MTV’s new Video Music Awards category opens the door to virtual stars — Quartz

A new part of MTV’s annual celebration of visual excellence in the music industry is a future many didn’t see coming: the era of virtual celebrities. Now, in addition to voting for Best Artist and Best Song for MTV’s Music Video Awards, fans can now also vote for Best Metaverse Performance.

Some of the major pop music acts have been nominated including Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, BTS, Charli XCX, Blackpink and Twenty One Pilots. All of the nominees were selected to showcase virtual versions of themselves performing in online virtual environments that typically allowed for real-time fan interaction on platforms like Roblox, Fortniteand Minecraft.

In Bieber’s performance, a full 30-minute concert spanning multiple digital environments, the virtual version of the singer delivered his latest repertoire to more than a million fans on virtual music concert platform Wave (which counts Bieber as an investor ) and on YouTube. In recent years, Wave has also facilitated virtual performances by The Weeknd, Imogen Heap and John Legend.

These types of performances have been prevalent in the metaverse since before the pandemic, but the first major attention given to dynamics occurred in 2020 when Travis Scott performed in Fortnite. Since then, virtual performances have quickly become accepted as an additional way for fans to reach and perform.

How a budding virtual space reached mainstream

The term metaverse has been around for about 30 years, coined in Neal Stephenson’s novel Snowfall. However, the word only became mainstream in 2021, when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg started using it to describe his company’s immersive internet efforts. Prior to 2021, tech insiders generally viewed the cross-currents of AR and VR as occurring in various iterations of the “cloud of AR” or “cloud of mixed reality” with blockchain as the core technology for things. virtual and transactions.

But the “metaverse,” and its endorsement by a global business leader, has established itself as a catch-all way to describe the whole of space. MTV knew its fans would understand what they were voting for in “Best Metaverse Performance,” just a year after the term was popularized. That’s how fast the move to virtual entertainment has been.

In the metaverse, virtual artists are immortal, but who controls the avatars?

And while virtual celebrities like Hatsune Miku in Japan have been on the rise for years, it’s in the gaming industry that virtual characters have evolved to become influencers alongside their human counterparts on social media. These characters, and the New Age puppeteers behind them, guiding how human pop stars like Grande (who also used Fortnite like its virtual stage) enter the metaverse.

“Gaming is at the forefront of the metaverse,” said Jason Chung, professor of esports and gaming at New York University. “Now the question becomes, how much [of a celebrity’s] the personality is impregnated in this avatar? »

Likewise, as major bands increasingly sell their catalogs of music, in the years to come, the metaverse versions of these musicians will also become valuable assets.

The MTV Music Video Awards will air on Sunday, August 28 at 8 p.m. EST.

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