TheWaveVR: Reimagining Live Music

TheWaveVR is a platform that enables immersive VR music experiences.

TheWaveVR is revolutionizing how people experience music. It is “a [two-sided] platform for people who love music, enabling them to view, host, and socialize in shows world wide, anytime, anywhere.” On TheWaveVR, musicians use VR technology to create and show next level, immersive visuals of unrivaled intensity to supplement their music.

Started in February 2016, TheWaveVR has raised $6.5 million from top firms in two rounds (oversubscribed Seed funding). Investors include KPCB Edge, Greycroft, The Virtual Reality Fund, Upfront Ventures, etc., as well as angels (Mike Fischer, Joe Kraus, etc.) [1].

TheWaveVR tested its concept by hosting a “silent rave” at LA’s Exchange venue, where attendees and DJs wore headsets and headphones. Watch the video to get a sense of the experience:

VR Magazine writer Paul Trowe claims that “[he’s] never experienced anything like this in the 30+ years I’ve been playing and making games.” [2]

Role of Visuals in Live Music:

Visuals play a key role in live music events: Electric Daisy Carnival spent $3M in 2016 just on its main stage display [3] (there were 10 stages total) and Ultra Miami allocates similar budgets for visual production. Some music festival attendees enjoy the visuals even more than the music, so there is huge potential for TheWaveVR to gain adoption and capture share of wallet with its solution that pushes boundaries of visuals.

Ultra (top) and EDC (bottom) music festivals spend $Ms on visuals

 

TheWaveVR Value Creation:

Music creators have full control over the experience they create. “[They can] fully customize how their audience experiences the music – whether that’s by transforming the venue from a realistic nightclub to outer space or putting on the most unimaginable light show ever.” [4]

The platform is fully open, allowing any music artist to create “Wave Shows” and any user to attend such performances. Musicians must use HTC Vive and its controllers to DJ, but users can use any HMD including the $15 Google Cardboard [5], which allows easy trialbility of Wave Shows and widest access.

As the platform is still nascent, live “Wave Shows” only occur once a week. Attendees can interact with performers and other fans, dance, paint, and experience these shows in many other ways than feasible in real life. For example, fans can communicate with the onstage artist via gestures and motions, and musicians can react accordingly. Social is a core value proposition of the platform, counter to many other VR use cases.

Value creation for musicians – performers can reach a broader audience and “scale” themselves via TheWaveVR’s virtual venue. Artists can import tracks, create visuals, and share futuristic shows both live and as re-runs. Whereas musicians on tour can only feasibly perform at 3-4 shows a week, they can host multiple digital shows during a single night on TheWaveVR. Wave Shows also offer opportunities for more intimate interactions with fans (1:1 conversations, etc. not possible / safe in real life), increasing loyalty and engagement of fans.

Value creation for users – the platform drastically lowers barriers to attend concerts. Those who want the social experience of live music but can’t for any reason (don’t have time, don’t have money to travel and pay high entry fees, etc.) can now get a similar experience, virtually.

TheWaveVR Value Capture:

The company stated that one of its goals is to help create new revenue streams for music industry. However, since the venture is still in beta and focusing on growing users on both sides, it hasn’t started monetizing. The predicted market size for VR Live Events is $4.1Bn in 2025. Even if we assume live concerts is only 10%, it’s still a lucrative $400M market [6].

Below are a few ideas on future value capture.

Recommendations to Grow the Business:

User growth:
Direct network effects exist in such product because of its social elements, so it is important to quickly attract users. But how to attract users on both sides? Pure platforms always face the chicken and egg problem. We learned in class that the side with more potential to capture value is easier to attract first – musicians in this case. To attract musicians:

  1. TheWaveVR should make DJ tools as simple to use and as similar to existing mixing / production software as possible to ease adoption curve for DJs.
  2. Further, it should pitch its platform as a unique way for DJs to differentiate themselves, generating buzz and boosting their brands. Nowadays, DJs are expected to not only innovate on their music, but also live visual accompaniment. Those who do so successfully have better fan engagement, and can go viral via social media as fans share and engage in conversations about such novel “lightshows.” For example, Deadmau5 created the first 3D LED visual display dubbed Cube 1.0, and when he revealed a revamped version Cube 2.0 (costing $2M) [7], chatter about the creative visual experience exploded on Facebook. Above & Beyond is another group whose popularity soared after it started using visuals to bond with their fans, by typing inspirational, real-time messages [8].
    The company should partner with top ranked DJs (Martin Garrix, Tiesto) [9] and technologically-forward DJs (Deadmau5, Skrillex). Initially, TheWaveVR may have to pay the DJs to use the platform since there are few users and hence not much value for top artists. If TheWaveVR is able to secure a few big-name DJ partnerships, fans will quickly flock to platform as DJs advertise their Wave Shows on social media and other marketing outlets. To fight multi-homing, TheWaveVR can offer an exclusive repository of top DJs’ Wave shows only available for re-run on its own platform.

Monetization:

  1. An obvious monetiziation opportunity is partnering with live event companies (Coachella, Ultra, Insomniac – company behind Electric Daisy Carnival) to provide complementary virtual livestream experiences, and charge attendees. Festival tickets cost $100+ per day, so Wave could experiment with multiple price points below $100.
    A potential risk is cannibalizing existing festival ticket sales. However, these festivals are often sold out, so demand exceeds supply. TheWaveVR could simply capture value from excess demand. Further, these events have been livestreamed in 2D for years with minimal revenue impact. Why not monetize those who don’t attend because of cost or ticket supply issues via a VR interactive experience?
  2. Once the platform hits critical mass, Wave Shows can stop paying DJs to use the platform, and instead start charging both sides. Charging DJs a flat fee or revenue share (more likely given trend towards outcomes-based pricing trend) is justified as Wave Shows increase DJs’ global reach, letting them gain additional fans and incremental revenue. Charging fans to attend Wave Shows is a no-brainer especially since fans are already used to paying $50+ for live DJ sets.
    TheWaveVR can even segment pricing, charging higher fees for meet-and-greet / more interactions with the DJ, etc.
  3. TheWaveVR can also re-run shows and charge lower entrance fees for access.

In Professor Zhu’s “Making Virtual Reality Real” note, an industry observer notes that the product that “takes advantage of everything you can do in VR, the social presence, the ability to talk to people, […] that will be a killer app.” TheWaveVR checks all 3 boxes and could very well be that killer app accelerating consumer VR adoption.

 

[1, 4] https://techcrunch.com/2016/08/05/thewavevr-raises-2-5m-from-kpcb-and-others-to-bring-the-concert-experience-into-vr/

[2] https://vrtodaymagazine.com/thewavevr/

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/ryanmac/2016/07/06/electric-daisy-carnivals-main-stage-rotella-edc-insomniac/#52d6b78352d6
“Biggest of the festival’s eight stages, the 440 feet wide, 700-ton design carried a $3 million price tag that was highlighted by a 90 foot, LED encrusted tree. The stage also featured custom fountains, 33 flame torches, and 1,400 lighting fixtures.”

[5] https://thump.vice.com/en_us/article/wave-virtual-reality-future

[6] http://www.statista.com/chart/4602/virtual-and-augmented-reality-software-revenue/

[7]

[8] 

[9] https://djmag.com/top100djs

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6 thoughts on “TheWaveVR: Reimagining Live Music

  1. Hi Chun,

    Interesting post! I definitely agree that visuals are important to live entertainment and that WaveVR can be one way for artists to augment people’s visual experiences at concerts.

    But I have to admit, I’m a little skeptical! Perhaps it’s that I’m not in WaveVR’s target market, but if I were to be honest with myself, I go to concerts as a way to see the band, yes, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to be with friends. I do like the interactive and social elements to WaveVR’s vision that you mention in your post, but perhaps what’s missing is the ability to “meet up” with friends in the virtual environment.

    Now, if there were a way for me to be in my apartment, go to a concert that is 1,000 miles away, AND go with a friend who is 2,000 miles away, THAT would be something worth paying for! Thoughts? Would you happen to know whether WaveVR is considering adding a similar feature in the future? Are there other VR platforms focused on live entertainment that may be doing this? What about NextVR? Just curious.

    Again, great job! Thanks!

    1. Hey Alex – great point. I agree that interaction with friends is another important aspect of live music. WaveVR has a couple of features to facilitate virtual interactions: 1. lobbies where friends can hang out / chat, 2. ability to message friends during a concert, 3. option to go to 1:1 “side shows” where friends or strangers can have more personal interaction.

      I believe WaveVR is the first virtual platform focused specifically on music. They differntiate by providing artists with sophisticated ways of creating visuals, which is unique to the music segment. I believe other live entertainment VR platforms don’t provide artists with such tools.

  2. This is a super interesting application of VR. I’m a huge musichead, and I always wish i could watch live music more frequently. As such, this is definitely something I would take advantage of.

    That said, I do agree with Alexander’s comment above. What I love most about live music is the palpable feeling of excitement around you when the first beat hits, the feeling of being jostled in the crowd, and the ability see the exhilarated looks on your friends faces. While I definitely see value in what’s currently being offered, I think there would need to be a very high level of technological sophistication for VR to completely replace a real-life concert going experience (and I’m not sure the technology is there yet).

    1. Hey Kyla! I agree that WaveVR can’t replace real-life concerts and I feel like their goal is not to replace but rather supplement / grow the pie of live music. The demand for live music (I believe) will always be there. However, live music access is limited (physical capacity, cost, etc.). WaveVR provides a superior solution that’s the closest to what a real experience is like vs current offerings…
      2D live-streaming is not satisfying at all. I can see WaveVR catering to this different “job to be done” – those who aren’t at the concert but want an enhanced streaming experience. I agree with you that they have a ton of opportunity still to improve their social features.

  3. This is so cool! It will be interesting to see if the customers who miss out on buying festival tickets will be the same ones who would invest in a headset and WaveVR experience. My initial hunch is no, but who knows!

    Wonder if there’s also a value creation opportunity here from the B2B side: namely, helping content creators co-innovate with their end user through a new platform. A lot of the DJ light shows and instrumentals can feel similar, esp for EDM, so this could be a way to cheaply experiment. And as you pointed out, it’s much easier to charge on this end than on the consumer end!

    1. The nice thing is Wave supports all headsets, including Google cardboard ($15, I got mine free with Coachella tickets last year…) so barriers to trying it out are pretty low. I love your idea about co-innovating!

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