Metaverse music musings

by Josh Kimball

Just some anecdotal notes on metaverse music. AdWeek, Coolfer, and others have recently been musing on whether alt worlds can sell music, teeing the conversation off a recent report that CMG is setting up a nightclub on some island, then forcing artists like Lily Allen, Korn, and the Beastie Boys to play concerts there. Obvs, the BBC has been trying to set itself up as a portal for live music in Second Life, staging concerts by Gnarls Barkley, Duran Duran, etc., since 2006, and there are others getting into the metaverse music game.

Viacom’s recently been trying to hop into the metaverse its own way: by building its own music-first metaverses. I posted previously – though only briefly – about wandering the lonely streets of the Virtual Lower East Side. What was it like? For somebody who actually likes music? And NOT someone who “prefer[s] pajamas and laptops over live music?”

Pretty boring. The ambient music that played in-world was actually pretty good (for someone with Grizzly Bear-esque mainstream-side-of-indie-pop tastes); it changed as you walked around, like a hyperlocal virtual radio station. Never was able to take in an in-world concert there, though the very empty venues looked like they were constructed with a good degree of verisimilitude.

What was funny about the whole experience, beyond the fact that I had to pose as a goateed, hoodie-sporting hipster with chin-length hair, a pallid complexion, and large sneakers – wasn’t anything to do with the music – the ability to buy it or listen to it – or with the functionality of the world itself. The weirdness was purely social. A very large percentage of the dudes wandering around; listening to music or doing a dead, AFK avatar sway in the aisles of the VLES American Apparel store actually worked for the world. (Granted, this was a limited, alpha release, so not too many regular citizens were to be expected.) In that way, it was really just like an old-time record store or other retail outlet. A few wary customers, a lot of bored but sorta attentive clerks. And a bunch of piped-in tunes.

On the plus side, though, you can dance pretty well. And there were “bums.”