As real-life touring continues to be plagued by cancellations, Soulja Boy, Dillon Francis and Ozzy Osbourne are turning to virtual worlds. The Metaverse Music Festival returns on Nov. 10-13 for its second year in Decentraland — an immersive digital world built using blockchain technology and owned by its users — with more than 100 artists across 15 stages. The event will be free to attend and no crypto wallet is required to participate.
Set in a cyberpunk city of the future, Dillon Francis will open the festival with a “mega club” experience projected on several screens, while Soulja Boy will perform through a virtual avatar. The digital setting also allows for elaborate stage design. “The final [headline set] should look like a city from the future, abandoned for 100 years,” says Sam Hamilton, creative director at Decentraland Foundation.
Despite the metaverse backdrop, the team hopes to recreate a real-life festival experience, complete with atmospheric rain (every festival needs mud), custom dance moves called ‘emotes,’ pop-up nightclubs and even a virtual porta-potty experience.
“[We’re] trying to capture that chaos that happens at a real festival inside a digital world,” explains Hamilton.
The festival features a diverse lineup thanks to Decentraland’s global community picking many of the performers. “We’re curating the main stage,” says Iara Dias, head of the Metaverse Music Festival, “but we gave the rest of the stages to the community for curation.” As a result, the lineup also features Chinese idol group SNH48 and Japan’s J-pop group Atarashii Gakko!
“Rather than trying to be American-centric,” adds Hamilton, “We’re trying to give a cultural experience to everybody that they wouldn’t normally be able to have.”
More than 50,000 attendees logged into Decentraland to experience 2021’s inaugural event with performances from crypto-native artists including Deadmau5, 3LAU, RAC and Alison Wonderland. This year will also feature crypto favorites like CryptoPunk rapper Spottie Wifi and British DJ Akira the Don, but the foundation hopes that a roster of bigger names will expand the festival’s reach.
Virtual music performances have grown in popularity in recent years, partly due to COVID-19 lockdowns putting IRL concerts on hold. Travis Scott and Ariana Grande both played virtual concerts in Fortnite’s virtual gaming world, while MTV launched a Best Metaverse Performance category.
Decentraland, however, is different from corporate metaverses like Fortnite as it is owned and operated by its users through crypto technology. The land inside the world can be bought and traded by the community who then choose what to build. Wearables and digital items can be traded on the platform’s native marketplace.
“The big difference is philosophy,” says Hamilton. “We believe that the user should not be the product, but should own and direct the product.”
Decentraland’s community also helps make decisions through a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO).
Despite last year’s metaverse hype, however, these virtual crypto worlds are not as popular as Fortnite, Roblox and others. As the tide goes out on the metaverse mania, Decentraland has approximately 60,000 monthly active users according to data provided by the foundation; a small number compared to the tens of millions of daily users on gaming worlds like Roblox.
“We’re working hard to catch up with the hype,” admits Hamilton. “We needed longer to build out a better platform with more features but the hype [of 2021] came too quickly.”
Last year’s festival brought in Decentraland’s biggest numbers of the year, and Hamilton believes this year’s event will bring another wave of new users to the platform. “The metaverse is inevitable,” he concludes. Zooming out, he envisions a network of virtual worlds, some centralized and some decentralized, but not necessarily dominated by one company or platform. “This is definitely happening.”