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Choose your own adventure: A music metaverse path finder

July 13, 2022

This report is part of our Season 2 research on music in the metaverse, which will be rolling out from July 7 to 15, 2022. You can follow along with the rollout at stream.waterandmusic.com, and/or navigate directly to our previous installments:


Over the last 12 weeks, we looked into over 50 companies and interviewed more than 30 different artists, software developers, and music-industry professionals to get their perspective on the metaverse and what they are hoping to achieve within it.

For the final part of our Season 2 research rollout, we took our key insights from this process and built a self-directed path finder for artists to explore the diverse set of entry points into musical metaverse experiences. This path finder is a visual representation of our findings on actionable solutions for music/metaverse needs for artists and their teams — pulling especially from our sprawling article “3 ways to bring your music to the metaverse,” published on July 8.

A static version of the path finder is below, but we recommend you explore the interactive version via this link.

(View an interactive version here.)

Given the extensive scope of the metaverse, it must be reiterated that this path finder is not meant to be a 100% exhaustive or comprehensive list of opportunities. Rather, it is a living, breathing, and evolving resource that acts as a source of inspiration and direction for artists and their teams who are simply looking for a place to start. 

As we’ll dive into in more detail in this piece, this map is divided into three primary parts — goals, desired outcomes, and actions — and we hope this structure helps to inspire reflection for artists and their teams on what specific problems they and their fans are trying to solve. Some guiding questions:

  • What are your goals and ambitions in music, regardless of the technology you use to achieve it?
  • What needs or skills gaps do you have on the way to achieving those goals?
  • Then from there, where do you see yourself in this diagram? What kinds of solutions for music/metaverse experiences are most exciting to you, based on your needs and what you are trying to accomplish?

The amazing and open community that contributes to our research will continue to look for and receive new information on such opportunities, and we aim to add as we go. (If you think your company addresses one of the goals or desired outcomes we address in the diagram, we would love to hear from you — please fill out this form!)


How to use this path finder

Our path finder is organized to be read and used by starting from the outside of the graphic and working your way inward. There are three relevant levels of the framework to consider:

GOALS

Throughout this research season, we’ve identified four top-level goals — or broader, longer-term aims in relation to artists engaging with the metaverse through music.

Each goal is represented by a colored circle at the outer part of the diagram:

  • Monetize IP
  • Create + adapt IP
  • Engage existing fan communities
  • Get discovered + grow your audience

DESIRED OUTCOMES

Underneath each goal in the diagram, we have identified more specific desired outcomes that an artist might have in order to reach a more overarching goal in their metaverse engagement.

These are designed to have a more direct line to particular tactics that are achievable in the short term. For example, a specific desired outcome related to monetizing IP in the metaverse (represented in the blue circle at the top of the diagram) is to “make music available for engagement in virtual worlds.”  

ACTIONS + EXAMPLES

From these high-level desired outcomes, we then spell out individual examples of actions that lead to achieving these outcomes in order to reach one’s goals for metaverse engagement, including providing links to specific companies or organizations that might be worth investigating.

For instance, one specific way to reach the outcome of “making music available for engagement in virtual worlds” is to “license it to a metaverse game soundtrack or playlist,” with examples of this including radio stations in Grand Theft Auto or placement in EA Sports franchises like FIFA.

Individual examples are written in black or purple text — with purple referring to examples that have a relatively lower barrier to access for independent artists, taking into account multiple factors such as financial cost and general consideration for inclusion (more explanation on this in the next section below).

Notably, each example is not mutually exclusive to a single top-level goal, but rather addresses multiple goals and desired outcomes in one fell swoop. You’ll see those examples mapped to the intersections of the circles in the venn diagram. The very center of the diagram represents examples of solutions that contribute to all four goals — which thus could be considered as some of the most effective ways to build one’s metaverse presence as an artist, in terms of addressing multiple different needs at once.


The most accessible opportunities for indie artists

One of the key takeaways from our Season 2 research is that many of the hottest and most talked-about entry points into the musical metaverse are also ironically the least inclusive. For example, the virtual concert narrative over the past few years has been led largely by partnerships between gaming corporations and major labels, which are accessible only to the coveted tier of artists who have access to major-label deals in the first place.

Hence, in this path finder, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for independent and emerging artists to identify potential solutions at each stage of the process of entering the metaverse.

To make it simple, we indicate a specific diagram layer — marked in purple text — to help guide artists and teams towards more accessible options as they develop their goals and desired outcomes in the metaverse.

Again, these provide examples from our research interviews to be used as inspiration and as starting points for your own metaverse explorations; they are not a comprehensive list, and we encourage additions and fact-checking to our research as new projects and use cases arise. In fact, many of the partners we identify in the diagram are themselves working through the process of defining their own metaverse-related goals and how to solve for them in the current moment — which speaks to how emergent and malleable this landscape still is, for those who have the penchant to experiment within it.

As mentioned above, we suggest starting with selecting a top-level goal towards the outside of the diagram, and then work inwards from there toward the center, using the purple text as a way to see exactly what opportunities we uncovered – and, in some cases, who the artist and their partners were. 

Along the way, we learned a few things:

Engaging existing fan communities comprises not only a key value proposition of the metaverse, but also the most accessible entry point for independent artists today, in terms of the tools available to spin up a solution right now. Indie artists also tend to have more direct relationships with their fans compared to major celebrities with larger teams — giving the former group an inherent advantage here when it comes to experimenting with the scope of the artist-fan connection in virtual environments.

Many of the actions for monetizing IP are also accessible to indie artists, especially given that the rights and licensing ecosystem they have to deal with is not as complex as that of their major-label counterparts. One very accessible example that stands out here is the creation of wearables and/or NFTs for sale around metaverse performances or music experiences. In metaverse platforms like Voxels or Decentraland, it’s fairly simple to learn how to create verch (for instance, using the MagicaVoxel editor for Voxels wearables) or to bring music NFTs into these platforms to sell to excited fans. That said, it’s important to note that artists might not have as much control over how that IP is subsequently used in metaverse environments (in the spirit of more open UGC). 

Creating and adapting IP is also accessible to indie artists in the sense that many of the tools we identified integrate with artists’ existing creative workflows at source. That said, some actions such as building bespoke immersive/mixed-reality experiences and virtual venues require filling key skill gaps in areas like 3D design and software engineering that not all artists have — making team-building in the metaverse just as important as in the traditional music industry. Indeed, there are services out there such as Lexicon Devils and Bitrees that can help with full-service metaverse build and event production at a relatively low cost to the artist.

Finally, the goal of getting discovered and growing your audience offers a mixed level of accessibility across the many paths available. Whereas performing across regular series and showcases like the Metaverse Music Fest, which prioritizes more open virtual worlds (e.g. Decentraland and Voxels), are more accessible paths for artists just beginning to explore the metaverse, other opportunities like licensing music to AAA games like Grand Theft Auto are much more gated and oriented towards established, major-label artists. Likewise, while gaming platforms like Roblox and Fortnite can have a significant impact on subsequent ecommerce revenue, social audience growth, and streaming consumption growth for the artists they feature, such opportunities are limited to a small number of independent and major labels for now, as we covered in Part 2 of our Season 2 report.

As in any industry, this challenge also presents an opportunity for interested developers and platforms to add genuine value to artists’ careers, and to meaningfully extend what is possible in the musical metaverse. As an emerging artist with a budding fanbase, there are especially interesting opportunities to grow that fanbase by bringing them into musical worlds that they can also help to build themselves. This reframes incumbent industry power dynamics by putting the artist and their community at the center, as the key, pivotal stakeholder around which the music metaverse platforms of the future revolve.


SEASON 2 CONTRIBUTORS

👑 🧠 🎙️ 🔎 Brodie Conley, Chrissy Greco, Cherie Hu, Yung Spielburg, Tom Vieira
👑 🧠 💻 🔎 Alexander Flores
🧠 🎙️ 🔎 Katherine Rodgers, Kristin Juel, Lindsey Lonadier, Maarten Walraven
🧠 🤝 🔎 Panther Modern
🧠 🔎 Chinua Green, Julie Kwak, Mat Ombler, Tony Rovello, Demi Wu
🤝 🔎 Abhijit Nath, Christina Calio
🎙️ Dorothée Parent-Roy, Brooke Jackson, Cosmin Gafta, Diana Gremore, Duncan Byrne, Eric Peterson, JhennyArt, Josh Dalton, Mary Maguire, Muñeca Diaz
🔎 Natalie Crue, Robin Lynn, Chris Nunes, Gabriel Appleton, Jonathan Larson, Yanti
💻 Ana Carolina
🤝 Alex Kane, Anne McKinnon, Coldie, Dan Radin, Dani Balcells, Daouda Leonard, Deborah Mannis-Gardner, Dylan Marcus, Ernest Lee, EZ, Gavin Johnson, Greg LoPiccolo, Ian Prebo, Jacqueline Bosnjak, Jaguar Twin, Jillian Jones, Jon Vlassopulos, Jonathan Mann, Josh Hubberman, Keatly Haldeman, Margaret Link, Meredith Gardner, Mike Darlington, Peacenode, Portrait XO, Rohan Paul, Roman Rappak, Shawn Ullman, Shelley Van, Soundromeda, Spinkick.eth, Stacey Haber, Tim Exile, Tropix, Vandal, Wackozacco, Wagner James Au
🎮 Alexander (15), Jackson (15), Vondell (18), Ava (8), Noah (14), Olivia (6), Toma Zaharia (10), Valentina (14), Luca Zaharia (14)

👑 Project leads
🧠 Meta-synthesis analysts + writers + editors
🎙️ Interviewers
💻 Tech + visual design
🔎 Project development + background research
🤝 Interviewees + meetup/demo guides
🎮 Young gamer interviewees — all connected to us through W&M members 🙂