February 13, 2019

An EDM DJ Held a Live Concert on Fortnite and 10 Million Attended. No, seriously.

On Sunday evening, the Recording Academy handed out awards for excellence in the music industry at the 61st Grammy Awards. The conventional categories were recognized and awarded.

Just eight days earlier, two unconventional forces joined to pull off the first-ever live virtual concert in the popular Fortnite game. And what happened “there” will disrupt the business of live music and more.

Coming to a “City Near You”
EDM DJ Marshmello, famous for wearing a white bucket on his head in the shape of a marshmallow, has toured the world — from the biggest venues in Las Vegas to the nightclubs of Ibiza. Yet his recent venue was unlike any other: performing live in the most popular video game on the planet, Fortnite.

Fortnite, the leading battle royale game and a focus of TDG’s recent report, The Ascent of Battle Royale and the Future of eSports, has more than 200 million players worldwide, according to developer Epic Games.

Marshmello’s ten-minute set was among the most-attended online live performances in history at a reported 10 million concurrent views. During the event, “attendees” converged on the virtual town’s Pleasant Park to “hear” and “see” the EDM DJ perform, including a mashup of his hits including chart-topper “Happier,” as the DJ worked the turntables to amp the crowd.

To add context, Beyonce’s live stream from Coachella in 2018 was heralded as the most-watched live music event on YouTube, at 458,000 simultaneous peak concurrent viewers over the course of her 105-minute set. Marshmello got 22 times as many viewers in just 10 minutes. Chew on that for a bit.

Attendees dressed up their avatars, performed wacky dance moves (including the “Marsh Walk”), threw down their best emotes, and tossed around oversized “happy” beach balls, as they would at The String Cheese Incident concert in IRL. In this case, however, the setting is fully virtualized — a one-of-a-kind intersection of VR, music, gaming, and community.

Setting the Stage for Success
Days ahead of the performance, anticipation built as Fortnite players watched the construction of the virtual stage on which Marshmello would perform. DJM went so far as to list the venue, Pleasant Park, on his official tour itinerary, adding to the “reality” of the event. When learning of the concert, many players made a point to block out their schedules to tune in. Afterwards, some said this was the first concert they had ever “attended.”

“What makes me happiest about today is that so many people got to experience their first concert ever,” said Marshmello on Twitter. “All the videos I keep seeing of people laughing and smiling throughout the set are amazing.”

Videogame developer and father, Robert Bowling burst into his son’s bedroom at 11 PM at night and yelled “Get out of bed! We’re going to a Marshmello concert in Pleasant Park! We then danced and laughed and sang for 15 minutes. It was incredible. Fornite isn’t a game. It’s something else.”

According to Mike Fischer, a senior analyst at TDG and former head of publishing at Epic Games, “These interactive virtualized environments will evolve from binary experiences, player-vs-player or one-to-many, into more unique ways for people to interact with each other and with live VR performances of all kinds.”

A perfect example of this evolution is TheWaveVR, a company in which Fischer is an investor and adviser. It has created an entire platform just for live VR music shows that allows people who love music to view, host, and socialize within the shows, anywhere in the world. TheWaveVR goes beyond traditional headsets, collaborating with artists to create custom VR worlds where users can interact with each other and parts of the world to create remixes.

Migrating Ecosystems: From Gaming to Robust Community
There is no doubt that Fortnite is the most popular game on the planet, but as TDG noted in its 2018 report, it is quickly becoming a massive social platform; providing players with a sense of community far beyond ordinary game environments.

Alternate communities are also manifest in a recent in-game rocket launch, with players building their own structures to better view the blastoff. And Fortnite’s recent addition of “The Block” — a virtual slab of concrete — allows fans to create and showcase their own private island and invite others to play on their finished maps.

“For Epic, it’s very clear that permitting user-generated content (UGC) into Fortnite makes this more than just a game. The audience is so unique and so large that they’re having a lot of fun expressing themselves within the game,” says Fischer.

The Virtues of Going Social
These types of creative deployments could help save traditional VR from early extinction. In fact, that was a theme during panel discussions at the recent Digital Entertainment World conference in Marina del Rey, where panelists reminded the audience that “VR is far from dead.” Events like the Marshmello concert show give a healthy dose of CPR to a VR industry that some say is ready to flatline.

And the artists benefit, as well. The Fortnite activation created not only the biggest audience of Marshmello’s career, but of a scale far beyond modern frames of reference. Post-concert, Marshmello’s on-demand streams increased more than 20,000%, and his song, “Check This Out,” saw an increase of almost 24,000% on February 2, compared to the previous day.

And along with astronomical viewing numbers come tremendous value-added revenue opportunities from merchandising, licensing, and promotions. Case in point: the live concert occurred prior to the release of Marshmello’s newest collaboration with artist Svdden Death, which was conveniently released a few days later.

And let’s not forget about the crossover between online concerts and eSports. Marshmello is also a master at leveraging social media and no stranger to eSports. He teamed up with Tyler “Ninja” Blevins at last year’s E3 pro-am to win the Fortnite celebrity tournament.

A Match Made in Heaven – Or in this Case, Pleasant Park
The Fortnite event was without doubt a dramatic leap forward in the ways that people experience live events, and offers a hint as to what successful AR and VR experiences may look like in the future.

Each generation has its marker moments. For Beatles fans in the 1960s, it was the Fab Four’s live debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. For Elvis fans in the 1970s, it was Aloha from Hawaii, the first live concert broadcast internationally via satellite. Today’s generation may remember Marshmello’s concert as their moment. Why? Because they attended.

Watch the full concert replay, which has already reached 23 million views on YouTube, here:

About the Author
Patrick Perez is a digital professional and multi-platform specialist with a stellar track record generating multi-million dollar returns within the digital ecosystem: SVOD, OTT, mobile, authentication, digital Pay-Per-View, and other digital platforms. He is the author of the TDG report “The Ascent of Battle Royale and the Future of eSports.” He lives in Los Angeles.

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