Introducing Season 2: Music and the metaverse
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April 21st, 2022

As we’ve covered in previous articles, Web3 was a perfect first topic for fleshing out our emerging collaborative research model and wider structure as a DAO. The decentralized nature of Web3 at large and its surrounding information flows lends itself naturally to a more decentralized peer-to-peer approach to research and knowledge-sharing. Ultimately, we found that the wisdom of crowds provided more nuanced perspective and creative advantages over smaller, more traditional editorial teams working behind the scenes.

After publishing over 40,000 words on the music/Web3 ecosystem in our Season 1 and Season 1.5 collaborative reports, we’re excited to work with our community on exploring a wider range of topics in a similarly collaborative fashion for Season 2 — with the goal not only of breaking new experimental ground in music and tech, but also of onboarding a new cohort of DAO contributors from both inside and outside of Web3-native communities.


WHAT

An eight-week collaborative research sprint in the W&M community dedicated to researching urgent questions — and devising actionable, evergreen frameworks and solutions — related to the future of music in the metaverse.

WHY

There are three main arguments for why now is the right time to study music in the metaverse, in the collaborative fashion that our DAO is known for:

(Source: https://otherinter.net/research/headless-brands/)
(Source: https://otherinter.net/research/headless-brands/)

The DAO argument: The “metaverse” as a headless brand

“The metaverse” as a concept is characterized by a combination of sprawling diversity and lack of precision that creates the perfect breeding ground for an emerging approach to research.

Like "Web3," "metaverse" is what you could call a "headless brand" — a decentralized concept characterized by the lack of a coherent identity and the presence of multiple conflicting narratives competing for attention. In previous email digests, we also referred to this problem as “semantic satiation.”

Headless brands arguably require equally headless, decentralized approaches to research to really do justice in a nuanced and holistic way. We demonstrated this with our groundbreaking reports and findings on Web3, which arguably were possible only because of our open approach to collaboration with our community and with the wider Web3 ecosystem. We believe the sprawling nature of the metaverse is the natural next topic to tackle as a DAO with similar methodologies.

For example, calling something a "metaverse company" has roughly the same amount of precision today as calling something an "internet company.” You could be talking about one of dozens of different technologies or industries — including but not limited to livestreaming, gaming, VR/AR/MR, 3D design, digital identity/avatars, social media, digital fashion, and, yes, Web3 — not all of which are talking to each other or have the same approaches to business models, marketing or community engagement. Highlighting "the metaverse" as our S2 theme gives license to our community to dive deep into rabbit holes around music's relationship to a wider range of different emerging technologies where they otherwise wouldn't get the opportunity to do so, and in a way that can expand our coverage and research far beyond the Web3 focus we've had in the last six months.

Another major source of conflicting narratives in “the metaverse” is whether it should be centralized (à la Meta, Epic Games) or decentralized (à la Decentraland, Sandbox, PangeaDAO). W&M is one of the few publications that sits squarely at the nexus of Web3- and Web2-native music-industry professionals, and the metaverse is an ideal canvas for examining the underlying tensions between these two worlds.

All in all, the most inaccurate statement we could make about "the metaverse" or "Web3" is that there is a singular, unifying approach on where those technologies and industries will go. Instead, we need to make space for a more fluid, nuanced ecosystem of perspectives, interests and possibilities that our community sees for how tech can evolve, and what questions are considered most interesting and urgent to explore.

The business argument: Unprecedented investment in music metaverse companies

The “metaverse” as a concept has been taking up an increasing share of news announcements, startup funding rounds, and general partnership deals in the music/tech industries.

In our databases, we’ve tracked over $2.3 billion in private funding rounds in music metaverse companies since January 2021, across areas including livestreaming, gaming, avatars, VR/AR/MR, spatial audio, and general immersive media. Meanwhile, ongoing news like Epic Games’ acquisition of Bandcamp raise critical questions about how the music/metaverse relationship will evolve, especially with respect to artist-level accessibility and industry-wide power dynamics.

Similar to Web3 (or any other emerging technology), this hype also creates a lot of noise. There is a significant need for an independent voice to help connect the dots among all these different deals and news and cultivate a shared understanding across industries for what “the metaverse” even means, and how it can evolve in the future. As a distributed and collaborative research collective, W&M has built a reputation as the go-to dot-connector in music/tech, and we can play a similarly crucial role with this new subject matter.

Importantly, W&M has published several metaverse-related articles in the past (examples here, here, here, and here) — but most of those articles were published in 2019 and 2020. We are certainly due for a revisit and a refresh on our perspective, and in much more collaborative fashion, given how much the music/tech market has changed and how much our own capabilities as a DAO have expanded.

Credit: Richard Horvath
Credit: Richard Horvath

The builder argument: Creativity, not just business

A core part of W&M’s editorial voice and culture is examining industry-specific issues with a highly interdisciplinary, systems-oriented approach — regularly drawing inspiration from other fields like gaming, film, and fashion as we paint our picture of where music and tech is headed.

By focusing on the metaverse as our S2 theme, we have the potential to experiment in much more interesting and ambitious ways with the formats of our reports. A modular, multimedia research paper presented in VR? A new interactive tool for musicians to create their own digital avatars? A gaming experience bringing the worldbuilding behind a W&M artist’s latest album to life?

The possibilities are virtually endless for learning by doing and engaging directly with the very technologies we are covering, in addition to turning our research insights into tangible products and tools that artists and their surrounding teams/communities can use. This ethos mirrors our work in Seasons 1 and 1.5 — where we not only used Web3-native tools for monetization and compensation around our reports, but also built interactive tools that artists have already begun using in both practical and educational capacities (e.g. our music NFT contract template).

Moreover, with a topic like the metaverse, we can dive deep not just into commercial and technical implications, but also into creative implications.

Many of our community members are excited about metaverse-related tools not so much because of the commercial opportunities, but more because of the new world-building experiences they enable around music and fan communities. Highlighting the impact of emerging technology on music creativity as well as capital flows is crucial for making our music/tech coverage in general more holistic in the long term — especially catering to the growing segment of our community members who are artists.

WHEN

Below is a rough roadmap for Season 2. Timelines for previous seasons have usually changed (read: extended) around halfway through, so we’ll likely revisit our schedules in mid-May accordingly — or even earlier, depending on the ambitions that emerge during the first ideation week.

  • APR 22–28 - official ideation + synthesis week
  • APR 29 - finalize initial project leads/roles/teams
  • MAY 2–JUN 27 - research sprints with weekly calls and updates
  • JUN 27–JUL 1 - rollout week
  • JUL 5–31 - “off-season” period to focus on reflection, contributor compensation/feedback, extended promotion/events and planning for season 3

WHAT NOW

To kick off ideation week for Season 2, we’ll be hosting an official live brainstorming session using FigJam during our next members-only Town Hall on Friday, April 22 from 12PM–1PM EDT.

During this session, we’ll ask our community questions such as:

  • How do you personally define "the metaverse"?
  • What kinds of technologies do you associate most strongly with the metaverse? Which of these technologies is most exciting to you right now, and why?
  • What are the most necessary elements at the core of a "musical metaverse" — i.e. elements without which such a concept could not exist?
  • What are some crazy ideas for formats we can experiment with for this Season 2 report?

Join our membership today to tune into the town hall, take part in our ideation phase, and follow our research process as it unfolds!

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