Nick Bennett explores how these evolving spaces will interact with brands and therefore music via sync, and what this means for music licensing.
The Metaverse is a term most people are probably sick of hearing right now or at the very least frustrated with how liberally the term is thrown around. If you’ve been following this space beyond its recent notoriety then you may have come across Matthew Ball as someone who grasps that the Metaverse is simply not Roblox or Fortnite.
Ball defines the Metaverse as “a persistent, 3D, virtual world—a network of interconnected experiences and devices, tools and infrastructure, far beyond mere virtual reality.”
In simple terms this may span AR, VR, apps on your phone and many IoT connected experiences that don’t require you to wear a headset or be in a virtual world. When we think about this from a music perspective there is the obvious use case of virtual or connected concerts as demonstrated by Easy Life, Travis Scott and Ariana Grande. These are now fairly well established and have a blueprint as to how they work and can be monetised. The more interesting angle in relation to this blog is how these evolving spaces will interact with brands and therefore music via sync.
Ads and content creation in general has been evolving steadily over the last decade and beyond. As the price of production has come down, the volume of content creation has gone up. Creating videos for every item on a website is a trend that has been evident across multiple industries. Online stores such as ASOS and Argos have long experimented with individual videos to give customers a better insight to an item or clothing or a toy that they may want to see from a better angle or how it might realistically look when they are on. This type of sync has mostly gone under the radar as it’s hidden from plain sight and rarely catches the attention of any publications and probably rightly so.
Diving further into this example and how it has evolved over time will perhaps give a clue to where it could be heading. Historically, creating video advertising was fairly simple, with TV being the only distribution channel that was available. However, a combination of the internet, reduced production costs and the shift to e-commerce has forced a change within the value chain. The traditional TV ads are still produced mostly in the same way as they always have been via creative agencies, production companies and post production companies, but the additional forms of video advertising that can be as impactful, if not more impactful, have begun to be developed in house, via specialist companies, via influences themselves and a whole host of other options.
Moving back to ASOS, if there is a launch of a new item or clothing line it now may encompass TV, social, owned platforms, influencer distribution and many other channels, but where does the original idea come from and how does the consistency of the campaign carry across all these touch points? Licensing music has been fairly simple in this regard, mostly, however with the onset of user generated content on platforms like TikTok, brands and agencies are having to clear more and more music uses that they couldn’t originally foresee.
“If we now follow this idea through to the introduction of virtual worlds, artificial reality and connected experiences we have a whole new set of distribution channels where music might need to be consistent and ever present.”
If we now follow this idea through to the introduction of virtual worlds, artificial reality and connected experiences we have a whole new set of distribution channels where music might need to be consistent and ever present.
Moving beyond the ‘Metaverse concert’ execution there is something interesting happening in luxury fashion with Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and Gucci. All of the brands have been experimenting in either creating their own virtual world or gaming experience (Louis Vuitton and Balenciaga), or building something in the most recognised platforms (Gucci in Roblox).
For brands there is the dual strategy of creating digital goods to be sold in these environments, but equally there is the opportunity to reach people in a totally new environment. In terms of the latter opportunity it would then add to the stack of distribution channels that a new campaign or creative idea can be executed, however the uniqueness of these opportunities brings new challenges. Bringing the creative idea behind a new campaign into a virtual world isn’t as simple as creating a new script or a different version of a video, as may happen for TV and social media. There will be more complex methods involved and a totally different execution requiring a totally different set of skills. This opportunity is inherently solvable for brands but the questions this poses to sync is something that will take some observation, research and patience.
As the value chain of video production evolves and changes, where the music selection process and licensing take place is likely to evolve too. Understanding how to be additive in this process and knowing who and where to be focusing support with will be key to thriving in this new space. If there is now a brand, a media agency, a creative agency, a production company, a post production company, a company creating the virtual world execution and the end distribution platforms themselves, where will the music selection process sit for the campaign? And will it be consistent across all parts of it?
This detailed understanding also needs to be coupled with a new found flexibility to ensure the music not only works creatively but also works logistically in terms of the rights required to fit across this entire scope, including the challenges the new virtual and connected worlds (or Metaverse) brings.
Within these larger virtual worlds, the specific locations inhabited by brands will likely initially cause some headaches. Licensing previously was contained in discrete pieces of video content that could be quite easily boxed in with the usages and the rights, with any updates requiring new licences or changes to the terms, however, in these new digital spaces things have become more open and fluid.
Virtual worlds like Cryptovoxels are the perfect case in point for this. Brands or users can create specific locations within the virtual worlds, designing them visually but also creating a specific soundtrack. The functionality in these platforms allows the soundtrack to appear and then increase in volume as your avatar moves throughout the space and then when you move an appropriate distance away from the specific location it will decrease in volume and then silence completely. There are several implications for this in terms of licensing and royalty payments. At a blunt level it makes defining the terms of the licence more challenging as there is less of a fixed container to the content that is being licensed.
Beyond this standard interaction of licensing music for brand usage, how user-generated interaction works to ensure it doesn’t infringe the original licence is important too. If these fixed models are carried forward from a pre-digital age then we miss the opportunity to embrace all the new technology that exists and to enable new revenue streams and opportunities for fandom. This opportunity is grounded in the ability to automate some of the logistics that sit behind both licensing and royalties. Assigning set rates or price points for specific usages that can then be embedded in the technology is a challenge that sits outside all the evolution of web3 and blockchain. It’s not a simple task but one that is essential if commercial music isn’t to be superseded in this space by production music or easy to use pre-cleared catalogue.
“If this pricing issue can be solved there is an opportunity to leverage new technology to automate both royalties and licensing of music as it is interacted with in these virtual worlds.”
If this pricing issue can be solved there is an opportunity to leverage new technology to automate both royalties and licensing of music as it is interacted with in these virtual worlds. Starting with a base level of costing and then creating automated payments as the use cases and interactions increase will be favourable for brands and artists. The foundations set by companies such as Revelator show the possibilities not only to redesign the existing systems that are creaking under the digital pressure but also to make sure things in these new digital spaces can be built in a more transparent and scalable way.
The cliche ‘blockchain solves this’ clearly isn’t really true anywhere in its most simple form but equally it does offer the inspiration and opportunity to ensure these digital worlds don’t add to the frankenstein nature of the existing royalty and licensing system.