As organisations across the world rush to get the first slice of the Metaverse, India-based Cryptic Entertainments just hosted the country’s first virtual music concert with artist Sparsh Dangwal on Somnium Space VR.
Dangwal, an Indian singer-songwriter who performs in English, is an engineer-turned-artist, inspired by Ed Sheeran to write his own pop tunes. For this proof of concept, India’s first Metaverse music performance was free with about 25-30 people in attendance.
In the last year, the Metaverse has moved from a fringe concept, to the next big thing. While technology evangelists have been singing its praises, it’s yet to be embraced by digital natives.
However, Facebook has bet big on the Metaverse, even going so far as to rechristen the social platform’s name to Meta. The rest of it is being touted as an immerse virtual world, one where skins, products, artwork and more will be traded for money – whether bitcoin or fiat currency.
The Metaverse’s contours are still unclear. But almost everyone agrees that it is less about the technology and more about the changing nature of the internet shaping online interactions going forward.
Across the world, the Metaverse has become a testing ground, with brands, technology platforms and artists that have put on shows. Facebook recently hosted a trio of shows at their virtual Horizons Venues with Young Thug, David Guetta and The Chainsmokers playing – but was met with a muted response.
While Young Thug’s performance was filmed in front of a green screen and the effects kept viewers engaged, Guetta’s was simply a livestream of his New Year’s Eve performance at Abu Dhabi’s Louvre Museum.
Previously, Fortnite has hosted Travis Scott and Ariana Grande where both stars are expected to have taken a cut from the sale of branded skins and virtual items in addition to a sizeable advance. Scott’s performance was a mere nine minutes long, and so required much less effort on his part than a typical stadium show.
Tech revolution ahead
Litesh Gumbar, the founder of Cryptic Entertainments, who’s spent time making educational videos for Finsmart, before founding his own company believes that given that, “there’s a technology revolution that is already happening in India,” the country is ready to explore the Metaverse.
The lockdown was ripe to explore the idea further, as in Gumbar’s words, “Now, artists are not able to get any live shows and unfortunately the revenues from Spotify or from YouTube are not enough that an artist can sustain their life.” Gumbar explains, that given the conjecture that the Metaverse could be a solution to disrupting the music industry, he decided to go ahead. His curiosity to explore the possibilities led to organising the virtual concert.
For Gumbar, the show involved logistics that ranged from the sensible, like, “a stable internet connection from two different companies,” to some that made for a better experience. Like converting a studio in Mohali, where his company is based, into a space, where artists come in to wear their virtual reality (VR) headsets and perform.
Blockchain battle royale
Abroad, companies like Animal Entertainment have singed artists to perform virtually. With in-person shows uncertain, these digital concerts can earn an artist as much as 50% of the total of ticket sales, NFT purchases and even the revenue from digital items purchased, if events take place in virtual worlds like Fortnite and Roblox.
Gumbar is bullish on artist-specific NFTs, which will allow buyers access to regular shows. With NFTs being traded, fans can change loyalties or even cash in on an artist’s rising popularity.
Whatever the method, in most cases, the fortunes of artists are tied to the blockchain. Internationally, there’s been a lot of hype around blockchain-based music platforms like Opulous and Audios, while DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations) are set to be the foundation on which artists can build their presence – using NFTs, DeFi (Decentralised Finance) and more.
In this particular instance, Dangwal’s show was on Somnium Space VR, which itself is built on the Ethereum blockchain.
Speaking to Gumbar though, it’s clear the Metaverse will take some time, and a fair amount of investment by those that want to maximise their engagement.
He also points that companies are investing in curating a unique experience online, but costs for headsets or even high-end computers remain expensive. For now, he believes most people will tune in on their PCs but as he says, “The VR headset changes the whole feel.”
Text by Aatish Nath