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Hong Kong Coliseum created in Minecraft for C Allstar show

Earlier this year, Hong Kong digital entertainment company Kre8Lab launched The Show Must Go On, a new online concert concept designed and built inside online video game Minecraft.

Local boy band C Allstar played the first The Show Must Go On concert, dubbed Make it Happen, in August, and a second edition of the show will launch on Minecraft in late December. For the virtual venue, the Kre8Lab team designed and built a performance venue resembling the 12,500-seat Hong Kong Coliseum.

The August show coincided with the 10th anniversary of C Allstar’s debut, and transformed the band members into Minecraft avatars, while fans enjoyed the “full concert experience”, says Minecraft publisher Microsoft, including simulated ticket checks and temperature-tacking followed by finding a seat.

To familiarise new players with Minecraft games, the Kre8Lab spent three months in advance of the show crafting a ‘treasure hunt’ to recreate the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, including the Clock Tower, Star Ferry Pier, Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong Space Museum, 1881 Heritage and more.

Meanwhile, brands were invited to set up virtual booths in advance of the show, with Deliveroo, McDonald’s and Reebook among the companies to take advantage.


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Mad Zoo unveils its biggest Minecraft festival yet

Mad Zoo, a startup specialising in virtual live festival experiences, has announced the line-up for Stratosfest, an event taking place within the best-selling video game of all time, Minecraft.

Stratosfest will take place on 23 and 24 October, featuring exclusive sets from Above & Beyond, Ferry Corsten, Ilan Bluestone, Tritonal, Gabriel & Dresden, Darude, Qrion, Attlas and Mad Zoo founder, producer and DJ, Mat Zo.

The immersive event will feature a “never-before-seen” skybound Minecraft realm, live Video Jockey-controlled visuals, and interactive mini-games.

The startup has already produced three Minecraft festivals including Mat Zo and Friends, Hospitality: In The Void, and Mad Zoo: In The Void.

“Every event we put on is a step up from the last, but Stratosfest is by far the biggest step up we’ve taken so far”

“Pure luck brought our team together. Everyone’s unique skill sets and experiences have amounted to the dream team. We’re all perfectly suited for this, as artists, gamers, programmers and fans. It all feels like it was meant to be,” says head of Mad Zoo, Mat Zo.

“After producing three successful Minecraft festivals, it feels really great to be able to go bigger than I ever dreamt for the fourth edition. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to work with such a skilled team, and with artists who I admire.

“Every event we put on is a step up from the last, but Stratosfest is by far the biggest step up we’ve taken so far. I can’t wait to share what we have in store for everyone.”

Minecraft first hosted a music event in 2016, and has since provided the setting for virtual festival Fire Festival; produced charity events Block By Blockwest, featuring Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team, and Square Garden, with 100 Gecs and Charli XCX; and organised dance music festival Electric Blockaloo, featuring Diplo, Maceo Plex and Tokimonsta.

Selling more than 200 million copies since being released in 2011, Minecraft has over 40% more monthly users than free-to-play online shooter Fortnite (78.3m), which has hosted record-breaking concerts by rapper Travis Scott and EDM star Marshemello, indicating a potential to draw yet more viewers (although fans did not need to pay to attend the Fortnite shows).


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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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Diplo to perform in 60-hour Minecraft music festival

Virtual dance music festival Electric Blockaloo, due to take place in Minecraft in June, has the potential to become the biggest music event ever, as the game’s 112 million active monthly users are invited to attend the three-day festival.

Electronic music promoter Rave Family today (21 May) revealed the first wave of acts performing at the in-game festival from 25 to 28 June, which includes Diplo, Tokimonsta, Jamie Jones and Maceo Plex over the 60-hour event.

Electric Blockaloo is the first in a series of virtual dance music events produced by Rave Family, as the promoter looks to replicate the success of other in-game shows.

Selling more than 200 million copies since being released in 2011, Minecraft has over 40% more monthly users than free-to-play online shooter Fortnite (78.3m), which has hosted record-breaking concerts by rapper Travis Scott and EDM star Marshemello, indicating a potential to draw yet more viewers (although fans did not need to pay to attend the Fortnite shows).

Minecraft first hosted a music event in 2016, and has since provided the setting for virtual festival Fire Festival and, more recently, charity events Block By Blockwest, featuring Pussy Riot, Idles and Sports Team, and Square Garden, with 100 Gecs and Charli XCX.

Artists playing at Electric Blockaloo will be supplied with a unique code to send to fans via a link. The code will give fans access to the Rave Family club, from where players pay an entry fee – either general admission or VIP – to get access to artist-curated Minecraft servers, Discord channels, special streams and releases.

Acts will receive a portion of the revenue generated by fans who followed their link.

“Electric Blockaloo is a place where artists and fans can come together, create shared musical experiences, and reconnect”

All of Minecraft users can sign up to attend, whereas Minecraft laymen can view the festival on the club website via artist livestreams.

The Rave Family training camp will be available to ticketholders in the run up to the festival, for festivals fan unfamiliar with Minecraft.

Electric Blockaloo will be accessible on desktop, mobile, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and VR.

Rave Family, which was founded by tech and investment veteran Jackie McGuire, has previously provided infrastructure support for festivals including Electric Daisy Carnival, Electric Forest and Imagine.

“Everyone asked us, ‘What’s the new normal?’ That normal is one without large festivals for the foreseeable future,” comments McGuire. “Electric Blockaloo is a place where artists and fans can come together, create shared musical experiences, and reconnect with each other in an immersive way.”

A portion of each ticket sale for electric Blockaloo will go to Bye Bye Plastic, a charity that aims to eliminate single-use plastic from(non-virtual) music festivals by 2025.

Electric Blockaloo will take place daily from 25 to 28 June from 10 a.m. EST to 6 a.m. More information is available here.

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The show goes on(line): Concerts get creative amid global shutdown

In a matter of weeks, the global live music industry has come to a virtual standstill, with shows called off and fans forced inside by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

But while ‘normal’ concerts are off the cards, a wave of virtual events are springing up to take their place, taking advantage of social media, virtual reality and online worlds to bring fans closer to artists at a time when both concert performer and concertgoer are stuck indoors.

Sweet streams
By far the most popular way of connecting with housebound fans, many of the world’s biggest artists, including Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Pink, John Legend, country singer Keith Urban and Latin star Juanes have streamed live performances on their social media accounts in recent days.

Others, such as Miley Cyrus, Christine and the Queens and Lizzo, are broadcasting largely non-musical content that offering a glimpse into their self-isolating lives, while likes of Bruce Springsteen are making past concerts available for free. UK singer Yungblud, meanwhile, took the opportunity to create The Yungblud Show Live, an anarchic hour-long show (featuring a concert segment, drinking games and a cooking lesson) filmed in LA following the postponement of his upcoming tour.

In the classical music world, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has made its ‘digital concert hall’ video streaming service, featuring over 600 concerts spanning more than a decade, free to all before 31 March.

“We already miss our public very much and hope that in this way we can remain in contact with our audience, at least virtually,” says Olaf Maninger, the orchestra’s principal cellist.

Elsewhere, in Europe’s clubbing capital, promoters have gone one step further by creating a 24-hour ‘virtual club’, dubbed United We Stream, in order to “save Berlin’s club culture in quarantine”. (The German capital’s nightlife been on lockdown since Friday 13 March.)

Launching today (18 March) at 7pm local time, the initiative will see the empty clubs streaming several hours of DJ sets and live performances every day, with the venue changing each night. Participating clubs include the Watergate (which will host tonight’s first show, with Claptone, Monika Kruse and Mathew Jonson), Tresor, Kater Blau, Salon Zur Wilden Renate and Sisyphos.

Fans are encouraged to donate €10, €20 or €30 a month in exchange for a ‘virtual club ticket’, with all funds going directly to a relief fund to support clubs and event organisers during the closure.

“We already miss our public very much”

Faces for radio
Miami’s Ultra Music Festival (UMF) was the first major western festival to fall victim to the coronavirus, having been pulled by city councillors just over two weeks out, on 4 March.

Now reborn as a ‘virtual audio festival’ on US satellite/internet radio platform SiriusXM, Ultra will take the form of an audio-only event, running from Friday 20 to Monday 23 March (its original dates) and featuring live performances by DJs scheduled to perform at Ultra Miami, including Afrojack, Major Lazer, Martin Garrix, Above and Beyond, Armin van Buuren, Nicky Romero and Oliver Heldens.

Ultra Virtual Audio Festival will be broadcast on a temporary SiriusXM channel, UMF Radio (channel 52), which will also air previous Ultra sets by stars such as Marshmello, the Chainsmokers, Kygo and Carl Cox.

Scott Greenstein, president and chief content officer of SiriusXM, says: “With the postponement of beloved events, necessary changes in people’s everyday life and need for social distancing, we know our listeners are seeking a sense of community more than ever.

“To encourage that, we are pleased to be working with Ultra Music Festival to provide our listeners with this virtual audio festival featuring the diverse line-up of artists the UMF delivers year after year, as well as exclusive fresh, new sets from some of the biggest names in dance music.”

UMF 2020 ticket holders will receive an email in the coming days offering access to UMF Radio and other SiriusXM programming.

In the UK, meanwhile, the cancelled Country to Country (C2C) festival – due to take place on 13–15 March at the O2 in London – was replaced a special show on BBC Radio 2, which was originally to have broadcast from the event.

Radio 2’s Country Festival, presented by ‘Whispering’ Bob Harris, Bobbie Pryor and the Shires’ Ben Earle, featured live performances from artists scheduled to play C2C, including Luke Combs, Eric Church, Darius Rucker, the Cadillac Three, Old Crow Medicine Show, Brett Young and Tenille Townes.

“We know our listeners are seeking a sense of community more than ever”

Game on
Passing the time while ill by playing video games is nothing new, but the current period of self-isolation will be the first time many experience a live event inside a virtual world. Marshmello’s groundbreaking Fortnite concert last year opened the floodgates opened for live music in gaming, with rock bands Korn (in AdventureQuest) and the Offspring (in World of Tanks), DJs Ekali (in Minecraft), Reggie Watts and Blasterjaxx and EDM label Monstercat (in Sansar) among those to have organised large virtual concerts since.

Mojang’s Minecraft – the open-ended world-builder which, with nearly half a billion players, is arguably the biggest game in the world today – is no stranger to hosting music events, holding its first live concert, with AlunaGeorge, Broiler and Lemaitre, in March 2016. It also hosted Fire Festival, with Ekali, Arty, Hudson Mohawke, Luca Lush and over 5,000 ‘festivalgoers’, early last year, with another 80,000 tuning in via live stream.

Upcoming live entertainment in Minecraft includes Second Sky-inspired music festival Second Aether, which will take place on 28 and 29 March, and an as-yet-unnamed festival set to take place at Club Matryoshka (a virtual nightclub hosted on a private Minecraft server) on 26 April.

Sansar, a virtual-reality online world from Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life, also plans to host several virtual live events in the months ahead. Sansar – which has partnerships with Monstercat, Spinnin’ Records and Roddenberry Entertainment (Star Trek), among others – yesterday (17 March) released a guide to creating an event inside the game, touting its credentials as a platform for “free virtual events amid [the] coronavirus emergency”.

“Sansar is no stranger to large-scale live events, and we’re here to help you and your audiences stay safe, productive and connected during the coronavirus outbreak,” says Sansar community manager Galileo Linden, noting that the game can accomodate “a conference for work, an educational workshop, a live performance or even a music festival”.

“We’re here to help you and your audiences stay safe, productive and connected during the coronavirus outbreak”

Reality check
Amid the gloom on global stock markets, MelodyVR maker EVR Holdings was one of few shares not in the red on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) today, its value surging with growing demand for concerts on virtual-reality headsets, according to the London Evening Standard.

In its Covid-19 update to the LSE, EVR says it has has seen a 56% spike in sales for MelodyVR over the past week as most major concerts were cancelled. “MelodyVR’s technology was originally created to enhance the live experience for music fans around the world who were unable to access performances either as a result of their location, age, cost of attendance or ticket availability,” the company explains.

“The restriction of both mass gatherings of the general public and international travel has already begun to adversely impact the global music industry, and while our vision was never to act as a replacement to live events, we believe that our technology affords fans the closest possible opportunity of experiencing the next best thing to actually being at a venue or show without physically being present.

“We have not sought to actively capitalise on the events of the last few weeks, yet having experienced a 56% increase in average sales over the course of the last seven days we anticipate this trend of MelodyVR platform usage to continue.”

Also having a good day is popular rhythm game Beat Saber, which announced today it has sold more than two million copies, cementing its reign as the best-selling virtual reality-exclusive title. “[T]he game has also proven to be a successful platform for artists to connect with fans, selling over 10 million songs through downloadable content,” reads an announcement on the Oculus blog.


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Korn to play “video game battle concert”

Nu-metal band Korn are the latest group to foray into the world of virtual concerts, announcing upcoming performances in multiplayer games AdventureQuest 3D and 2D counterpart, AdventureQuest Worlds.

The band will debut a song from upcoming album The Nothing during the in-game appearance.

According to AdventureQuest developer Artix Entertainment, players will “fight monsters”, “score loot” and “get in the most brutal mosh pit ever” at the virtual rock concert, hosted at the new AdventureQuest Battle Concert Arena.

The concert, which begins on Tuesday 20 August at “sundown” (EST), is free to attend for gamers and available to replay for a month.

A special event package is available to buy, including Korn-branded items, the “heavy metal mosh pit armour” and exclusive travel forms. Players can also purchase a backstage pass, “to get a virtual backstage experience with the virtual band and take a virtual selfie.”

In-game concerts are becoming an increasingly popular form of entertainment. A record ten million Fortnite players tuned into a virtual performance by electronic music producer Marshmello in February, surpassing the game’s previous concurrent player record by 1.7m. Minecraft has also hosted several live music events, including Fire Festival earlier this year.

Korn have been touring the United States, in person, since the end of July. Upcoming tour dates can be found here.


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Fire Festival: the rise of the virtual music festival

Last weekend, Fire Festival provided a musical experience for a digital age. Thousands of festivalgoers wandered the grounds, listened to music across two stages and interacted with fellow attendees, all from the comfort of their own sofas.

More than 5,000 fans “attended” the event from 12 to 13 January, with 6,500 people also joining the festival’s live Discord chat.

Over 50 artists performed at the event, with headliners Ekali, Hudson Mohawke, ARTY, and Luca Lush playing along with many other underground acts and unsigned artists.

The world of Minecraft supplied the setting for the festival, which fans could attend free of charge, provided they owned a copy of the game on PC or Mac.

“Anyone with a [Minecraft] account could join and explore the festival grounds we built, fight ‘boss battles’ to gain festival merch, or watch the artists ‘perform’ at either of the stages,” festival organiser, Max Schramp, tells IQ.

Those without a copy of Minecraft did not have access to the virtual landscape, but could still “attend” the festival by tuning into the music stream on the festival website and joining the live chat rooms.

“In the end we had over 6,000 people playing Minecraft and over 80,000 people tuning into the audio stream!” says Schramp.

“Anyone with a Minecraft account could join and explore the festival grounds”

The festival proved a great success, but did not come without its obstacles. Minecraft is not optimised to have servers of hundreds of players, so the festival’s development team had to create a custom network for their servers in order to spread the load of the players, explains Schramp.

Another major obstacle faced by the team is much more familiar to organisers of traditional festivals the world over: the coordination and handling of artists. Leading up to the festival, “there were a dozen iterations of the posters, videos, and various promotional material, with some artists sending us their sets hours before they were due to play.”

Schramp tells IQ that the origins of the festival sprang from a birthday joke, after he announced that he would throw his 21st birthday party inside Minecraft. He and his friends formed a team to create Coalchella 2018, the precursor to this year’s Fire Festival.

Since then, the joke has evolved into a much bigger platform for music lovers and gamers alike, as well as developing an important social cause.

The festival organisers donated US$1750.97 – all profits from the event – to the Trevor Project, an organisation focusing on suicide prevention among LGBTQ+ youth. “I hope that this might be a significant step in pushing the music and festival industry towards inclusivity for LGBTQ+ and underprivileged people,” says Schramp.


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