Since the advent of streaming, the artist-fan relationship has grown more distant. The physical act of purchasing a record from an artist you love is not as common as it once was, but virtual worlds like Roblox, Fortnite and ZEPETO are offering an evolution of this.
The likes of Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK and Elton John have tapped virtual worlds to showcase their artistry, with exclusive content, pre-sale tickets and early access to unreleased music enabling them to forge new links and provide more value to their fans.
And with Eminem's upcoming appearance in Fortnite's live event, The Big Bang, we've taken a look at the different routes music can take to capitalise on this new communications vertical. So, what are they?
The virtual concert
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual concerts provided a necessary way for artists to connect with their fans. Ariana Grande’s appearance on the Fortnite ‘Rift Tour’ saw over 25 million Fortnite players attend her concert, while Travis Scott’s attracted over 45 million.
Virtual concert experiences allow artists to host regular shows within their own experience for a limited period of time. With album cycles and world tours disrupted by a succession of lockdowns, it provided a means for artists to get new music in front of new audiences, in new territories. And for younger musicians like Lil Nas X, platforms like Roblox allowed them to be present in spaces that their fans were already active in.
But how did this change in a post-pandemic world?
In 2022, GEEIQ subscriber Elton John elevated the virtual concert by creating a Roblox experience that would ‘preserve his legacy far beyond his farewell tour and real-world retirement’, serving primarily as a destination for a virtual concert series across its opening weekend.
Taking it one step further than a standalone concert, 'Beyond the Yellow Brick Road' licensed five songs into rhythm mini-games within the experience, and the community was able to purchase digital wearables and take part in interactive challenges. It remains the highest-rated concert in Roblox history and the ‘Heart Skip’ emote became the best-selling branded emote on the platform.
Virtual concert experiences are labour-intensive. They require long-term, data-led thinking; in-game economics, merchandise strategies and engaging player loops that incentivise repeat visits and extended time spent in the experience. What’s more, the experience must align with the artist’s overall vision and aesthetic.
Integrations into existing experiences reduce labour and expand reach. Take Bebe Rexha’s integration in Roblox’s Harmony Hills, an experience which has had over 10 million visitors since launching in February 2023.
This integration used a common tactic to drive traffic to the game - user-generated content (UGC). Users who joined the experience could earn ‘Bebe Rexha hair’ for their avatar by completing a task, and the ‘Bear Puppy’ by watching the concert in full. These were completed 227,000 and 247,000 times, respectively. On July 29th 2023, the day the free UGC was dropped, Harmony Hills attracted +500,000 total visits.
While some artists opt for persistent experiences in which to digitalise their persona, integrations into existing experiences like Harmony Hills are a strong tool for specific campaigns like album launches, where the aim is to leverage existing communities to get as many eyeballs as possible on your offering.
The ‘Queen of Christmas’, Mariah Carey, aligned her December 2022 integration into Roblox’s Livetopia with the release of her live CBS concert from Madison Square Gardens. Over the four days that the virtual concert took place, there was an increase in daily visits to Livetopia. December 24th saw a growth rate of 0.22% on the previous day, which is significant for an experience with over 4 billion total visits.
Heavy metal legends Metallica went one step further by integrating into five Roblox experiences from April 14-16th 2023 promoting their latest release and driving nearly 21 million visits across the period.
But brands are also recognising the impact of bringing music into their own experiences. The data shows that when GEEIQ Enterprise subscriber Walmart hosted 'Electric Fest' in their Roblox experience, Walmart Land, in October 2022, there was significant uplift in visits and growth rate.
Tapping artists with Gen-Z heavy audiences, such as YUNGBLOOD and Madison Beer, Walmart recognised the value of leveraging artists with loyal communities to drive engagement with their own experience.
Manchester City F.C. also recently tapped TXT for its Roblox experience Man City Blue Moon. While Samsung teamed up with Charli XCX and Crocs hosted K-pop girl group Aespa across both its Roblox and ZEPETO experiences.
The immersive fan hub
Persistent fan hubs are the evolution of both the virtual concert and the artist integration. Musicians can not only host a virtual concert in these spaces, but they can create an environment that allows their global fandom to connect in one, immersive space.
TWICE Square, a fan hub created by K-Pop girl-group TWICE (and GEEIQ subscriber Karta), has had over 70 million visits since launching in January 2023, with an average 2 million weekly visits. Players can trade TWICE-themed items, play an escape room that encourages collaboration with other fans, accessorise their avatars and take part in trivia.
Immersive fan hubs in virtual environments are providing new routes for artists to forge deeper connections with their fans, while facilitating a greater sense of community among their often globally dispersed audiences.
Musicians have a unique opportunity in virtual worlds. Traditional brands rely heavily on tactics like player loops and UGC to ensure repeat visits and engagement with their experiences. These are still important considerations, but musicians can also offer a different kind of value. If an immersive fan hub can make fans feel closer to their favourite artists - through exclusive content, pre-sale tickets, early access to unreleased music and the ability to hang-out with other fans - they will generate repeat visits.
And there are no signs of this evolution slowing. GEEIQ's latest report predicts a 46% increase in persistent virtual experiences from Media & Engagement brands by 2025.
Standalone concerts and music integrations into existing experiences is a tried and tested method of engagement, but as these platforms evolve, so must the strategies of the brands entering them. The music industry is no exception, and the emergence of the immersive fan hub that puts the fans front and centre is testament to the focus on these spaces as a new communication vertical and not just a branding exercise.
GEEIQ is a data platform that works with the likes of H&M, L'Oreal, Walmart and Porsche, to navigate the virtual world and create long-term, data-led virtual strategies that enrich virtual communities, scale audiences, and create fresh revenue streams in this new communications vertical.