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High-profile artists invest in virtual live gigs company

A raft of high-profile artists including Justin Bieber, the Weeknd and J Balvin have invested in Wave, the world’s first multi-million dollar virtual entertainment platform for live concerts.

The platform transforms artists into animated characters via live motion capture technology that records their movements in real-time, while they perform on a virtual stage, customised to their style.

Fans can also create an avatar to join the free-of-game-play concerts shared via TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, and other gaming channels, social networks, livestreaming platforms.

The Weeknd invested in the company shortly after his first concert on the platform, dubbed The Weeknd Experience, which aired on TikTok on 7 August.

The show was the company’s highest-profile project to date, drawing in two million viewers and leading to $350,000 in charitable merchandise sales, according to TikTok.

It was recently revealed that the Weeknd isn’t the only artist to invest in Wave this year and is joined by Justin Bieber, Jillionaire and J Balvin, who is set to headline Fornite’s Halloween event.

This year, the company has also secured content partnerships with Warner Music Group and Roc Nation and has locked in $30 million in funding from business moguls including artist manager Scooter Braun.

The company has hosted over fifty concerts and worked with more than twenty artists to date, including John Legend, Tinashe, Imogen Heap and Lindsey Stirling.

While many VR platforms stream pre-recorded concerts, the LA-based company, which was founded in 2016 and originally called TheWaveVR, is differentiated by its live performance and interaction.

 


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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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Lindsey Stirling performing live as avatar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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