Business

Warner Music Invests in Wave to Create Virtual Music Experiences

Courtesy Photo

Days after signing a new partnership with avatar tech company Genies, Warner Music Group is doubling down on its efforts to claim the avatar market through a new partnership with an investment in Wave -- the virtual entertainment company which lets artists perform as avatars inside immersive virtual worlds.

Under the pact announced Monday (May 3), Wave will develop virtual performances, experiences and other monetization opportunities for artists on the label group's global roster, which includes Cardi B, Dua Lipa and Bruno Mars.

"WMG has an incredible history of being a trailblazer in the music industry," said Wave co-founder and CEO Adam Arrigo. "They share our vision for pulling the future forward using new technologies that benefit artists and fans alike."

Founded in Los Angeles in 2016, Wave originally set its sights on virtual reality (VR) concerts, but announced plans to shutter its VR app in January to focus on wider distribution of its shows on platforms like TikTok, Roblox and Twitch. Wave specializes in interactive experiences for viewers, including the abilities to engage in live chat, vote on set lists and pay to "gift" new items and effects to the virtual show.

The company has hosted more than 50 Wave events for artists like John Legend, Dillon Francis, Alison Wonderland and Tinashe, including The Weeknd's TikTok LIVE concert in August that reached over 2 million live viewers and raised $350,000 for the Equal Justice Initiative. WMG joins a list of Wave investors that includes Justin Bieber, The Weeknd, J Balvin and Scooter Braun.

"The commercial opportunity in the metaverse has exploded in the last several years, with the past few months seeing a tipping point for mainstream adoption of immersive social experiences and virtual communities," WMG executive vp, business development and chief digital officer Oana Ruxandra said. "Wave is indisputably a leader in the interactive virtual entertainment space and the right partner to help us grow WMG’s efforts. Our artists and their fans will be getting best-in-class experiences, as we pioneer new forms of consumption and monetization."

On Friday (April 30), WMG announced a separate global partnership with Genies, a company through which both artists and fan users can create custom avatars. Under the partnership, Genies will work with the label group to create avatars of its artists and sell branded, digital avatar gear to fans in a new NFT marketplace. The label group also made recent investments in Spirit Bomb, a new record label dedicated to entirely virtual artists, and gaming platform Roblox.

Speaking to Billboard for the Genies announcement, Ruxandra said that she sees all these investments working in tandem towards a future where fans and artists will interact virtually, "moving away from [social media] handles into avatar creation, where people can reimagine themselves and engage in more personalized ways."

"It's all an ecosystem that we’re trying to build," she added.