With Live Shows Paused, John Legend and Tinashe Turn to Virtual Reality Concerts

With live music on halt and artists experimenting with new ways to engage fans and play homebound shows, John Legend and Tinashe are the latest to take a shot at virtual reality livestreamed shows.

The duo will be a part of One Wave, a new series rolling out throughout the summer from livestreaming company Wave. Galantis, who previously worked with the company for the duo’s Church of Galantis virtual show, will kick off the new events on Thursday at 6 p.m. EST with a live encore of that performance. Electronic pop violinist Lindsey Sterling and DJ Jauz, who’ve previously performed at Wave concerts alongside Tinashe, will unveil new shows as well, the company said. Proceeds from the new series will go to non-profits who need support amid the ongoing health crisis.

“We are now living in a digital avatar culture. Through our proprietary technology and core gaming capabilities, Wave can go beyond the traditional live streaming concerts and create artist avatars, virtual environments and interactive experiences that truly immerse audiences at the nexus of gaming and entertainment,” Wave CEO Adam Arrigo said in a statement. “The shows we’ve done with Tinashe, Lindsey Sterling and Galantis are good examples of how we’ve successfully leveraged these technologies and we are excited to welcome John Legend and others who are joining the platform to elevate how they are creating, distributing and monetizing performances for their fans.”

Wave is part virtual reality platform, part video game and part streaming service. It teams up with its artists to develop shows for weeks before the actual livestream takes place. Wave puts artists in their software as digital avatars, which gives participants a more immersive, interactive experience than passive livestreaming options like Instagram Live, YouTube and Twitch. Fans can interact with artists and one another throughout the stream. Wave streams its shows through the major streaming services like Facebook and YouTube, but also through its own app on Steam and Oculus for those who want to try a virtual reality show. Arrigo previously told Rolling Stone it was seeing a surge in interest toward the beginning of the pandemic after festivals and artists had begun pushing their show dates.

Along with the new shows, Wave has announced partnerships with Warner Music Gorup and Roc Nation, although a spokesperson for Wave declined to give the specifics on the partnership other than that Wave is “working with both to provide more opportunities for their roster of artists.”

Wave’s new shows come as more experimental digital livestreaming options have slowly broken into the mainstream. Travis Scott performed new music through a widely viewed concert on Fortnite, moving from the concept that started with EDM DJ Marshmello in 2019. These types of experiences will continue to become more popular, Arrigo says, as people grow to crave more substantial livestreaming options than what’s currently more widely available.

“We didn’t want a worse, watered down version of what’s going on,” Arrigo tells Rolling Stone. “But we’re collectively fatigued by this content. It reminds me that I’m trapped at home. People are turning to livestreams to escape right now. Our innovation is making these shows interactive and participatory.”

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