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Karaoke in the Metaverse

Back in March of this year attended MWC 2022 (formally known as Mobile World Congress), the annual trade show organized by the GSMA (Global System for Mobile Communications Association), an industry organization that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide.

South Korean wireless telecommunications operator, SK Telecom’s stand was dominated by their “4D Metaverse” virtual reality ride which took four people at a time on a flying taxi ride through a futuristic cityscape. Adjacent to this was a virtual concert booth, which had Dua Lipa’s 2019 nu-disco hit Don’t Start Now on rotation. While not strictly karaoke, conference attendees were able to don a virtual reality (VR) headset and dance along with in time with the track.

Originating in Japan, karaoke has grown to become a $100 million industry. The first Karaoke World Championship was held in the Finnish city of Heinola in 2003 and has since become a huge annual event featuring competitors from all over the globe. As an early adopter of new technology, karaoke is no longer restricted to karaoke bars and, as noted in our June 2022 post titled “There’s music in the Metaverse”, the entertainment business has been quick an early adopter of Metaverse technologies. Back in November 2018, long before most of us had even heard of the Metaverse, American electronic music producer and DJ Christopher Comstock, otherwise known as Marshmello, made history by performing the first ever in-game concert in Fortnite. It is somewhat inevitable then that karaoke will become a key pastime for visitors to the Metaverse. But what will this future Metaverse-based version of karaoke look like?

One of the first VR karaoke games was SingSpace, made by American video game developer and creator of the Rock Band and Dance Central franchises, Harmonix. First announced in 2016, SingSpace was designed to let you sing along to your favourite hits in an immersive digital karaoke bar while a mass of robot onlookers react to your performance in real time.

In 2021 Harmonix was acquired by American video game software developer and publisher Epic Games. In the accompanying press release Epic Games stated that: “Harmonix has a track record of creating fun and engaging music experiences designed for everyone to enjoy. As we work to build the metaverse, this expertise is needed to reimagine how music is experienced, created and distributed.”

So what next for karaoke in the Metaverse? Here at we define the Metaverse as: “the hyperconvergence of the physical and digital worlds”, that is, the merging of the real world and virtual worlds to the point at which they become indistinguishable from one another. In the short term we expect game designers and publishers like Harmonix to improve the immersive experience by improving the in-experience graphics and expanding song libraries – Harmonix’s Rock Band VR improves on SingSpace’s relatively simple graphics and comes with a sixty-song setlist, including hits by Coldplay, Foo Fighters, The Killers, Nirvana and Oasis. This means that people looking to unleash their inner Gloria Gaynor, will be able to belt out their rendition of “I Will Survive”, but in a realistic 1970’s Newark night club with a full backing band and audience. Moreover, that audience will be populated not by robot onlookers, but your family and friends.

The move into the Metaverse will increase the opportunity for more outlandish karaoke experiences, including a backing band made up of your favorite artists, Jimi Hendrix on guitar Paul McCartney on bass, and John Bonham on drums anyone? It will also allow us to create and immerse ourselves in musical experiences that aren’t possible in the physical world. A concert from the bottom of the ocean? Or the top of Mount Everest? Or on the Jovian moon Io, the most geologically active object in the Solar System?

The move toward a physical-digital, or phygital, experience, will also lead to greater exposure and subsequent discovery of future music superstars. Just as Justin Bieber's career started with a 2007 YouTube video, future stars will be discovered signing to virtual pubs, clubs and stadiums in the Metaverse.

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Bruno Emmanuelle/Unsplash

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