The first major band to perform live in a virtual concert was Duran Duran in early 2000, who performed in Second Life, an online playground which sought to be a virtual analog to real life. At that time, the dot-com bubble just burst, and before the financial crisis, there was a quiet moment of optimism on the internet.
Since then, virtual concerts were picked up by South Korea, in which record labels like SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment started flourishing the trend.
The most notable appearances include Psy's "Gangnam Style" at the the COEX Convention & Exhibition Center, and the permanent virtual concert at the Everland theme park in Yongin, South Korea, all in 2013. This was followed by the first-ever virtual concert in Germany, which was presented for smartphone users, also in 2013.
With the internet getting faster and with more users, more and more virtual concerts moved from physical locations to virtual words. By creating The WaveVR in 2017 for example, for a dedicated platform for virtual concerts.
Artists who have performed on the platform include Imogen Heap, The Glitch Mob, and Kill the Noise. In January 2019, a virtual music festival called Fire Festival was held on a dedicated Minecraft server.
Then on February 2, EDM producer Marshmello held a ten-minute concert on the main map of third-person shooter Fortnite: Battle Royale.
The concert was viewable to anyone playing the game during that time.
"Marshmello has had more fans looking for tickets on Songkick during the past 4 days than he’s had over the past 3 months combined,” the company wrote in a blog post.
According to Social Blade, the social media analytics company, Marshmello had more than 62,000 new followers on Twitter, and a 5,200 growth on Twitch the day after the concert. And two days after the event, Christopher Comstock, the real name of Marshmello, gained nearly 260,000 new followers on Instagram.
Marshmello performing virtually on Fortnite was considered one of the largest virtual show in history.
Virtual concerts refer to a performance in which the performers take form of virtual avatars, and projected to the medium using three-dimensional images. What makes it different from ordinary broadcasts is that, the melodies are transmitted in much the same manner, but the main distinction is the presence.
This essentially requires anyone willing to attend the virtual concert, to travel somewhere, even if that place is virtual.
Because each and everyone who attend are represented using their own avatars, the attendees can feel that they were actually there.
Fortnite is considered one of the most popular mobile games in the world. And after Marshmello held its concert at the in-game location Pleasant Park, which was elaborated with neon stage and gantry, complete with pyros and giant holographic dancers, people around the world wondered whether this was the future.
Holy!!! We just made history today. We can all tell our kids one day that we attended the first ever virtual concert @FortniteGame
— marshmello (@marshmellomusic) February 2, 2019
But what is certain, Fortnite is capable of replicating what Second Life did.
For ten minutes, the developers of the battle royale phenomenon switched off the chaso Fornite is known for.
Those who were killed in the game for example, were allowed to quickly respawn. Going even further, Epic Games also disabled the ability to use weapons for the entirety of the show, to ensure that everyone could have a front-row seat to hits such as Alone, Dreaming and Happier.
"What makes me happiest about today is that so many people got to experience their first concert ever,” Comstock tweeted that day.
"All the videos I keep seeing of people laughing and smiling throughout the set are amazing. Man I’m still so pumped."