Fresh off the back of revealing their platform at SXSW, Music Ally spoke to Ristband – a company that wants to make virtual concerts in the metaverse accessible and meaningful to the independent artist community and music industry at large – not just to its superstar artists.

Ristband’s background and aims

CEO Roman Rappak talks very passionately about the challenges faced by most artists and industry professionals – he’s an artist himself, playing in the band Miro Shot. Rappak believes that Ristband is not just about creating virtual concerts, but ensuring that the metaverse  supports artists and music discovery: 

“If you look at the current landscape: what is the metaverse actually serving? How is it serving artists and the industry? It’s actually not. It’s like we’re sleepwalking into another streaming situation. If we look at what the existing platforms are, most of them come from the gaming world such as Minecraft etc. They have absolutely no concern how artists and the millions of professionals are paid. It’s not just the artists that are being left out of the metaverse, it’s the industry professionals as well.”

His co-founder and COO Anne McKinnon has a background in technology journalism, and first connected Rappak when she saw Miro Shot performing a live concert incorporating gaming technology. 

YouTube video

At the core of Ristband is the idea to create a bridge between real-world concerts and gamers. Roman Rappak: “Our vision of what Ristband should be is that there are concerts all around the world at the moment, why should that concert not take place in the metaverse at the same time? We looked at this with my band Miro Shot and there wasn’t an accessible platform to do that on. It’s definitely a mistake to think: “this is not as good as a real concert”. We’re not trying to replace it. It’s an extension of what a concert is. We’re in a very exciting time as we’ve not had a new medium in music since the music video.”

“It just isn’t enough to have a space where you have avatars standing around watching music.”

Ristband is currently in alpha, with plans to launch in beta next year. 

The Ristband team says that, when compared to games like Fortnite, Roblox or Minecraft, Ristband has developed a game that is centred around music experiences.

Where Ariana Grande’s Fortnite shows or Lil Nas X’s Roblox performances typically require substantial investment and a large developer team, Ristband hopes that their in-game tools allow a new tier of artists to create metaverse shows. 

Rappak stresses the importance of keeping this gaming/music relationship in balance: “It just isn’t enough to have a space where you have avatars standing around watching music. There are 2.8bn gamers in the world who started to go to concerts and started to buy things. Traditionally that demographic wasn’t available to the music industry. The metaverse represents a new era in what gaming is becoming.”

There will be two ways for artists to perform in Ristband. The first option is to create a “digital twin” of their real-life concert, where a video livestream is hosted inside a virtual venue, opening the concert up to the Ristband audience. In this virtual space, avatars can walk around the venue and have a social experience: chatting to other fans, buying merch, or going to an afterparty. Ristband see these experiences as central to what they want to create on the platform.

The second option will allow artists and their teams  to create more advanced shows in the metaverse. Ristband is working with motion capture companies to transform a 2D video of a performer into a fully-3D avatar – without the need for expensive or obtrusive motion capture technology. The ambition is that an artist could play in front of 200 people in a small venue, with many more people watching in the metaverse.

What does the Ristband metaverse look like?

At the moment, Ristband looks like a large city that users can jump into, no app required – fans can visit a webpage via laptop, mobile or VR – and the team believe that fans shouldn’t require expensive gaming hardware to be able to play a high quality game. 

There are a number of free-to-play venues with open slots, so you can coordinate a virtual show at the same time as your IRL concert. While the smaller venues are free to play, other venues will be on a revenue-share basis. The familiarity is deliberate, says McKinnon: “A lot of how Ristband works will be familiar to artists and the music industry […] just as artists starting out in the real world will play small venues, audition to be a part of a band, and get discovered, the same takes place in Ristband.”

The virtual city is built with career progression and options in mind, McKinnon continues: “In the inner parts of Ristband’s city, we have curated content and partner content. On the outskirts, you have more UGC, where folks just starting out in Ristband can access smaller venues and open-mic nights – and work their way up to selling out bigger venues and being a part of festivals within Ristband.”

At SXSW this year, Miro Shot played a show to 2,000 people and used Ristband to virtually reconstruct the show at the same time. Rappak says it was interesting reading Tweets about the show, as you couldn’t differentiate between people who were at the show physically or at the show virtually.

Anne McKinnon and Roman Rappak

How do artists – and Ristband – make money?

Artists can charge for their shows in Ristband – and these can include meet and greets, Q&As, listening parties, “backstage” access, content drops, quests and more. Other opportunities to make money include selling digital merchandise, artwork, or NFTs, as well as physical merch.

Ristband’s model is free-to-play, and users can specify their artist-side role (e.g. artist, label, venue, manager etc.) which will give them access to various insights and enable them to schedule shows. Later, Pro accounts will add analytics too.

Artists keep the majority of the income generated by what they sell in the platform. Ristband makes money by taking a small percentage of transaction fees for goods sold, Pro account subscriptions, and brand partnerships. “Our goal is to support artists on our platform so they can build their careers and sustain themselves from it in a fair and transparent platform economy”, says McKinnon. “The artist could invite media into their Ristband world. We want fans in Ristband to purchase the digital asset but also buying the physical tshirt alongside it.”

Rappak believe this is a better system for everyone: “We’re a decentralised platform, whereas platforms like Roblox gives its developers just 25%, plus payouts based on engagement which is typical in terms of how Web 2 walled-gardens function.” 

What’s next for Ristband?

Ristband officially launched last September, and is working with a number of labels, booking agents, A&Rs and other industry connectors. In January this year, Fortnite publisher Epic Games gave Ristband an ‘Epic MegaGrant’  to further build out their plans. 

In 2022, Ristband will host festivals in partnership with artist teams and brands – including sponsored slots with custom development – and a number of events which will be open to the public with limited spaces, activations such as in-stores, album signings and merch giveaways.

The platform is currently open for invite-only, community events, and special events. Their Discord community is where you can see alpha events and Ristband performance opportunities, and where you can talk to the team.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

Marlen Hüllbrock

Marlen HüllbrockHead of Marketing & Audience

Music Ally's Head of Marketing & Audience

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *