Wave and the future of immersive live virtual music


Today virtual live music platform Wave announced a $30 million investment, placing it at the center of the burgeoning virtual live music performance space.

I recorded a segment for The Virtual Excellence Show on this, watch the short video below, including relevant video clips, or a transcript is below.

On the Virtual Excellence Show we aim to keep on top of what’s newsworthy in all things virtual. Today’s interesting news is that interactive music platform Wave has raised a $30 million Series B round, from investors including Taylor Swift’s good mate Scooter Braun, baseball legend Alex Rodriguez, and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.

Wave presents entertainers in virtual environments, using motion capture to present them on spectacular virtual stages that can be watched on screens on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitch, or in virtual reality on Oculus and Steam, which can be viewed on gaming platforms or most VR headsets.

It is interactive in allowing viewers to chat with the performers, play games with other audience members, and vote on scene changes, with performers featured so far including Travis Scott, T-Pain, Tinashe, Lindsey Stirling, and Imogen Heap, with audiences sometimes in the millions.

Wave makes money from sales of virtual and real merchandise, including experiences, tickets, and sponsorships.

Performance in Virtual spaces is by no means new, in fact the biggest live concert ever was Marshmello performing to 10 million people in Fortnite last year, with some estimating revenue from the event was $30 million or more, while Travis Scott last month performed in Fortnite to reportedly 28 million people.

The $30 million investment in Wave was committed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the investors have noted that it has vastly accelerated the shift to virtual live entertainment.

Of course a massive advantage of virtual performance is that it is scalable. Among the shifts in the music industry over the last decade is increased revenue from live performance, with revenue from the top 100 tours up on average 8% a year for the last decade.

In related news, Pandora co-founder Tim Westergren recently launched Sessions as a Twitch-like platform for live-streaming music, allowing interaction with fans and monetisation including tips, subscriptions, and sales of virtual goods, though at this point simply to screens rather than in more immersive formats.

As in many other domains, the pandemic is vastly accelerating the shift to virtual in live music. The trick is finding the formats that are truly engaging, that fans will want to watch or participate in. Wave as an innovative cross-platform solution is definitely a leader, but I’m sure there will be other companies that will try to push out and explore how to make virtual live performance compelling. I look forward to seeing what comes out of that!