Contrary to some belief, the metaverse is not only about immersion via Extended Reality (XR). True metaverses or open metaverses are tech agnostic, interoperable, decentralised and allow for the self-custody of data and digital goods and assets. Most importantly, they are not the same as a video game.
In India, Daler Mehndi’s got his Balle Balle Land, Production house Pooja Entertainment has the Poojaverse, and Jupiter Meta, a curated NFT marketplace, recently had a concert with singer Karthik in the metaverse. But we’re yet to see a large scale adoption of the new internet. It seems like we’ll get there soon, though, since the global metaverse market size is projected to reach $28 billion by 2028, from $510 million in 2022, at a CAGR of 95% during 2022-2028. That’s right, that’s 95% you read.
When it comes to experiencing music in the metaverse, for instance, it seems music production/creation is pushing boundaries too. Musicians can engage with larger audiences, across geographical boundaries, through virtual concerts without the effort of a live show. It’s also created a whole new avenue of monetisation opportunities through non fungible tokens (NFTs) and derivatives. While digital property is not the same as Intellectual Property rights, it is not fungible and more secure. Immersive tech (VR), augmented reality (AR), real-time engines, blockchain, NFTs, web real-time communications (webRTC), secure reliable transport (SRT), etc, are some of the technologies driving the music metaverse. The best part is that musicians can take their art form anywhere in the world and fans can have the full experience of a live performance without the need for physical presence.
What’s the lure to attend a concert in the metaverse? For one, it sounds better. Music in the metaverse is more immersive, with Spatial Audio (3Dmiensional Audio) where sound adapts to the user’s experience. “It is a whole new medium even for producing spatial music,” says Tapan Sangal, Founder of P2E Pro Pvt. Ltd, a Delhi-based company focused on immersive technologies. “While spatial music is not a new idea, however, what is new is the ability to record matching audio and video from all directions using 360-degree audio/video hardware, and virtual reality.”
Musicians can make more money on NFT marketplaces than on traditional streaming services which offers a singular form of engagement through listens, and chat. But in these metaverse experiences, musicians can sell full or fractional ownership of their work, whether it’s music, merchandise or their artwork. The business potential for parallel opportunities is immense, from tickets to tradable collectibles. Rajat Ojha, Founder of Partynite (Gamitronics) – who hosted Mehndi’s first metaverse concert – explains, “Virtual concerts which can invite unimaginable audience size in real world scenarios and where artists can drop exclusive NFTs to further monetise the platform is one way to monetise. A lot of indie [musicians] can come and perform on various stages provided in the metaverse and get visibility and thirdly there are various instruments on our platform where users can come together and create their own music and sell it as a virtual good or NFT on the platform itself and can monetise it.”
With the crypto space still nascent and evolving, the base technology has proven its capability. But a volatility in price, rational behaviour and stability of tech still needs to be addressed. For the larger artist community, it is important to learn about the space and understand how it works, to avoid being fleeced. Rishi Bradoo artist, music producer, and the co-founder of Stitch Audio and The Swaraj Projekt, a web3 organisation of artists and technologists says, “Firstly, it is important to note that Music NFTs are not competition, or alternatives for streaming.”
He’s of the opinion that they could allow the streaming of art to become free with less advertising and data dependent, and potentially even a public good. “The potential for that is there, can it be realised is yet to be seen,” he says. “NFTs can expand the size of the financial pie in the music business. Instead of all stakeholders fighting for slivers of slices of a small pie – of which most artists are getting meaningless slices and well, fans are being mistreated as products and assets – the pie itself can be made larger, with the largest piece rightfully going to artists and a meaningful part being shared with fans for possibly the first time since the dawn of the internet.”
As per community collective NFT Club’s recent report, India ranks third in the number of NFT companies owned by a country in the world. We’ve also got the fifth-highest number of Google searches for keywords related to NFTs came out of India. There were more than 3.5 million searches that emerged from India during the 12 months duration of study.
Prashan Agarwal CoFounder & CEO, FanTiger believes we’re at the cusp of innovation like never before. “Streaming services helps artists distribute music. However, in cases of music NFT, users invest to get a partial ownership of the music content and they are entitled to own it as long as they wish to. But the same song can be owned using FanTiger NFT and listened to on a streaming service,” he says, adding that music will become far more collaborative and multi-medium. The creation of these multi-media experiences will eventually become more affordable with advancement in easily accessible creator tools. The music metaverse is poised to be a new creator economy that will perhaps finally let musicians call the shots.