As great as the physical world can be, it, unfortunately, has its limitations. Spaces can be constricting, packed, sweaty and inconvenient. One’s artistic vision and goals may have to be compromised in order to achieve a goal, but some musicians have expanded their horizons and found their way into a place full of opportunities that can further connect them to their audience while building their brand — and that place is none other than the digital world.
“The internet has gotten faster, processing power has gotten quicker and storage has gotten cheaper, so you can do bigger and better things,” Dean Wilson, CEO and founder of Seven20 and manager of famed DJ deadmau5, tells Pollstar.
Music has always been at the forefront of culture and continues to be a driving force during this digital age that includes social media, virtual reality (VR), the metaverse and web3, which is said to be the next step of evolution for the internet. Artists are gravitating to such spaces to deliver a more immersive, unique experience to fans that simply cannot be done on a physical stage.
Most recently, Fatboy Slim — an iconic crossover British DJ also known as Norman Cook — hosted his first completely virtual concert in the metaverse titled “Eat Sleep VR Repeat.” The event was hosted by ENGAGE XR Holdings Plc, a VR company that views itself as a “business-focused metaverse platform for event organizers, professionals and corporations to engage with employees and customers,” and thousands of fans logged on to experience the 45-minute show and be immersed in the vision of the artist.
“While there have been music performances in the metaverse before, the Fatboy Slim concert took things to the next level with many different areas to explore, visuals and audio that enhanced attendees’ senses, making the virtual event an almost hypnotic experience,” David Whelan, CEO and co-founder of ENGAGE XR, said in a statement.
Cook is one of many artists taking their business to the interwebs. Another DJ colleague spearheading the digital movement is Joel Zimmerman, professionally known as deadmau5. Wilson and Zimmerman have long advocated for the future of the internet and put their money where their mouths are, developing platforms for artists to connect with their fans as well as distribute their music. Zimmerman founded Pixelynx, a metaverse platform for artists that works in partnership with software company Animoca Brands, and is developing what Wilson says is the “OnlyFans for the entertainment space” called ampd.fm.
“He really believes it is his responsibility now to show what’s coming and that there are different ways to connect your fans with your art,” Wilson says of Zimmerman. “And I think that’s the key. We are all in great belief what web3 is going to be able to do is to allow a two-way value chain with our fans, which we currently don’t have because we have created multi-billion world empires and to talk to our fans, we have to pay that platform to connect with the fans that we built on that platform. When you say that out loud, it’s pretty fucked up.”
He’s not alone in that belief. Bryan Duquette, co-founder of Another Planet Management, echoed Wilson’s opinion that these digital platforms where individuals create a digital wallet and interact with artists without a middleman are no different from fan clubs or people buying collectible vinyl of their favorite musician. Duquette manages Tycho, a graphic designer-turned-musician who interacts with his audience on the web3 platform known as Medallion and wants to give fans utility via non-fungible tokens to provide real-life privileges such as virtual studio tours, tickets and in-person meet and greets. According to Duquette, Tycho has about 8,000 members in his open-source fan club.
“Our main goal through the fan club is to really create community, to connect deeper with fans,” says Duquette, who co-founded Outside Lands festival. “It’s an old model that goes back to the Grateful Dead model in the ’60s where you own the relationship with the fans, you own the data and you own their mailing address. In this case, it’s your digital wallet address, but we have a direct throughput to our fans, and it’s built on the blockchain.
“At the end of the day, the music is still the music and the fan is still the fan, it’s just how you amplify the relationship,” Duquette adds. “I feel that’s what Medallion is trying to solve [via the web3 experience] and what I’m personally excited to try and solve because there’s value in this, and I see a big future in it. That’s how you sustain a long career – you always are doing stuff for the fans and building it up. It’s pretty simple at the end of the day and it’s just built on different tech, and we’re excited for it.”