Former Riot Games Exec Jarred Kennedy Joins Virtual Concert Startup Wave

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Virtual entertainment company Wave revealed Monday that former Riot Games executive Jarred Kennedy has been appointed as COO, where he will oversee core operations and expand the scale of digital concert experiences.

In the role, Kennedy will report to Wave CEO and co-founder Adam Arrigo. On the decision to join the startup, Kennedy tells The Hollywood Reporter that it all starts with the team. "I met Adam and saw what he and the team have accomplished already and it’s really impressive," he says.

"The founding team and a lot of the first folks to join Wave are all musicians, they understand the artists that they’re serving and they understand what it means to be fans. They’ve built their company and their culture around that, and so there’s a lot of trust between the creative community and Wave."

Kennedy adds that when he saw the way artists have engaged with Wave so far, he recognized that it was very powerful and important.

Of Kennedy's appointment, Arrigo said in a statement, "Wave is growing exponentially thanks to an incredible team of investors, partners and employees committed to our mission. With Jarred on board, we are even stronger and ready to build upon our current success. Jarred’s wealth of knowledge in the industry, as well as understanding on how to build initiatives that tap into the core of digitally-forward culture, will allow Wave to better serve today’s digital avatar generation and increase our core technology and gaming capabilities."

As for  steps, Kennedy's priorities include establishing partnerships with artists to achieve their vision on the delivery of their music, investing and innovating in interactivity, and expanding the reach of Wave so that more people around the world can experience the musical events.

Wave concerts are distributed for free on major platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, using digital avatars of artists who appear on virtual performance stages. Artists who have been featured in Wave musical events include John Legend and English singer Imogen Heap.

"I think that virtual concerts provide a really interesting canvas for artists to express their creativity in new ways and leverage technology to do that, and I’m personally excited see where it goes because it’s changing all the time and I think we’re all learning as this new medium takes shape," says Kennedy, who describes himself as a "lifelong, diehard gamer" who is "super passionate" about music.

"This is a dream opportunity for me to be able to combine those two things together," he explains. "I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences."

As a former Riot Games executive, Kennedy says that he got to see first-hand "the power of the intersection of music and games, gaming culture and gaming tech" through leading global esports initiatives including the League of Legends World Championships that featured augmented reality musical performances delivered to viewers around the globe.

Through building out the game as a premiere global sport along with the commercial infrastructure to support it, Kennedy saw how well world championship events, musical performances and other spectacles were received by fans around the world. "It really gave me a visceral understanding of what’s possible when you meld gaming and broader entertainment."

Understanding that the potential for scaling up was there, Kennedy says it was just a matter of time before the culture started to really embrace and understand the medium.

"I believe in where technology is taking these interactive experiences and I also believe in the power of technology to enable really emotional and personal experiences," continues Kennedy. "I saw that with esports where fans would go and experience all the things I experienced as a kid going to Laker games, watching the best esports teams compete. And for a while people were skeptical that it could actually compare and in some respects, when people go to those events they see that there’s even more energy and even more engagement whether it’s online or offline."

He adds, "I see the same thing happening here where the potential to create experiences that are both more interactive but also more immersive through virtualization I think could be very powerful for what happens and what music performance becomes."

This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.

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