Jobs of Tomorrow: The Woman Behind Virtual Concerts for Rezz, Jean-Michel Jarre and More

bb16 2019
Marco Ragozzino
Nicole St. Jean 

As the mother of two young children, Nicole St. Jean doesn’t go out like she once did as a club kid in New York’s early-aughts house music scene. But in her current role as head of content and partnerships at the virtual reality company Wave, she has found a way to experience dance music without leaving the house -- and to allow anyone with a computer, an internet connection and a desire for social adventure to do the same.

St. Jean, 43, produces live concerts in VR. With the help of five full-time artists in Los Angeles and an engineering team in Austin -- where Wave was founded three years ago -- she has made it rain magic mushrooms during a T-Pain show and simulated flying for headset-strapped South by Southwest attendees watching actor Tye Sheridan DJ as part of a collaboration with Warner Bros. for Steven Spielberg’s 2018 film, Ready Player One. She has also staged virtual performances for The Glitch Mob, Imogen Heap, Jean-Michel Jarre and REZZ -- innately tech-savvy electronic artists who recognize VR’s crossover potential -- most of whom wore motion-capture technology at the company’s Culver City office to deliver their shows.

As Marshmello’s hugely successful February in-game Fortnite concert proved -- it drew 10.7 million simultaneous viewers and, unlike Wave’s real-time shows, was prerecorded -- the market for virtual music experiences is ripe right now. Wave’s live performances exist exclusively within its own desktop app, VR product and social live streams, though the company is in talks with potential gaming partners. “The app really comes alive around 7 p.m.,” says St. Jean, explaining that Wave’s users stage their own real-time performances nightly as well. “The social aspects of the Wave dancefloor [are] special,” she adds, “like how I felt dancing with all kinds of people back in my New York days.”

A music-industry communications vet who has worked for tech-related companies like Topspin Media and Twitter, St. Jean leveraged her industry contacts into her current job. Now she spends her days meeting with managers and labels while also overseeing production schedules and storyboards. “It’s a really fun, creative role,” she says. “No one on this team knows exactly what a virtual concert should be every time, so anyone can make suggestions.”

As the music and gaming spheres increasingly overlap, St. Jean advises anyone interested in a career like hers to work or to intern at a gaming company while also cultivating a music-industry network. Technology expertise, she says, shouldn’t be a barrier to entry -- after all, it wasn’t for her. “I’ve gone into most of my gigs having no real understanding of the technology at the start,” she says. “Be brave about getting into spaces that spark your curiosity.”

This article originally appeared in the June 29 issue of Billboard.


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