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AmazeVR secures $10m for virtual reality concerts

LA-based startup AmazeVR has raised $9.5 million in new funding to accelerate the company’s growth in the world of virtual reality concerts.

The virtual reality content service specialises in ‘the highest-fidelity performances in surreal CG worlds’, which can be viewed on the AmazeVR immersive tour bus, in cinemas and via the AmazeVR app.

Last week the company announced funding from a number of global investment firms including Murex Partners, We Ventures, Bass Investment, and Dunamu & Partners. Existing investors including Mirae Asset Venture Investment, Mirae Asset Capital, Partners Investment and Timewise Investment also participated in the funding round.

According to the company’s announcement, the funding will be used to hire additional staff as AmazeVR “rapidly scales to meet demand, secures top artists for future projects, and invests in product innovation to ensure the highest quality productions”.

“As more consumers gain access to VR technologies, there is enormous potential for immersive concerts”

According to PitchBook Data, the latest funding round brings the total amount raised by the company to just over $34m since 2015, when the company was launched by the founders and former executives of South Korean-based mobile platform company Kakao.

In 2019, the company underwent a rebrand and honed in on virtual concerts as its primary focus before partnering with hip-hop duo Ceraadi on its debut immersive concert, the following year.

Ceraadi’s debut immersive concert experience, initially scheduled for release in late 2020, has been rescheduled for later this year when it’s safe to hold an in-person launch.

The company said it plans to make upcoming shows available to more viewers through a partnership with Canadian company D-Box Technologies, which manufactures haptic motion systems used in cinemas, theme parks and simulation devices.

“As more and more consumers gain access to VR technologies — be they through headsets, theatres, or even their phones — there is enormous potential for immersive concerts,” AmazeVR co-CEO Ernest Lee said in a statement.

 


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CES: Sony bows VR concert tech, LG introduces virtual DJ

Among the music-related innovations at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which is taking place online from 11 to 14 January, are an ‘immersive reality’ concert experience by Sony, a virtual influencer and DJ created by LG, and Samsung’s in-car Live Interactive Virtual Experience (LIVE).

Japan’s Sony Corporation used motion-capture technology to recreate US singer Madison Beer as a CGI avatar for a performance of her song ‘Boyshit’, placing her in a virtual replica of Sony Hall (1,000-cap.) in New York, as seen in the video above.

The event was spearheaded by a newly launched division of Sony Corporation of America, Sony Immersive Music Studios.

A longer performance by Beer, who is signed to Sony Music-owned Epic Records, featuring a medley of songs from her upcoming debut album, Life Support, will made available on Oculus VR and PlayStation VR, as well as 2D platforms, later this year.

Sylvia Rhone, Epic’s CEO, says: “Madison Beer is raising the bar of what’s possible in a virtual concert performance and we couldn’t be more excited. With this cutting-edge collaboration of music and technology, Madison has brought her innovative vision to life in a unique way while taking it to new heights.

“Madison Beer is raising the bar of what’s possible in a virtual concert performance”

“This is another example of Epic’s commitment to empower our artists with groundbreaking opportunities to expand their creative options and engage fans through immersive experiences.”

In addition to the Madison Beer event, CES also sees Sony make available a live performance by Zara Larsson (another Epic artist) in 360° immersive sound as an on-demand stream.

For Samsung, CES represented another opportunity to showcase Harman’s LIVE technology, which, as IQ reported last week, would enable concertgoers to interact with artists from behind their steering wheels.

Elsewhere, compatriot LG introduced Reah Keem, an entirely fictional person who hosted the company’s livestreamed CES keynote unveiling its range of CLOi UV-C robots.

As seen on her Instagram page, Keem introduced herself as a songwriter and DJ (as well as a keen international traveller) who’s “so excited to be showing you some of the latest and coolest

from LG”.

Despite being entirely computer generated, Keem does have music to listen to: check out her (so far) only single, ‘Comino Drive’, on her SoundCloud account.

reahkeem · COMINO DRIVE

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Lost Horizon announces season of VR events

Lost Horizon, the VR music venue created by the team behind Glastonbury’s Shangri-La, has announced its first season of virtual events in VR event platform Sansar.

The season will take place throughout December, playing host to DJs, underground acts and visual artists, before culminating with ‘Chasing Midnight’, a 24-hour global celebration on New Year’s Eve, taking in 12 time zones and 12 countdowns.

Lost Horizon launched its premiere festival in July, a four-stage event in Sansar featuring artists including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Pete Tong, which reached 4.36m viewers, according to organisers.

Commenting on the upcoming season of events, Robin Collings, co-director of Lost Horizon, says: “We are incredibly excited to launch the second phase of Lost Horizon with a raft of exciting shows in December, plus we have some huge plans for 2021 and beyond. In these troubled times, our mission is to bring some joy and real culture into people’s lives.

“In these troubled times, our mission is to bring some joy and real culture into people’s lives”

“Lost Horizon’s virtual platform offers so much more than other VR events, allowing people to connect with their friends and meet people from around the globe, you can literally chat, live using your computer’s mic and speakers, to other people in the virtual world, while watching some amazing DJs and live music! Real events in a virtual world”.

The acts, which are yet to be announced, will perform across six customisable areas in the virtual venue, including festival stage Freedom; 360-degree digital arena the Gas Tower; media centre SHITV; underground club Nomad; plus a virtual open-air art gallery and the interactive Landing Zone, which features merch stalls, art, seating and info points recreating the festival experience.

Viewers can explore the interactive, multi-stage venue in Sansar via PC and VR, web browser or app. The season’s events will also be streamed live, globally.

Prior to Lost Horizon’s season of events in December, the virtual reality venue will host the 18th edition of London Mela, the UK festival of South Asian culture.

For 2020 London Mela – usually held in Southall Park, west London – becomes Melatopia, a VR event taking place online on 7 and 8 November 2020, and featuring the same mix of music, dance and culture from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries.

 


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London Mela announces Melatopia festival

The 18th edition of London Mela, the UK festival of South Asian culture, will be held in a virtual-reality venue created by the team behind Lost Horizon.

For 2020 London Mela – usually held in Southall Park, west London – becomes Melatopia, a VR event taking place online on 7 and 8 November 2020, and featuring the same mix of music, dance and culture from the Indian subcontinent and surrounding countries.

As with Lost Horizon, which was seen by four million people in 100 countries, Melatopia viewers will be able to experience live artists, DJs and dance performances in a virtual world created especially for the event, and on a range of platforms, including smartphone, tablet, computer or virtual-reality (VR) headset.

Like Lost Horizon, Melatopia will be built using Sansar, Wookey Technologies’ platform for virtual live events.

“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend”

Performers will include headliner the Raja Kumari, bhangra legend Panjabi MC, Juggy D and Pandit Ram Sahai Sangeet Vidhyalaya, qawwali star Chand Ali Khan and BBC Future Sounds artist Celina Sharma. All artists will be recorded exclusively for the festival.

Remarkable Productions’ Julian Rudd, producer of London Mela, comments: “Remarkable Productions is really excited to be working at the coalface of digital, VR and online festival production with such impressive partners.”

“In these dark days for artists around the world, Melatopia represents hope and opportunity that there is a future for our sector,” he adds. “Alongside Nutkhut and Mela Partnership, we are proud to present Melatopia, the world’s first truly global VR mela festival of desi culture.”

Lost Horizon’s Chris Macmeikan MBE says Melatopia is a proof of concept that, once built, “like a real venue” can be used multiple times.

“We want to build festivals that the whole world can attend,” adds Macmeikan. “In July of this year, our innovative work with VR and streaming at Lost Horizon attracted over 4m people from over 100 countries.

“Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together”

“That is why we are so excited that our second project is with London Mela. London Mela is already a hub to the entire Asian diaspora. Now, we will create the world’s first global mela together.”

“When a global diaspora meets new technology, change happens,” comments Ajay Chhabra, artistic director of Melatopia. “The South Asian presence in Silicon Valley is completely engaged with Mela, and Melatopia is our way of bringing people together in a time of isolation.

“Change creates challenging new opportunities. With so much change occurring all around us, from the very personal loss of loved ones to the major change artists and communities are facing the world over, Melatopia is our way to keep fearless ambition alive, to be bold, to take risks and to create a new platform for what we know best: the coming together of community and artists to create a new utopia – Melatopia.

“The South Asian diaspora is international, with a footprint on every major continent, in every major city globally. In a time of isolation, Melatopia is an exciting new opportunity to bring this international diaspora of people together, by using new technology and cross arts to form connections to a new and intergenerational audience.”

 


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Tidal-backed VR platform enlists renowned DJs

Carl Cox and David Guetta are the first artists announced to perform in the Sensorium Galaxy, a new VR “social metaspace” in which users can attend alternative-world concerts, nightclubs and festivals through a VR headset or streaming.

Sensorium Galaxy, which is due to launch publicly in early 2021, has already been backed by Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal, which spent US$7 million on tokens issued by the platform’s company, acquiring access to broadcast its content within the platform.

Grammy award-winning DJ and producer David Guetta was the first artist announced to “join” the platform – which is also backed by Forbes-listed billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov – followed shortly by Carl Cox.

Each DJ will appear as virtual representations for their exclusive performances in Prism, a content hub in the Galaxy dedicated to music concerts and festivals, which is being developed in partnership with Yann Pissenem, CEO and founder of The Night League and creator of nightclubs Hï Ibiza and Ushuaïa Ibiza.

“Having David come on board as the first DJ to join Prism World is sending a clear message: VR is the future of social networking and content distribution,” says Pissenem.

“David and I have been working together for more than two decades now. He is a genius that has always been ahead of the curve with music and understands the vision of what we will deliver with Sensorium Galaxy.

“VR tech allows us to transcend the physical world and create unprecedented shows that will revolutionise the industry”

“Working with VR technology allows us to transcend the limits of the physical world and create unprecedented shows that will revolutionise the industry. It is going to be like nothing that has ever come before.”

Since its foundation, Sensorium Corporation has raised over $100 million in private investments, making it one of the world’s best-funded startups in the VR space.

Artist-backed Tidal has been making plays elsewhere in the VR market too, recently partnering with Facebook’s platform Occulus.

The partnership will spawn a series of intimate live performances from ‘the biggest names in music’ that can be streamed in virtual reality on the Venues app (available on the Oculus Quest) and in 2D video and high-quality audio on Tidal, later this year.

Facebook launched the Venues app, described as “the companion app to live events,” in June this year.

 


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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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Major streaming services to branch into virtual events

Spotify is developing a feature that will alert fans to an artist’s upcoming virtual events, according to a tweet by reverse engineer Jane Manchun Wong.

The streaming service ordinarily lists an artist’s live events on their profile page, but according to Wong (via TechCrunch), it is now transforming that feature into virtual events discovery.

The platform already works with ticketing partners including Ticketmaster, Songkick, Resident Advisor, Eventbrite, AXS and Japan’s eplus, and therefore virtual event listings wouldn’t be difficult to implement.

The feature isn’t yet available in the public-facing version of the Spotify app.

Elsewhere, Jay-Z’s streaming service Tidal has spent US$7 million on tokens issued by the company behind Sensorium Galaxy, a new VR “social metaspace” in which users can attend alternative-world concerts, nightclubs and festivals through a VR headset.

Through the purchase, Tidal has acquired access to broadcast their content within Sensorium Galaxy, which is due to launch publicly in early 2021.

Sensorium says that its “Social VR technology” is poised to “provide unprecedented ways for artists”

Lior Tibon, COO of Tidal, says: “Our relationship with Sensorium provides Tidal with the opportunity to gain exclusive rights for its stellar artist roster to have their shows and music broadcast exclusively within Sensorium’s themed virtual entertainment worlds.

“The Sensorium Galaxy is a next-generation platform for entertainment consumption which will elevate the connection fans have with their favourite artists, and bring artists’ vision to life in a new and exciting way.”

Sensorium says that its “social VR technology” is poised to “provide unprecedented ways for artists, performance venues, game publishers, and virtual influencers to entertain and engage fans globally across interactive environments”.

Alongside Jay-Z, Tidal’s artist co-owners include Lil Wayne, Rihanna, Calvin Harris, Daft Punk and Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

Earlier this week, it was announced earlier this week that streaming service Napster will be acquired by live music virtual reality platform MelodyVR.

The US$70 million acquisition will eventually combine Napster’s library of over 90 million audio tracks and Melody VR’s catalogue of virtual live music shows, to create a platform where users can stream music and experience immersive live performances.

 


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Immersive music startup MelodyVR acquires Napster

Live music virtual reality platform MelodyVR is acquiring Rhapsody International, which operates as music subscription service Napster.

The US$70 million acquisition will eventually combine Napster’s library of over 90 million audio tracks and Melody VR’s catalogue of virtual live music shows, to create a platform where users can stream music and experience immersive live performances.

“For music fans today, live and recorded music are intrinsically linked. We are as keen to see our favourite artists perform live as we are to listen to their albums,” says MelodyVR CEO Anthony Matchett.

“Our purchase of Napster, one of the music industry’s original disruptors, is born out of our wish to deliver the world’s foremost music experience, available seamlessly across audio and visual media and in turn presenting a truly next-generation music service.”

Napster CEO Bill Patrizio commented: “This is a tremendous outcome for two organizations with complementary platforms and loyal audiences, and we could not be more excited to be moving forward as one company.”

“Our wish is to deliver the world’s foremost music experience… a truly next-generation music service”

“The product, technology and cultural synergies of Napster and MelodyVR will bring tremendous innovation for music lovers, artists and the entire music industry. Good things come from being together, and we look forward to creating a powerful platform that combines our strengths and offers an even wider range of content to consumers, creators and advertisers.”

The UK-based MelodyVR broadcast its first live concert in virtual reality in 2018 with Liam Payne in London, after releasing its app – touted as the world’s first dedicated virtual reality (VR) music platform – in 2019, and subsequently partnering with O2 in the UK.

Since Covid-19 hit the industry, the company has delivered a digital edition of Wireless festival in London and live music VR series, Live from LA, which has featured artists including Cypress Hill, Kesha, John Legend and Tori Kelly.

The shows were available to watch in 360° for free via the MelodyVR app and VR headsets.

MelodyVR and Napster, which is currently 84% owned by RealNetworks, will operate independently for the foreseeable future.


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Glastonbury’s Shangri-La team unveils VR festival

The team behind Glastonbury Festival’s famous after-hours mini-city, Shangri-La, has announced virtual-reality (VR) festival Lost Horizon.

Glastonbury Festival, which was set to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, was the first major European festival to cancel due to coronavirus, with many others since following suit.

Lost Horizon will bring the festival’s much-loved Shangri-La area to life, in conjunction with virtual live events platform Sansar. Tickets for the event are free, with fans encouraged to make a donation to UK homeless charity the Big Issue and Amnesty International by purchasing a “premium ticket”. Premium ticket buyers will also receive an exclusive piece of art from Lost Horizon creatives, Instruct Studio and a virtual shirt from Instruct Studio.



Featuring performances from 50 acts across four stages, the festival will be streamed live via Beatport and other platforms from 3 to 4 July.

Acts including Carl Cox, Fatboy Slim, Peggy Gou, Jamie Jones and Seth Troxler will perform at a virtual replica of Shangri-La’s 360°, audiovisual Gas Tower arena, with additional performances taking place at the Freedom and SHITV (Shangri-La International Television Centre) stages, and brand-new Nomad stage, which will celebrate the history of underground UK culture and feature predominantly drum-and-bass artists.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal”

Available on PC, mobile and VR devices, viewers will be able to experience the festival from multiple camera angles and switch between performances, as well as exploring hidden venues and over 200 artworks.

“Now more than ever, fans are looking beyond traditional live shows to connect with the artists they love,” says Sansar president Sheri Bryant, who discussed virtual events in the recent IQ Focus panel, The Innovation Session.

“With Lost Horizon, we’re delivering the music festival of the future: deeply immersive, fully online, accessible to anyone and anywhere with a PC or phone at their disposal. We’re at the vanguard of something truly incredible, and we couldn’t be more excited to turn this page.”

Shangri-La and Lost Horizon creative director Kaye Dunnings adds that: “We need unity more than ever right now, in an industry that is falling away in front of us.

“By creating a digital platform to experience art and music in a new way, we are at the forefront of defining the next generation of live entertainment and creative communities as we know them.”

Tickets are on sale now at sansar.com/losthorizon, with full line-up information available here.

 


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Dutch DJs W&W plan ‘world’s first XR livestream’

In what promoter Alda Events is calling the dance music world’s first-ever extended-reality (XR) live stream, Dutch DJ duo W&W have announced a show that will take place inside a specially created 3D virtual world.

For the 23 May event, the pair – who have been among DJ Mag’s top 100 DJs since 2010, and are renowned for their live shows – will play a set in a custom-made virtual stadium overlaid with futuristic, videogame-like ‘XR’ effects, pointing the way towards “a potential future route for the events industry during the global lockdown,” says Alda.

In addition to Alda – the part-Insomniac-owned, Amsterdam-based EDM promoter – the show’s partners include Chinese sports brand Li-Ning (which lends its name to the virtual ‘Li-Ning Arena’), DJ Mag, livestreaming platform Twitch and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

The concert will see W&W “implement green screens to enhance the illusion of their creative 3D reality”, surrounding themselves with “a series of mind-blowing special effects”

According to the show announcement, the concert will see W&W “implement green screens to enhance the illusion of their creative 3D reality”, surrounding themselves with “a series of mind-blowing special effects” and “creating a space that welcomes everyone”.

The W&W shows follows Travis Scott’s pre-recorded show in the videogame Fortnite, which was seen by an estimated 12 million people and won praise for its spectacular visual effects, as well as the boom in livestreamed shows of all kinds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event will be streamed live on Facebook and Twitch on Saturday 23 May at 5pm CEST.

W&W virtual livestream poster

 


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