keywords, as well as things like Twitch Bits, YouTube Superchat, etc. So, whether your artists are livestreaming or using Volta on an LED wall at a gig in real life, they can give their fans control of the visual 3D world they are performing in from anywhere on the planet, earning money in the process.

Volta has worked with acts such as Bonobo, Jamie Jones, Nero, Archie Hamilton, Sasha, Patrice Bäumel, TSHA, and DJ Yoda, and it is planning tours with iann dior and Richie Hawtin to name a few.

Originally known as WaveVR, the company rebranded in 2019 when it became apparent that it would not solely use virtual reality as the lure for fans to enjoy its events.

Wave shows enable artists and fans to collaborate in, what it refers to as “the creation of the most interactive live performance experiences in the world.”

Waves are live, interactive, and immersive shows it promises are unlike any virtual concert that fans have ever experienced – combining the best of live music, gaming, and broadcast technology to transform the live entertainment environment.

The shows can be livestreamed globally on wave.watch, as well as across popular social and gaming platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, TikTok, Facebook and Roblox.

Chinese online giant Tencent Music is an investor, while artists who have used the platform include The Weeknd, John Legend, Lindsey Stirling, and Justin Bieber.

Founded in 2020 by the former CEO of tech specialists HTC, Peter Chou, XRSpace has already brought a 5G VR headset (XRSpace Manova) to the market and launched its own virtual reality headset called the XRSpace Mova. One of the virtual worlds it has created to provide content for that headset is PartyOn – a music event metaverse that offers opportunities from karaoke parties to VR concerts.


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IQ 115 out now: ILMC 35 preview, The Cure, Germany

IQ 115, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The November edition includes a sneak preview of the various events and gatherings set for the 35th edition of the International Live Music Conference, which will be held at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London from 28 Feb – 3 March 2023.

In addition, Gordon Masson goes behind the scenes as The Cure resume their live career with their biggest ever European. In his latest market report, Adam Woods discovers Germany’s live music industry is enduring challenging times, while James Hanley examines the high-flying business of air charter.

Elsewhere, we celebrate AEG Presents France general manager Arnaud Meersseman‘s 20 years in music and profile 20 forward-thinking companies developing live music metaverse worlds.

For this edition’s columns and comments, AXS director of ticketing Paul Newman outlines how the Covid standstill allowed his team to reimagine its ticketing delivery systems; and Music Managers’ Forum CEO Anabella Coldrick details the various challenges facing the live music business.

Plus, four years since IQ’s agony aunt, Wasserman Music’s Alex Hardee, last shared his wisdom with those in need of guidance, it’s time once again for Auntie Alex to dispense some sage-like advice…

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £6.25 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:


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First concert announced for Africa’s metaverse

Africa’s largest mobile network operator MTN Group has announced it will host the first virtual concert in the continent’s metaverse, Ubuntuland.

The event will be held on 30 November in partnership with talent search programme The Mic: Africa.

Earlier this year, MTN Group became the first African company to purchase land in Ubuntuland with a vision to create dedicated environments for creating unique immersive experiences for its customers.

“The MTN Group’s presence in the African metaverse will be known as altMTN,” says Bernice Samuels, MTN Group executive, group marketing. “altMTN allows us to further support our ambition to lead digital platforms and support African innovation, and will, over time feature live events, shopping, gaming and learning.

“The metaverse holds a wide array of opportunities to further enhance and showcase African innovation”

“To welcome everyone to altMTN, we will leverage our partnership with The Mic: Africa to host Africa’s first virtual music concert in the metaverse to drive awareness and adoption of this new space.”

MTN will be running a competition for its launch event, giving customers a chance to win exclusive tickets to the concert.

“Many people still see the virtual worlds and environments as confusing and inaccessible, and so we are very proud to bring the altMTN experience to market in a way that can be accessed via mobile, tablet, PC or VR handset” adds Samuels. “We believe that by tapping into a key passion on the continent, namely music, we can actively draw our customers into the environment to not only experience it first-hand, but also to help us to improve altMTN as this developing technology increasingly interconnects and matures, to unlock the full benefits for our customers.

“The metaverse holds a wide array of opportunities to further enhance and showcase African innovation and we are excited to be pioneers of this journey on the continent.”


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Ozzy Osbourne to star at Metaverse Music Festival

Virtual blockchain-based world Decentraland has announced details of the second Metaverse Music Festival (MVMF), which will include a virtual performance by Ozzy Osbourne.

Set for 10-13 November, the free four-day event will feature “uniquely curated community genre stages” and Web3-enabled, immersive music experiences, presented by digital asset platform Kraken.

The first 100 acts have been confirmed for the festival – a virtual world made up of permanent, shared, 3D virtual spaces – which debuted last year. Performers will include Vladimir Cauchemar, SNH48, Spottie WiFi, Atarashii Gakko!, Amadis & The Ambassador, FMaija Kauhanen, Handshaking, Akira the Don, DJ Eddy Temple-Morris’ band Losers, 2AM, Erika Krall and Lian Gold, who will star on the centrepiece Tower of Babel stage, set in “a cyberpunk city of the future”.

Music festival Ozzfest is also coming to Decentraland, featuring Osbourne himself and other acts soon to be announced, while music brand Limewire will host one of the main stages with an exclusive avatar performance and music video premiere from Soulja Boy. The artists playing at MVMF have worked with community designers in Decentraland to create one-of-a-kind swag options and soon-to-be-announced specials.

The inaugural Metaverse Music Festival, held in October 2021, attracted 50,000 unique attendees

The inaugural Metaverse Music Festival, held in October 2021, attracted 50,000 unique attendees to see artists such as Deadmau5, 3LAU, Paris Hilton, RAC, and Alison Wonderland.

Producer, songwriter and DJ Dillon Francis has also collaborated with Vegas City to bring a state-of-the-art Dillon Francis mega club to Decentraland. Francis will open the festival with a special set that will be projected on several screens throughout the club all weekend.

In addition to a variety of new metaverse experiences, other attractions will include a Jerry Garcia Acoustic Stage, MultiNFT Techno Parkour Stage, a pop-up nightclub by web3 music network MODA DAO and the OG stage featuring Decentraland’s most prolific musicians and event promoters.


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Rock in Rio mulls further international editions

Rock in Rio organisers are considering launching further international editions of the legendary festival, which returns to Brazil next weekend.

The 100,000-cap event, which runs at the Cidade do Rock (City of Rock) from 2-4 and 8-11 September, sold out in record time earlier this year after around one million people registered to buy tickets.

Iron Maiden, Post Malone, Justin Bieber, Guns N’ Roses, Green Day, Coldplay and Dua Lipa will headline Rock in Rio’s first flagship Brazilian leg since 2019.

Its Lisbon edition took place in Portugal in June, while festivals have also been held under the Rock in Rio banner in Madrid, Spain and Las Vegas, US. And according to EVP Roberta Medina, additional spin-offs could be in the pipeline.

“Chile and another possible edition in the United States are on the radar”

“In Portugal, promoters from Dubai came to see and talk to us,” reveals Medina in an interview with Veja. “Chile and another possible edition in the United States are on the radar.”

Medina, daughter of Rock in Rio founder Roberto, also references new 105,000-cap event The Town, which is scheduled to debut at the Interlagos race track in Brazil in just over a year.

“The expansion is now within the country itself, with The Town, which will take place in São Paulo, in September 2023,” she says. “Investing in Brazil is worth it.”

Rock in Rio Lisboa, which launched in 2004, returned for the first time in four years in 2022, featuring acts such as The National, Black Eyed Peas, Duran Duran, Post Malone, Liam Gallagher, Ellie Goulding and A-ha. This year will mark the first time in the brand’s history that the Brazil and Portugal editions have taken place in the same year.

“Many suppliers have closed their doors, prices have skyrocketed and we are still experiencing chaos in maritime and air logistics”

“The Lisbon edition, in June, showed that the party was back to what it always was, with an extra dose of euphoria,” says Medina, who notes the event was not without its pandemic-related challenges.

“The difficulties are behind the scenes,” she explains. “Everything requires more advance. Many suppliers have closed their doors, prices have skyrocketed and we are still experiencing chaos in maritime and air logistics.

“All the sound equipment on the main stage got lost on the ship from Brazil to Lisbon and we had to get another one in a hurry.”

Rock in Rio is also debuting in the Metaverse in partnership with Coca-Cola. The Rock in Verse project, created by the agency A-LAB, will take place inside an island of video game Fortnite and feature 12 new spaces inspired by the City of Rock.

“We know that the physical experience is irreplaceable, but we believe that the face-to-face and the virtual can go hand in hand”

The game’s “Running Tracks” experience lets players interact with an original and exclusive song composed by DJs Cat Dealers, who will perform on Rock in Rio’s New Dance Order stage on 4 September, while “RiRstory Trivia” tests players’ knowledge of the festival’s history.

“We know that physical experience is irreplaceable, but we believe that the face-to-face and the virtual can go hand in hand,” says Rock in Rio CEO Luis Justo. “As we have more people who want to come to the event than the City of Rock actually holds, we are always thinking of activations that expand the experience for this audience, who, in this way, can also relate and have fun in some way with the festival.

“This is what we put all our energies into, so that people can experience a great warming up of the Rock in Rio experience right from their own homes. Rock in Verse will be a totally innovative way of relating and having fun with Rock in Rio.”


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iHeart Media to stage Charlie Puth Fortnite gig

iHeartMedia is to launch its new metaverse destination iHeartLand inside the video game Fortnite with a concert by Charlie Puth.

Puth will deliver a two-part performance at iHeartLand’s “first-of-its-kind” virtual entertainment venue State Farm Park at 7pm ET on 9 September, followed by an album release party in celebration of his upcoming LP, CHARLIE.

The American singer-songwriter will share new music from the record and host an interactive game designed to test fan knowledge in the run-up to the show, which will mark Puth’s first concert in the metaverse.

Built using Fortnite’s Creative toolset, State Farm Park in iHeartLand will host 20 major events across the music and podcasting space over the next year, including unique artist-fan experiences that can be unlocked through gameplay.

“Our goal is to meet audiences where they are – delivering innovative, incredible programming to constantly challenge ourselves to take entertainment to the next level,” says Conal Byrne, CEO of the iHeartMedia Digital Audio Group. “iHeartLand will feature a full calendar of music and podcast performances at State Farm Park that give fans a chance to play and interact with shows and artists in awesome new ways.”

“This new world allows us to extend the reach of today’s biggest creators, artists and personalities in groundbreaking ways”

iHeartLand will undergo periodic changes and refreshes, including the introduction of new mini-games.

“From interactive performances and intimate backstories to immersive game play, native to the platform – this new world allows us to extend the reach of today’s biggest creators, artists and personalities in groundbreaking ways, and is a big next step for iHeartMedia in expanding our engagement with our users,” adds Byrne.

Since debuting its first in-game concert in 2019, Fortnite developer Epic Games has facilitated events such as Soundwave Series, the Rift Tour with Ariana Grande, Travis Scott’s record-breaking Astronomical shows and gigs by  the likes of Marshmello, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, Easy Life and J Balvin.

“What iHeartMedia and the team at Atlas Creative have created is a compelling look at a future of Fortnite where artists and brands can independently and authentically connect with fans in new and persistent ways at scale,” adds Matthew Henick, VP, metaverse development for Epic Games. “We can’t wait for players to experience all of the incredibly ambitious content that iHeartLand has planned in the coming months.”


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