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Riot Games exec joins virtual concert start-up Wave

Wave, a Scooter-Braun backed virtual concert start-up, has announced that former Riot Games executive Jarred Kennedy is joining the team as chief operating officer.

Kennedy, who most recently served as global head of entertainment businesses and partnerships at Tencent-owned gaming giant Riot Games, will oversee core operations and expand the scale of digital concert experiences at Wave.

The former Riot Games executive will also work on establishing partnerships with artists, investing and innovating in interactivity and expanding the reach of Wave so that more people can experience the musical events.

“The founding team and a lot of the first folks to join Wave are all musicians, they understand the artists that they’re serving and they understand what it means to be fans,” Kennedy tells The Hollywood Reporter.

“They’ve built their company and their culture around that, and so there’s a lot of trust between the creative community and Wave.”

“I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences”

Wave, which transforms artists into digital avatars in real-time, casting them onto stages in customised virtual worlds, recently received $30 million in funding from investors including Superfly co-founder Rick Farman, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin and Justin Bieber manager Braun.

Kennedy says that he can see virtual concerts garnering popularity in a similar way to esports, as “[there is] the potential to create experiences that are both more interactive but also more immersive through virtualisation, [which] I think could be very powerful for what happens and what music performance becomes.

“I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences.”

“Wave is growing exponentially thanks to an incredible team of investors, partners and employees committed to our mission,” comments Wave CEO Adam Arrigo.

“Jarred’s wealth of knowledge in the industry, as well as understanding on how to build initiatives that tap into the core of digitally-forward culture, will allow Wave to better serve today’s digital avatar generation and increase our core technology and gaming capabilities.”

Wave concerts are distributed for free on major platforms including Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and have featured artists such as John Legend and Imogen Heap.

Read more about the intersection between live music and gaming here.

Gamers: 750m new live music fans?


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Superfly partners with TikTok to support small businesses

Small Business Live, a virtual live music event organised by Bonnaroo and Outside Lands co-founder Superfly, is raising money for minority-owned companies founded by people of colour across the US.

The event, which is taking place on Saturday 20 June from 4 to 10 p.m. ET, will see acts including Brittany Howard, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and Brandi Carlile performing on-site at local small businesses.

All performances will be livestreamed through TikTok and also available via YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitch, Twitter, LiveXLive and the publications of Bustle Digital Group.

Proceeds from the event will be donated to Accion Opportunity Fund, a non-profit that provides almost 90% of their loans to small businesses founded by people of colour. The fund also looks to support companies set up by women, as well as those run by immigrants.

Viewers will be able to donate via text with a special code that will be made available closer to the time. Fans can also donate on the Superfly website before and after the live stream, until 26 June.

“Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic”

“Entrepreneurs of colour are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” says Luz Urrutia, CEO of Accion Opportunity Fund.

“This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia, and oppression.”

According to Superfly co-founder Rich Goodstone, around 3.5 million small businesses in the US are currently at risk of permanent closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. A “disproportionate number” of those at risk are minority-owned businesses, says Goodstone.

“We look forward to raising the profile of this issue by showcasing amazing music performances and the stories of small businesses across America that urgently need our support.”

Fans can to tune in to Small Business Live on TikTok, with a list of other ways to view the event available here.

Superfly’s Rick Farman was among those to invest in avatar-based virtual concert platform Wave last week, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to accelerate the puh towards digital forms of live entertainment.

Photo: Calquinn/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


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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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On the edge of culture and creativity: Superfly Q&A

Superfly, the company behind festivals such as Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, has been making major moves in the experiential space.

Founded in 1996 by Rick Farman, Jonathan Mayers, Rich Goodstone and Kerry Black, Superfly has a history of exploring different kinds of immersive, live events from comedy festival Clusterfest to music and arts festival Bonnaroo.

More recently, the company has invested in businesses including sensory experience specialist Listen, immersive entertainment hot spot Two Bit Circus and event technology company LiveStyled, part of its commitment to marrying music with technology.

IQ catches up with Superfly co-founder and music-tech specialist Rick Farman to find out more about the paradoxical relationship between new technology and live events and the potential for music in the virtual events space.

 


Superfly has invested greatly in the immersive entertainment space recently, why?
There are certainly a few aspects to this. Due to Superfly’s background, we have a great vantage point for the entertainment and experiential industries at large, so we can identify companies with great potential for growth that we can have a very meaningful impact on.

With these investments, we are trying to find crossover with other companies. We have seen over the years on both sides of our business – be it as an event creator and operator, or as a brand agency business and service provider – that there’s a lot of scope for this.

At the same time, we are not a typical music company or promoter – the core of what Superfly does is create experiences that impact people in positive ways with a high level of creativity. We are interested in all different kinds of artists and art forms – anything that helps people find where their passions lie. So, as we grow our business, we are seeking to explore all different types of entertainment and create more diversification across the board.

“The core of what Superfly does is create experiences that impact people in positive ways with a high level of creativity”

How does this translate into your festival business?
We build festivals by trying to replicate that big experience on stage. It’s about performance, but with heightened participation. Outside Lands, for example, does this primarily through food and drink: people learn about wine from the region, talk to those who make it, do wine tastings etc.

What was really brand new and cutting edge for Outside Lands this year, was that we had sales and consumption of cannabis on-site. Globally, no other major festival has done this. Other events have concessions, but we built out a whole different experience from it for people to learn about cannabis – there was a smell wall, information on how it’s made, and we worked with leading brands in the cannabis eco systems. It’s all about bringing that immersive quality and tying it into that culture – that’s the general way we approach that kind of thing at festivals.

It’s like what we’re doing with the Friends and the Seinfeld experiences, too. The idea came out of our comedy festival, Clusterfest, to present immersive experiences with leading media IP from TV shows. We created the format and exported the Clusterfest ideas into standalone installations. The Friends Experience sold out in New York when it launched and recently opened in Boston too.

“It’s an interesting paradox in a way – live music is growing both because of and in spite of that innovation”

The consumer demand for the experiential has increased massively in the past few years, what are the main reasons behind this?
In many ways, there is a direct correlation with the ways in which people experience entertainment at home and the advent of a more digital lifestyle. We have seen this happen before with the explosion of the festival market, especially in the United States, which was driven by advances of technology around digital music. Having access to all that content makes sense when you can then go and see it all at a festival – they’re like mirror experiences.

This is similar to what is happening right now, but with even more interactive digital experiences – people are not just watching but participating in the digital space now, and they are looking for experiences that feed into that real world experience.

For example, visual social platforms like Instagram create a level of needing to get out and experience special events firsthand. All of this increases the desire to go to a festival or event. On the other hand, a festival is an experience that lasts for days, away from screens and technology, so it provides a respite from that digital life.

It’s an interesting paradox in a way – live music is growing both because of and in spite of that innovation. I personally think it’s awesome when these things happen – the convergence of what your experiences are in the digital world with what you’re getting from the live experience.

“Technology can be an amazing tool for artists and Superfly has a real opportunity to play within that overall emerging space”

Could you argue that technology is taking away from the real, lived music experience in any way?
For me, technology only adds to live experiences. The whole artistic universe – streams, merch, live – is being translated to a different context, where a lot of young people interested in entertainment and culture are living, so there is great potential.

The virtual events space is ripe for music to be one of the leading components. There is obviously momentum there already, the watershed moment being the Fortnite x Marshmello concert, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

What is so cool about the gaming format, and what’s developed with streaming platforms like Twitch, is that the level of interactivity that the artists can have with the fan is really incredible. We are now transcending the normal ability for an artist to participate with the audience and having more of a conversation and feedback element. Layer on top of that, all of the magic that can be created in a CGI environment and there’s something really special.

I believe that technology can be a really amazing tool for artists and Superfly as a brand has a real opportunity to play within that overall emerging space.

 


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