A few weeks ago, I went to a Charlie Puth concert from my computer. The concert was in Fortnite, in the new State Farm Park arena in the iHeartland area of the game’s island. For a half hour or so, I watched and listened to Puth play the hits, as I also flew and parkour’d around the island playing the iHeartLand mini games.
This is the concert, or at least a concert, of the future: more interactive, more immersive, and taking place in purely digital spaces. For artists of all genres and statures, “What’s up, Roblox!” is the new “What’s up, Cleveland!”
Digital concerts are nothing new, of course. But starting with Travis Scott’s Fortnite show in 2020, the music industry has taken new notice of platforms like Fortnite, Roblox, and Minecraft. While we continue to debate what “the metaverse” even is and how much time we all want to spend there, it’s been clear for a while that there’s something that works about concerts where thousands or millions of people can get together and see a show from around the globe. It’s certainly better than getting sniped from a tree by a 12-year-old Goku, which is the other way I’ve recently been spending time in Fortnite!
For the third and final episode in The Vergecast’s Future of Music miniseries, we set out to figure out what a metaverse concert is and why it seems to work. Should they be one-off spectacles like the ultra-designed Scott show in 2020? Or should they be more like the Puth concert I watched in September, which amounted to just a video playing on a screen inside a video game?
The true answer, at least so far, is that nobody knows. Community matters, interaction matters, but everything else is wide open. There’s a novelty to all these shows so far, with fans happy just to see their favorite artists embrace new platforms. But that won’t last forever, and eventually, digital concerts will have to compete for your attention with all the other exciting stuff happening online — and even happening elsewhere on the platform.
Musicians have long been at the forefront of a lot of internet trends; music videos helped turn YouTube into a giant, and artists make up many of the biggest names on social media. People connect to music and the people who make it in uniquely powerful ways. Will that translate into video games, or the metaverse, or whatever you want to call these digital spaces where people increasingly spend their time? We’ll see. I’ve never been in the same room as Charlie Puth, but I’ve now seen him in concert. That counts for something.