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Warner Music is determined not to make another Napster mistake as it plots A-list concerts in the metaverse

January 27, 2022, 9:11 PM UTC

A “music-themed world” is coming to the metaverse.

Warner Music Group, home to artists including Bruno Mars, Dua Lipa, and Cardi B, said Thursday it was building a new kind of concert-focused theme park in the metaverse.

The music giant, which owns record labels Atlantic, Elektra, and Warner Records, among others, said in a press release that it would build a combined theme park and virtual concert venue in the Sandbox, a metaverse platform. The space will feature virtual concerts and musical experiences by the artists under the Warner Music Group umbrella. According to the Sandbox, the space is set to be completed sometime this year. The price of the project was not immediately available.

Warner said in a press release it considers itself a “first-mover” in the area of metaverse concerts, and in that sense it’s working hard to avoid repeating past mistakes. 

Around two decades ago, Warner was one of the major labels that fought hard against the rise of file sharing, largely in the form of Napster, a disruptive technology not unlike the metaverse that ultimately led to a catastrophic collapse in recorded-music sales. Major-label adaptation to streaming, largely in the form of Spotify, saw music revenue start growing again around 2015 after 15 years of huge declines. That year is also when Warner’s revenue from streaming surpassed sales of downloaded songs for the first time, making up 56.1% of the entire company’s revenue.

Warner will also have to avoid the kind of face-plant other companies have made with recent attempts to put on viable virtual concerts. Late last month, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, hosted metaverse concerts featuring major acts: the rapper Young Thug, DJ David Guetta, and EDM artists the Chainsmokers. They flopped, compared to previous online concerts. More than 27 million people attended a 2020 Travis Scott concert in the video game Fortnite and more than 33 million attended a Lil Nas X concert that year in the online game platform Roblox. Although the Meta concerts were free and featured big-name artists, Young Thug’s performance drew only 125,000 people and Guetta’s performance attracted 906,000, according to ScreenRant. 

The Sandbox, a subsidiary of Animoca Brands, is one of several platforms currently selling digital real estate to major companies such as Nike and Adidas as investors scramble to secure their own digital worlds. The virtual land parcels in the Sandbox that surround Warner Music’s project will go on sale in March, according to a press release. In early January, the price for the smallest plot of land in the Sandbox was selling for about $14,000.

Although there is no firm vision yet of how exactly the part concert, part amusement park will look, the company said it is planning to shake things up.

“On the LAND, we’ll develop persistent, immersive social music experiences that defy real-world limitations and allow our artists and their fans to engage like never before,” Oana Ruxandra, chief digital officer and EVP of business development at Warner Music, said in a press release.

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