Wave, the virtual concert company that facilitates live music in virtual environments, has raised $ 30 million in funding. Wave uses broadcast and game technology to create performance captured by movement artists and transform them into animated characters in virtual worlds. The company also works with music labels, management companies and independent artists to connect their talent lists with spectators.
Wave recently announced its “One Wave” series of virtual concerts featuring John Legend, Tinashe and others. Future virtual experiences will provide Wave artists with a platform to create digital avatars and environments that represent their artistic vision in real time.
The news of the funding comes just after Epic Games announced that his live concerts for Travis Scott at Fortnite drew more than 27 million viewers to his astronomical show.
Wave CEO Adam Arrigo said in an interview with GamesBeat that he thought the entire virtual concert space was gaining ground, especially when people were closed at home and unable to go to concerts.
“The whole space started to really get bigger, and it was less about going out and launching for the next thing than finding the right partners who would help us take it to the next level,” said Arrigo.
Most of the investors on this tour were already on board in January. Then the coronavirus struck and the value of virtual concerts became much more evident. Phil Sanderson, managing director of Griffin Gaming Partners, said in an interview with GamesBeat that he thought watching music online was boring compared to reality.
“You can put on headphones and listen to Coachella live, but nobody wants to do it,” said Sanderson. “The only way to do that is to capture the emotion of the crowd, which Wave actually does by creating an interactive experience. It’s so much better – if you looked Travis Scott at Fortnite, it would be so much better if you could see his facial expressions and interact with him in real time. “
Sanderson was the first investor in Pandora and also invested in Song Pop. He goes to several music festivals every year and is immediately attracted to Wave.
“What we are building is very timely. And we’ve seen live concert cancellations since; we do not know when they will return and in what form. It’s bittersweet, ”said Arrigo. “It has taken our business to a whole new level, as if we have booked some of the world’s greatest artists for our next series of shows. People understand what our value proposition is. Artists are looking for new forms of distribution, monetization and innovation. They are more open to conversation than before. This brings us closer to the Metaverse, or anything you want it to be. “
The funding is good enough for a company founded in 2016 as a VR music startup by Arrigo and Adam Lemke.
“I worked on Rock Band games at the time, and I was always looking for new ways for artists to express themselves through these [mediums], like virtual reality, where we started, “said Arrigo. “About a year and a half ago, before the Marshamello show in Fortnite, we went beyond virtual reality and started to conclude agreements with gaming platforms and live streaming services to integrate the experience of basis of virtual reality to a wider distribution. “
“We have so many requests from artists to do these shows that we are not able to produce them ourselves,” said Arrigo. “We want to get to the point where we can facilitate the democratization of content creation for artists of all skill levels. We are currently working with many megastars. But it’s not the whole industry. “
Maveron led the new round, with much of the funding provided by Griffin Gaming Partners. Additional investors in the cycle include NTT DoCoMo Ventures, Avex, Superfly Ventures, Convivialite Ventures and Raised in Space. Entrepreneurs Scooter Braun, Alex Rodriguez, co-founder of Superfly Rick Farman and co-founder of Twitch Kevin Lin also participated in the round.
Current Wave investors include RRE Ventures, Upfront Ventures, Venture Reality Fund, GFR Fund and GC Tracker Fund. To date, the company has raised $ 40 million.
The new funding will strengthen Wave’s ability to go beyond traditional live broadcasting and serve the next generation of viewers. Specifically, this will allow Wave to focus on creating custom artist avatars, new virtual formats and environments, and interactive experiences – including in-game activations and social experiences. The cycle will also accelerate expansion into global markets such as Japan and China.
A large pivot
While Wave started in VR, its latest concerts and events are distributed on all major platforms, including YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, digital and gaming channels, and via the Wave app available for Steam and Oculus.
“I watched Wave when it was in the VR space and I didn’t invest,” said Sanderson. “When they refocused on the wider audience of all platforms, that’s where I got involved.”
Wave’s reach is now potentially huge, which has attracted bigger music stars.
“When we created this pivot from virtual reality, we also modified our main distribution strategy, which was initially [to] download our VR app and join these concerts, ”said Arrigo. “But we also realized that the concept of the virtual concert is so futuristic. Our current strategy is to partner with as many gaming and streaming platforms as possible. We can present our experiences through all these spaces. So you can almost think of it as a promoter of virtual concerts, as opposed to a single platform. We go where the people are. “
David Wu and Sanderson, general partner of Maveron, join the board of directors of Wave, alongside Will Porteous, partner of RRE Ventures.
The coming of the metaverse
Arrigo likes the idea of bringing music to Metaverse, or the kind of universe of virtual worlds described in science fiction books like Snow accident or Ready Player One. (We are planning to host a metaverse conference this fall.)
“The idea of the Metaverse … we linked it so closely to this idea of virtual reality, but it is clear that the universe will begin in such spaces as Fortnite or even Animal Crossing.”
But he also wants to extend virtual gatherings beyond the game into larger entertainment spaces that non-amateurs will embrace as well.
“Our approach should be cross-platform because our goal is to create the greatest concert of all time and to serve musicians and artists,” said Arrigo. “It makes sense for us to go where the audience is right now and not limit ourselves because the game platforms go up and down, but the music doesn’t go away. We are not going to bond with Fortnite. It does a disservice to our artists, who have tons of different demographics anyway. John Legend is completely different from Lindsey Stirling of Kenosha. “
Bigger than Fortnite?
The wave can take off in places like Fortnite first, but Arrigo hopes it will develop far beyond that.
“I also like to integrate people who are not video game enthusiasts, using adjacent experiences,” he said. “You can use familiar platforms to make people feel comfortable. My mom is not going to download Fortnite. “
And he hopes the VR part will take off.
“I’m still a strong supporter of the future of VR and AR, and we still support our VR app,” said Arrigo. “And we have in fact observed a threefold increase in commitment since the start of the refuge in place. Every evening, someone organizes VR parties. But we built the basic experience so that people could participate in it anywhere, be it in places like Fortnite or Minecraft or Roblox or even Animal Crossing. “
The Los Angeles-based company has 50 employees and is currently hiring.