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Metaculture Music Round-Up: Changing Times, And The Looming Era of Art Criticism

Our series of music round-ups covers sound you'll only find in virtual reality, produced by artists who socialize and work there. From acoustic to hardstyle techno, what's sonically relevant is being documented with us.

If you find an artist you like, click through the track information to give that person a follow (and buy something!). Your support is what keeps them making music–and we always love new sounds.

Change is in the air in VR yet again. Meta is reportedly facing internal issues between Zuckerberg and his shareholders, VRChat has just implemented an expansive replacement for dynamic bones, French and South African users now inhabit the music scene in VR more solidly, and Shelter, originally established as a virtual nightclub in late 2020, is gearing up for an in-person event in New York City.

The industry of AR, VR, and XR are fraught with spiderweb-like connections between different areas of development and performance. Where it originally seems like activities on one platform or company would not affect anything else, small ripples in one area can actually have larger repercussions at the far end of another.

Metaculture Music Round-Up: Changing Times, And The Looming Era of Art Criticism
The Rec Room announcement of the Sept 2021 Grimecraft performance.

Case in point: in September 2021, former Wave VR co-founder Grimecraft crossed the digital sea from VRChat's clubbing scene to pioneer a performance in Rec Room. He's since gone on to work elsewhere, but as one Rec Room staffer said in passing conversation, "It was seen as legendary [here]."

What occurred was an experiment, taking the VRChat venue, Grime Canyon, and rebuilding it on a different platform entirely using Rec Room's map authoring tools. But something else happened in the process–it created a musical landmark in that game, one that will likely be repeated by someone who was inspired by the original event.

That's how VR works. No social platform within the community's confines are ever completely isolated.

As this pattern grows, the wires between each digital microscene become more and more entangled. The historical data piles up, and there amasses so much cultural content that it attracts a specific type of person: the hungry writer, the music buff, the tech fan, but also…

The professional critic.

Shelter Meets World

On May 7th, 2022, Shelter will hold its second meet-up and irl performance–this time at VR World in Manhattan NYC.

One of the goals of this (and possible future in-person appearances) is for the virtual music scene to be taken more seriously on a wider scale. This a great goal, but won't come without its challenges.

Shelter originally came from a group of clubs that developed in late 2020 and early 2021 from real-life, professional DJs who no longer had venues to play at due to Covid. Because the group of performers who ported their operations into VR happened to be largely male, it created a dynamic with similar clubs that felt equally masculine, despite femme and nonbinary performers being invited to play at those venues. 2021 became a learning experience of navigating these sadly familiar waters in EDM, but in the end was met with a counterculture of more queer and femme-run spaces to offset the imbalance. Shelter has since made strides to be absolutely up-front with inclusive messaging, but for a while the vibe was what it was.

As Shelter grows, more of this kind of discussion is going to be had. Want to field the interest of a journalist in meatspace and get in a bigger paper? Not every article will be a fluff piece about the promised utopia of the metaverse. Some will dive deeper, ask harder questions. Give feedback. Give opinions that aren't always positive. Shelter has a very dedicated fanbase, one that can respond quite negatively when they hear something about their favorite venue that isn't what they want to hear. This must be tempered if Shelter is to meet the real world head-on and be successful, and learn how media often interacts with performers to get maximum engagement.

For example: two paragraphs back, I purposefully typed something honest yet incendiary to get a reaction. Imagine a writer interested only in content aggregation, realizing that Shelter's patrons will absolutely dogpile and hate-share an article criticizing the venue. Those unhappy clicks drive ad revenue up, and the savvy editor sees this and thinks, "Let's jerk them around and write a few more articles to get them to visit again and again." It's a common tactic, but overall 2TD and staff might realize: some of it might be necessary to get more curious eyes on Shelter. It makes no sense how this works with bad news sometimes, but it does. It's a little PR trick.

And then there's the critic who works earnestly. The Metaculture has a policy of listing off any artist who submits music to the magazine, in order to give them a fair chance of gaining more listeners. What happens if someone starts actively reviewing music and giving point-blank feedback? What if it inadvertently brings the wrong reaction? Feedback has to be measured, or else it will turn outsiders away from Shelter entirely.

These possible futures depend on Shelter's long-term intent. It seems like they might want to make more irl deals, so eventually some of these challenges will have to be overcome. Remember: play it cool. Everyone has to, or else this special little space will be dismissed as niche and end up ignored by wider audiences in music.

Metaculture Music Round-Up: Changing Times, And The Looming Era of Art Criticism
A still from Rollthered's "Ice Cold".

New This Month

For April, things kicked up even more excitement musically.

Rollthered publishes Ice Cold, a track and music video that helps to show off the vibes of what the VR music scene is about. The MV features visuals, throwbacks, and AR face tracking. We think this is one of the best songs Roll has produced, period.

Cyntheszr and Aria Veil team up on Threat, a gorgeous techno track with a little bit of a 90's vibe floating around somewhere in the back. You could do a vogue routine to this. I honestly hope someone does.

Glass Persona's Archangel/Illuminate is just beautiful. "This is a two track single," the producer explains, "with a blend of dark and vibes, all in the veil of techno and progressive house." Our favorite has to be Archangel for its gentle piano highlight towards the end.

That's all for now! Tune in next time for more music, and don't forget to follow your favorites here.

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I love communication in all its aspects. I like to share my experiences, explorations, and knowledge with the Second Life community. I created the VIRTUALITY blog and 360 GRADI Magazine with this goal in mind.
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