When Lil Nas X performed a concert on gaming platform Roblox in December 2020, it was watched 33m times in a weekend over multiple viewings. Now Roblox has revealed that the show was also a success when it came to sales of digital merchandise.
“The merch for Nas is creeping towards eight figures. We’re in healthy seven figures,” said Roblox’s global head of music Jon Vlassopulos during a recent session at the CogX conference, moderated by Music Ally. “That’s money,” confirmed Vlassopulos. “Creeping towards! Officially seven, but on its way to eight, and that’s with very little working.”
This is part of Roblox’s pitch to labels and artists: that they can hold events on the gaming platform but also make money from virtual merch. Warner Music Group’s chief digital officer and EVP, business development Oana Ruxandra was also part of the session, and talked about this in the context of WMG artist Why Don’t We’s recent Roblox event.
“They played four songs and then there was a Q&A. There were millions of visits over the weekend, and really robust revenue for the band. Fans were able to buy artist skins, clothing, a number of different accessories,” she said. “We saw a really massive uplift around social, around streams, around views on YouTube, so the goals that we set for the concert were really fundamentally performed across the board.”
This is all very positive, but Roblox currently has a big headache in the form of a US lawsuit filed by the NMPA on behalf of some of its members. It criticised “Roblox’s unabashed exploitation of music without proper licences” – focusing on music uploaded to its platform by developers of games, rather than the events run by labels. Naturally, we asked Vlassopulos about that.
He said that Roblox is expanding its music team and hopes to “take on more of the licensing” around events, rather than relying on label partners to bring the rights with them.
“We’re excited to have done all the things we have done over the last year, and be able to put money in the pocket of publishers and record labels, and give artists and songwriters a new platform to reach millions and millions of fans around the world,” he added. “So we’re going to continue doing that, and we hope to continue doing that with more labels and more publishers. so we hope that things resolve soon in terms of the lawsuit.”
Read our full writeup of the session, including Ruxandra’s predictions for the future of “hyper reality metaverses” and their potential for music. “They are persistent, they’re synchronous, they’re live, and there’s a community aspect: all of the interactions or community builds… We really do think these spaces, these metaverses are going to create opportunity. They’re going to be where people exist. They’re going to be where our artists and fans exist…”
There are also Vlassopulos’s hopes for music playing a wider role on Roblox, although licensing deals will certainly be required for those ambitions. “Maybe you get some virtual concert ticket access, you get some VIP artist world access, you get some merch, you get some listening, you get playlists…”
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