MTV Introduces VMAs Metaverse Performance Category

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Virtual Justin Bieber under a galaxy-colored sky.
Courtesy of Wave

If video killed the radio star, maybe the metaverse can create a new kind of star.

MTV’s Video Music Awards, airing in August, will introduce the new Best Metaverse Performance category. Nominees include Ariana Grande, Blackpink, BTS, Charli XCX, Justin Bieber and Twenty One Pilots. The new category, which defines a metaverse performance as digital artists performing for a digital crowd within a digital space, shows that the virtual stage has become integral to the music industry.

The Los Angeles-based entertainment technology company Waveproduced Bieber’s “interactive virtual experience,” which featured his digital avatar performing for fans who could chat with one another and send emoji reactions. Bieber had previously invested in the company. The other Metaverse Performance nominees performed in video games, with Roblox, Fortnite, Minecraft/YouTube and PUBG Mobile providing space for digital concerts.

The metaverse has quickly crept into awards shows. Earlier in 2022, Lizzo performed at the first metaverse awards show, Song Breaker Awards hosted on Roblox. Additionally, the Recording Academy planned a whole week’s worth of virtual events in the lead-up to the 64th Grammy Awards, including a virtual performance by Camilo. Other industries are also integrating digital elements, with The Game Awards letting fans attend a virtual red carpet and The Fashion Awards introducing an award for metaverse design.

As COVID-19 remains a concern and traditional concert ticket prices skyrocket, a number of Los Angeles startups are betting that virtual concerts are here to stay. Megan Thee Stallion produced her virtual concert tour “Enter Thee Hottieverse” with virtual reality startup AmazeVR, a West Hollywood-based company that recently took its efforts global through a partnership with South Korean entertainment company SM Entertainment. Rapper Kid Cudi co-founded Encore, an app meant to bring live performances to fans’ phones.

Virtual concerts took off during the pandemic, and the music industry seems to have committed to the idea. Warner Music Group partnered with Wave in 2021 to develop avatars and NFTs for its artists, and earlier this year, Snapchat teamed with Universal Pictures to bring Jennifer Lopez’s Bitmoji to the virtual stage.

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