Abbey Road Red Talk | To the Metaverse and Beyond! What’s next for Gen Z and Music?

9th March 2021

“They’re creative hackers and they’re reality shifters.”

Avie Erasmus, Ogilvy

Thus, the scene was set for our ninth Red Talk. This time we delved into the metaverse, literally the ‘beyond universe’ and, figuratively, the increasingly blurred line between our online and offline worlds. 2020 was a year of enforced migration from IRL to digital. In truth, adults were just playing catch-up.
Younger generations have been blurring boundaries between offline and online for years, which is why the whopping $500m investment round Roblox announced a week or so after our talk, (valuing the company at $29.5bn dollars), was a huge surprise to many who don’t recognise the name - but not to those in the know, alongside those few stock-market-literate, of its heavily youth skewed 36.2m daily active users.

Where music and creativity sit in this blurred world is one of the most important questions we face in our long-term thinking. How artists interface with platform creatives will shape culture and experiences and we can’t imagine it fully yet. Jon Vlassopulous, VP and Global Head of Music at Roblox, compared where we are to the messy, but full-of-potential sandbox of the early days of the web: ”I would like to foster as much as possible in all of our millions of developer creators. If you think about at the beginning of digital how a website got made, it was by fans. We’d like to get a lot of artists connecting with all of our Roblox developers to bring things to life and experiment with all their skills coming to use.”

Vlassopulous also spoke of the importance of creating meaningful communities in this world with embedded principles like digital civility.
We wanted to understand what the Gen Z music creator and fan in this world looks like now and in the future. We asked Ogilvy’s Social Lab Regional Planning Director Avie Erasmus and Junior Strategic Planner Noorya Doorenbos to help us on the first part of our journey, giving us an overview of what Gen-Z’s defining characteristics were.

What about artistry? Artist and technologist Chris Leacock emphasised the most important point was constant evolution, but that music is always first before tech: “The way we create evolves. It’s incumbent on the creator. As a DJ I can give you my playlist, but it doesn’t mean you can produce the same energy in the room. If we have tools to help us perform inordinately complex tasks or repetitive tasks, it’s always going to be incumbent on the creator to put them together in a unique way in order to entertain.”

He went on to posit that the key problem for new technology in the metaverse is scalability: “One of the biggest issues that we have to address right now is scalability. How do we scale the technology to the point that it becomes accessible? Right now, it requires a significant amount of infrastructure that isn’t available to the typical bedroom producer. How do we make this available to the next Lil Nas X?”
We’ll be watching and exploring this space keenly this year as these early thoughts and ideas become experiments and reality. For example, a week before this talk Lil Nas X hosted an album launch event on Roblox which reached more than 30m viewers. More recently Why Don’t We were the first band of Roblox natives to host a launch party for their new record on the platform including a mansion, limited edition merch for Roblox avatars and mini-games including a scavenger hunt. Before that, in the generative music space Popgun and Roblox created a set of DJ experiences where Roblox-ers could perform DJ sets using Popgun’s Splash music platform in themed rooms and with soundpacks from artists like Tones & I.

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