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Last weekend, Grammy winner Lil Nas X performed live before millions of spectators inside Roblox, a first for the long-running online game platform. The virtual concert drew more than 33 million viewers, according to Roblox, and followed the recent success of similar events in other online games, such as Travis Scott’s live performance in Fortnite back in April (which drew 45.8 million viewers). As the music industry contends with ongoing cancelations and delays of real-life concerts, are these virtual events the growing norm?

Certainly, the global coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the recent in-game concert trend, but it started long ago, says Carter Rogers, principal analyst at Nielsen’s SuperData. In fact, DJ Marshmello was a partner in the Fortnite Pro-Am competition before his 2019 concert drew 10.7 million viewers a year before anyone was talking about lockdowns.

“Virtual concerts have been attempted for over a decade in settings like Second Life and PlayStation Home. They’re reaching mainstream success now due to factors other than COVID-19,” Rogers tells VENN. “Instead, it’s because certain free-to-play games are bigger than ever and also because more celebrities and musicians are gamers.”

Lil Nas X was actually the third music partnership this year for Roblox, behind the One World: Together At Home benefit concert and an Ava Max album launch party. The Lil Nas X event, however, was the most immersive and set a precedent for possible events in the future.

“Our developers were impressed with the concert venue and were excited about the resources they’ll be able to use in their own games,” says Jon Vlassopulos, global head of music for Roblox. “We believe we now have a blueprint for future music events on the Roblox platform and are excited to continue to innovate with our music partners in 2021. Even when things come back to ‘normal’ next year — we hope — we see platforms like Roblox playing an integral role in helping artists introduce new music to their fans and reach those fans in new, innovative, and immersive ways.”

Nielsen agrees that video game environments have picked up a lot of clout as virtual concert venues. Prior to the Mashmello concert, virtual concert metrics were hardly newsworthy.

“These sort of virtual events aren’t going to go anywhere,” says Rogers. “COVID-19 simply accelerated what was already happening. Investors are also betting that the virtual concert boom will continue. The Wave, a platform for virtual concerts, got a $30M series B investment earlier this year, and a Tencent investment in the company was just revealed today.”

Vlassopulos believes that virtual events like the Lil Nas X concert will have a profound effect on the future of entertainment.

“We are part of an unprecedented cultural moment where kids and teens are experiencing their first concert ‘virtually’ and we look forward to further enhancing their experience post-pandemic and finding organic ways to interweave the metaverse with the real world,” he says.

Do you think that concerts belong inside games in Roblox and Fortnite? Let us know on Twitter! In the meantime, take an inside look at Fortnite’s new video chat feature and our exclusive interview with Fortnite pro, sceptic!


Photo courtesy of Roblox