The Virtual Reality Rave Scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music. (WIP)

Video Presentation of this talk — created after the IRL presentation….

The virtual reality rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

Abstract 250 words

The virtual reality rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

Electronic dance music (EDM) has influenced youth counter culture movements and given disenfranchised communities a safe and empowered place to meet, play and dance for over four decades.

Born in the late 1980s as an underground club music scene called Chicago House, through to the ‘Super Club’ mainstream surge of the 1990s and 2000s — EDM’s popularity as a genre within nightclubs such as Cream (Liverpool, UK), Pacha (Ibiza) and Ministry of Sound (London, UK) helped grow EDM into a multi-million dollar entertainment industry.

This industry continued to grow to greater dominance within 2010s festival culture, sound tracking events such as Tomorrow land (Belgium) and hosting superstar DJs such as Tiesto, as resident DJs in Las Vegas.

What started as an underground counterculture movement is now in the 2020s a Billion dollar industry of club nights, brands and influencers.

But in March 2020 — as the Covid-19 Global pandemic forced a global lockdown, EDM and its global community were silenced.

This paper explores via a netnography methodology how virtual reality technology (VR) and the virtual reality platform VRchat created a safe, diverse and virtual way for a variety of youth global counter culture communities to continue to listen, dance and freely express themselves inside a VR based EDM scene.

The Goal of this paper is to explore how this might affect how Generation Z participants in the VR rave scene might consume popular music in the future and to better understand how this might change the Music Industry beyond 2022.

Keywords

EDM
Generation Z
Virtual Reality
Netnography
Counterculture
Dance Music
House Music
Music Industry
Covid-19

Introduction:

Presentation by Mark Ashmore — from the Dept of Computer Science and the Screen School at Liverpool John Moores University

My paper is entitled

The Virtual Reality Rave scene : How VRChat has transformed how Generation Z experiences EDM music.

and to present this to you in the 15 minutes provided, I have taken what is a very large subject matter, and digested it into key area’s of importance.

We will look briefly at

What Electronic Dance Music is.

introducing Generation Z

A short video introducing VRChat and my approach to researching this via Netnography

and finally a hypothesis on where this is all heading.

EDM (SLIDE)

For time, I’m going to cut the short History timeline of EDM music, which can be found in my conference abstract, and i’m going to jump straight into an example.

VIDEO EDM

So while the video you just watched of Tiesto at Tommorowland in 2022 — which obviously demonstrates the mass popularity of the medium —

its in-fact a study of its beginnings in the counter culture and how its twinned closely with the development of VR which my research will focus on — as in my opinion the merging of computer generated music and the rise of reality hackers (bare with me) and the growth of the VR space — give us the foundation for humanitys first digital natives, Generation Z.

Lets talk poetic Evolution

Whole earth Catalogue to Google

Bulletin board systems and dialling to be connected to a specific board — to Discord and 5G wifi everywhere from space!

From Delia Derbyshire to Daft Punk to Tiesto

From Friendstar and Myspace to Facebook to Tik Tok to VR Social platforms

A limited snap shot of 50 Years of computer science

This evolution didn't happen in a silo — it had a coupling with another technological movement — music.

EDM, computer created music was becoming common place in Detroit and Chicago in the mid 1980s, which later would blend into acid house — this merging of technological driven music, was born at the same time as a technological driven network of personal computers the early web was being built, and software and computer hardware for making computer music became democratised by price point and driven by youth culture,

with a person sat by the computer terminal evolved into a new human space / or state of mind, what Michael Benedikt calls Cyberia.

We must also remember that VR technology was not available to the masses at this time (the 80s/90s), and the version of VR that was available was in labs such as Jaron Laneirs VPL and cost millions of dollars on an invite only basis — and so the rise of Virtual spaces around the themes of Cyberspace / Cyberia, Neopagans and Ravers was born out of EDM scene and the imaginations of its participants— because they could create audio spaces, not graphical ones — yet?

Its important to note that..

EDM — is NATIVE to COMPUTERS (and the word native is very important), EDM can only be produced by Computers — it is COMPUTER MUSIC, its not naturally accruing — let that sink in for a minute — the sounds you hear, are from computer software and hardware, manipulated or programmed by digital producers, whom are both human and now machine via AI —

and it was this music, EDM music, which was the key component to spaces which represented Cyberia and Cyberspace — experienced at nights such as the Megatripolis in London and Acid house party’s in Chicago and Detroit — to name just two.

Michael Benedikt in his book Cyberspace first steps (Benedikt 1994) says in 1991 , after the 2nd summer of love of 88,

‘Cyberspace holds an immense fascination, it is not simply the fascination of the new. Cyberspace stands to thought….. as flight stands to crawling. The root of this fascination is the promise of control over the world by the power of the will. In other words, it is the ancient dream of magic that finally nears awakening into some kind of reality. (Benedikt 1994)

This blend of EDM music as the primer to immerse the human explorers within cyberspace, LAID the foundations for future Generations, in my opinion those Generations of Teenagers in 2022,

Gen Z are creating a graphical interface’s native to Cyberspace inside VRchat, which in the 90s COULD ONLY BE IMAGINED, and most importantly these spaces are USER GENERATED , — This native graphical interface of connected worlds, could now compliment the NATIVE computer music being produced now and in the past, and be populated by Digital natives — Generation Z.

Generation Z slide.

SO… Who Are Generation Z

4 key take away’s

1 — Born From 1995 — oldest of the group will now be 27 Years Old

Those Born in 2004–2006 would have turned 16–18 during the Covid Pandemic

Those born 2009 are now old enough (13 years) for a social media account

2 — First Generation of humans that are truly digital native, always known the internet — its like air!

3 — Generation Z and culture shocks — Financial Crisis 2008 — Conservative Government (UK) 6 Prime Ministers and a Donald Trump — rise of right wing politics — China Influence — Climate Change and now War in Europe and Cost of living crisis — Pass the zanix / or VR headset.

4 — Youtube consumption — Tik Tok and Instagram are the go to apps — visual communication Memes and Video, media savvy, tech users — SOCIAL Video Gamers.

Generation Z are the worlds first truly digital native generation, who’s lives are intertwined with a myriad of XR Technology. Generation Z are consuming and experiencing musical content in new and radical ways, which are completely different to the Millennial generation which came before them, and its Generation Z who make up the majority of the VRChat rave scene audience.

VR Chat rave scene and Netnography (SLIDE)

So how do I approach research in the VRchat Rave scene.

To document this emerging scene, I need a methodology which allows me to explore the space like a digital anthropologist, and this is where Netnography comes in

(Kozinets 2020) says — Focus, Data, Engagement, Praxis — These four elements distinguish netnography from all methods of understanding and provide a methodological basis for any netnographic project.

Cultural focus and the guiding principles of anthropology, sociology, cultural studies.

Social media data differentiates netnography from traditional ethnography and other methods such as surveys, focus groups, and personal in-depth interviews, as immersive engagement distinguishes netnography from more experienced-distanced methods of understanding social media data such as content analysis, text mining, quantitative modelling, and big data analytic’s, and adds deep human insight that comes from informed cultural reflection (Kozinets 2020).

Finally, netnographic praxis set netnography apart from generic forms of online or digital ethnography.

This approach allows me to gather examples such as interview with key participants in the culture.

SUMMARY (Slide)

So what can the music industry, and the emerging XR industry learn from this research.

This is my personal hypothesis

and I offer 3 key points to finish with.

1 — A digital native generation (Gen Z) can create and listen to EDM music, which is the native soundtrack to their social media, video games and influencer culture — EDM music is mature enough to have decades of History and therefore holds an influence — and if traced back, its emergence comes at a key time of computer and music history — the two in my opinion highlight my 2nd point.

2 — that Computer science and the arts needs to be studied in academia by removing the silo — what I mean is, that my background as a theatre practioner and the understanding of space and human interaction is a key component to my approach to better understand what Generation Z are doing inside these virtual worlds — the key word here is INTERDISPLINARY — Music, Art, Culture and Computer Science

3 — VRChat Raves and virtual gigs on platforms such as Fortnite and Roblox have been common place for over 3 years now, and Netnography as a methodology is in my opinion a native to web3 research tool — and so more research is needed into this space so that we can understand humanitys connection with digital and create and build new UK based virtual industries.

The VRchat rave scene is a window on to something new, but born out of something old, and perhaps ancient? The human need for connection and to express emotion through dance and music.

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Mark Ashmore

Mark Ashmore

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Mark Ashmore is a Ph.D Researcher at LJMU and founder of Future Artists - He writes about Computer Science, the Arts and Entertainment - He is also Dyslexic