A Backstage Look at the Metaverse’s First Music Award Show

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Bretman Rock, GAYLE, and Lizzo Roblox avatars

Historically, award shows have been exclusive affairs: from serving looks on the red carpet to the after parties, much of the experience is mediated through the screen to viewers far away. The vicarious thrill of the glitz and glamour isn’t lost on viewers watching from home, but gains in digital have the potential to reinvent the award show format into experiences that are playful, interactive and open to anyone with an internet connection.

“Television award shows are seeing a decline in viewership, while social media and audience expectations have challenged what an award show should even be,” says Eric W. Shamlin, Media.Monk’s Global Head of Entertainment. “Today the audience is more demanding and in more control than ever before.”

Digital culture has already made its mark in mainstream ceremonies, as exhibited in TikTok’s influence over the Best New Artist category at this year’s GRAMMYS. But more broadly speaking, the internet has played a substantial role in shaping culture through music. This trend is proven by the Billboard Song Breaker Chart, a monthly music industry chart co-created with Logitech For Creators, to spotlight trendsetting creators who are driving music consumption through content creation and positively disrupting the traditional music business model.

This year the second annual Song Breaker Awards, presented by Logitech For Creators, is putting those names on display. The ceremony will take place in Roblox on April 30 at 10 a.m. PST, pulling back the velvet rope to deliver a creator-centered, fun-first experience honoring ten individuals driving culture. As reported by Fast Company, it’s the first music award show in the metaverse and will be hosted by Bretman Rock. The experience culminates in performances by singer-songwriter GAYLE and multi-GRAMMY award-winning artist Lizzo, who is making her metaverse debut with a new single. But more importantly, the show offers a blueprint to how metaverse worlds can uniquely celebrate and enable creativity at an unprecedented scale.

"In re-imagining what a creator-focused award show could look like in the metaverse, we sought a partner that could guide us in this brand new space,” said Meridith Rojas, Global Head of Talent and Entertainment, Logitech. "In order to create for this format, you need to know this format. Media.Monks' inclusion of narrative and game-play resulted in a truly vibrant and engaging environment and production that's sure to surprise and delight the audience."

An Awards Show Starring… You

Owing to the Song Breaker Awards’ roots in digital creativity, Roblox itself is a robust platform for creative expression. It makes game and experience development easy for audiences with little to no background in programming, which has sparked a thriving creator community of 49.5 million average daily active users in Q4 2021. This makes the platform an ideal space for an engaging twist on musical award shows—if you know what the community values.

We partnered with Kurt Bieg, Chief Game Designer at Simple Machine, to create an experience that feels authentic and engaging to the Roblox community. “We built the show around a story that kids will care about,” says Bieg, teasing a high-stakes plot that players will engage with in real time. But focusing on a participatory narrative doesn’t mean the award ceremony itself falls into the background. “As viewers will see, the honorees will play a key role in shaping the story. It supports Logitech For Creators’ promise, ‘Together we create,’” says Bieg.

 

Monk Thoughts Moving the classic award show into the metaverse allows for maximum engagement and increased levels of interactivity and storytelling. There’s no turning back and we’re proud to support Logitech in this bold move that will set the standard for awards shows of the future.
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Eric Shamlin headshot
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Once inside the world, attendees can explore a futuristic city tricked out with gamified and interactive elements, from larger-than-life selfies, a shop stocked with digital Lizzo and Logitech merch, and even a roller coaster that glides throughout the city’s borders. What makes this space unique to other high-profile Roblox experiences is that the entire event takes place within one seamless environment. “Usually, Roblox experiences play out across a series of scenes like dioramas, but ours is one persistent world,” says Bieg.

Song Breaker Awards Roblox entrance

In that respect, the Song Breaker Awards might be more like a physically embodied event than initially expected. “We treated the show more like a traditional stage, where set pieces are moving in and out,” says Brett Burton, Creative Director at Media.Monks. “It seems like an old-fashioned way of doing things, but it is technically challenging.”

Interactive Environments Range from Chill to Thrill

As people explore the city, they’re met with a series of experiences that build up excitement before the big show—perhaps the flashiest being the Selfie XL, a unique innovation developed for the Song Breaker Awards. Rather than take a photo, the camera recreates players’ avatars with a clone that towers over the city skyline for everyone to see.

The Selfie XL is made possible through a quirk in the way selfies  function in the platform. When you take a photo in Roblox, the program renders a copy of the scene and flattens it into a 2D image. “We thought, ‘If we’re cloning the models, why don’t we just make them ginormous and not flatten them?’” says Bieg, who expects fans will try to push the Selfie XL to its limits, like trying to fit as many people as possible in its field of view.

A roller coaster designed to look like Logitech mice makes for another way to immerse oneself in the city as it travels across various places of interest. It’s just one of many creative nods to popular Logitech products that players may recognize from their own setups. “We wanted to turn Logitech’s products into unique experiences that would surprise everyone,” says Burton. “We wanted to incorporate them in ways that didn’t feel heavy handed but fit the world.”

Taking another cue from amusement park design, these main attractions—outside of the musical performances and award ceremony itself—are cleverly spaced out to invite attendees to explore around the entire city. Burton notes that many nooks and crannies are designed to be meme-able to encourage sharing—think of them like the virtual version of selfie stations you might find at a zoo or a museum. As people wander, they may uncover a handful of Creator Coins that unlock exclusive dances and animations to uniquely express themselves throughout the show.

Doubling Down on Creative Expression

Speaking of expressing oneself, one of the most fun things about Roblox is outfitting your avatar and showing off your style. Meanwhile, one of the best parts of seeing a good show is hitting the merch store for a memento that expresses your fandom. Those who attend the Song Breaker Awards can do both by exploring an immersive shop filled with virtual Lizzo merch and gear based on Logitech products, like a Blue Yeti microphone arm or an Astro headset.

The approach to merch hearkens back to Logitech For Creators’ purpose in supporting digital content creators. “We thought around what would make the merch valuable to someone playing Roblox. The idea was to let people dress themselves like a walking influencer,” says Bieg. Some of the pieces, like a body suit in the shape of a mouse, are sillier—serving the community’s love for funniness and memes.

Inside the merch store within Roblox for the Song Breaker Awards

Of course, the headlining experience of the Song Breaker Awards is the show itself, as well as lifelike virtual performances by GAYLE and Lizzo using motion capture. Viewers will also get to see MeganPlays (known as “The Peachy Princess of Roblox”), musician and activist Jaden Smith and Twitch streamer Shroud throughout the event. But beware: we hear that a mischief maker may crash the party to throw things into disarray. Can the power of creativity and community set things right?

“From start to finish, the level of detail that went into designing a fully-immersive and interactive world inside Roblox is truly unmatched,” said Nick Cicchetti, Media.Monks Senior Producer. “Beyond that, the narrative and storytelling that ties the performances together with internet culture to bring everyone in the audience from passive viewer to active participant is something that can only be done in a new environment made possible by technology and creativity. I’m thrilled to push the boundaries of what’s possible in the metaverse to bring the Song Breaker Awards to life, and I can’t wait for everyone to experience it firsthand.” 

You can explore the Song Breaker Awards pre-show area in Roblox right now. Look forward to the main event on Saturday, April 30 at 10 a.m. PST with three additional screenings throughout the weekend.

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