Travis Scott, Marshmello and most recently The Weeknd, all have one thing in common; they’ve all been turned into virtual characters to perform live in virtual environments by social and gaming apps, TikTok and Fortnite. 

Whilst in the real world, live music is still not able to get back to the pre-pandemic days just yet, these game-changing apps have taken the opportunity to turn a thirst for music performance, social gatherings and collective viewing, into a virtual stage where the world can tune in and watch, interact and be a part of performances with some of the best artists in the world.

With highly engaged live crowds, the Fortnite music stage has become an overnight sensation. Travis Scott’s “Astronomical” performance saw 12.3 million people tune in and attend virtually for the premiere of the performance and a total of 45.8 million views over 5 shows. 

The Fortnite stage has also seen Marshmello perform and on Friday, the Weeknd performed as part of a virtual TikTok experience, which no doubt will be the first of many artists we’re going to see over the coming months and years. 

Virtual worlds can be fully crafted to fit around the artist and their sound and once created these videos are cultural artifacts which we’ll look back on as some of the highlights of how we positively responded in tough times for the live industry. They show yet again how the music industry is imaginative, resourceful and has an ability to adapt whatever happens in the world. 

All players in the industry - gaming and social channels, the majors, cutting-edge brands and some of the best artists - are likely working behind the scenes to anticipate what the future of virtual performances looks like. For new or upcoming artists, virtual performances should most certainly be on their radar as not only a way to gain attention, but also as a future revenue stream. 

But is there anything we can learn from the sound of these artists? What is it that makes them perfect to perform in a virtual environment? Undoubtedly, their success has a lot to play, but can AI tell us anything about common threads in their music? 

Let’s run some of their music through our AI and find out…

By dropping Travis Scott’s Astronomical Performance on Fortnite through our AI, there are a number of elements that jump out as noteworthy. From a genre perspective, we see that the AI has no doubt that this performance is Hip-Hop, and it also picks up on the elements of Trap and Pop Rap which comes from the synthesized hi-hat patterns and affected vocals which run throughout. Looking at moods, the performance is dark, angry and negative on the emotional spectrum, which is certainly echoed in the visuals as a 50 foot Travis Scott navigates a variety of worlds including a theme park on fire, floating underwater and in space.

If we look back at Marshmello’s performance, electronic music dominates the genre makeup with elements of electro pop and pop throughout. The moods are more powerful and swing more positively on the emotion spectrum...

Fornite actually invented “the floss”, so you can probably expect “dancefloor-ready” music with a predictable beat, generally a higher BPM from artists who perform on their stage… the more beats to dance to, the more moves attendees can bust...

And it’s clear the electronic styles fit very well in a virtual environment. This is very much a part of the experience, which you can also see reflected in The Weeknd’s performance on TikTok. The artist has a back catalogue which crosses many genres, but it’s the synthwave-laden “Blinding Lights” that really stole the show…

For TikTok, this is less about users being a part of the performance, so “dance-ability” may not matter as much, even though their users do love to dance. But it’s the electronic elements that yet again stand out. 

At this early stage, there aren’t any huge correlations between these artists other than the electronic music connection, but we will continue to analyse these as performances happen. 

If we’re to make some predictions, then next up on the stage we think that The Chainsmokers, Lady Gaga, Flying Lotus and Flume would all be fantastic performances. But it’s Gorillaz and Daft Punk that would take virtual performances into the stratosphere.

We’re praying to the virtual gods to make this happen.

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