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In virtual reality, we’re placing the viewer inside a moment or a story… made possible by sound and visual technology that’s actually tricking the brain into believing it’s somewhere else,’ – Chris Milk, founder of Within.
It has struck deals with the three biggest record companies in the world, teamed-up with the likes of Microsoft and Jay-Z, launched in partnership with Facebook, and reportedly has Adele as an investor. No, it isn’t Spotify, Apple or Amazon, but a company named EVR Holdings, an AIM stock that boasts a value below £150 million.
EVR’s business operates out of its subsidiary MelodyVR. In just four short years MelodyVR has managed to turn its ambition of bringing live music events to the world through virtual reality (VR) to what is today an innovative, revenue-generating business with friends in all the right places.
Having launched its mobile app earlier this year in partnership with Facebook’s release of its new affordable VR headset the Oculus Go, MelodyVR now allows consumers in the US and across Europe to immerse themselves in live performances by their favourite artists using their headset, bagging any virtual seat in the house: in the pit, at the front or even on stage next to the likes of UB40, Jess Glynne and Cypress Hill.
EVR Holdings launches MelodyVR app
MelodyVR launched its mobile app in May of this year at Facebook's F8 conference in San Jose, featuring in the promotional launch of the Oculus Go. Customers can download the app and access previews of hundreds of live performances within MelodyVR’s library that can be viewed on third-party VR headsets, encouraging them to pay to download their favourite performances in full.
The story of EVR Holdings and MelodyVR so far…
- April 2015: MelodyVR is formed by Anthony Matchett and Steven Hancock to develop technology that allowed music performances to be recorded and streamed to users via virtual reality headsets
- May 2016: Armstrong Ventures buys MelodyVR for £5.1 million in shares, adding the founders of MelodyVR to its board. Begins trading in London under the new name EVR Holdings
- Sept 2016: Signs a deal for a ‘lite’ version of its MelodyVR app to be used with Samsung Gear headwear in Telefonica stores in Germany
- Dec 2016: Launches beta version of the MelodyVR app to be used with Samsung Gear as a trial over the Christmas period to gain feedback in order to optimise the product. Signs deal to create content of Warner Music artists, giving the record label an option to invest in EVR
- Mar 2017: Signs deal to create content of Universal Music artists, giving the record label the option to invest in EVR
- June 2017: Signs global deal with Microsoft to bring MelodyVR app to the software giant’s Mixed Reality Devices, securing funding and advice
- July 2017: Signs deal to create content of Sony Music Entertainment artists, giving the record label an option to invest in EVR.
- Aug 2017: Signs a string of licensing deals in Europe, striking what it believes to be the first deal ‘to license a virtual reality music service’
- Feb 2018: Matchett takes up the role of executive chairman in addition to his role as chief executive. Another deal is signed in Europe with Warner/Chappel
- April 2018: Signs licensing deals with a string of companies in the US.
- May 2018: Full launch of the MelodyVR app in the US and the UK at Facebook’s conference in San Jose, in conjunction with the Oculus Go
- June 2018: Launches MelodyVR app in eight European countries and officially declares itself as a revenue-generating business
The other prong to the business model is creating virtual environments that do not exist. When recording live performances and working with artists on content, MelodyVR’s attitude is ‘anything’s possible’, and it sees no reason why it should limit this to the music side of the business.
MelodyVR: downloading performances is just the start
For MelodyVR, its market-leading position twinned with its formidable partnerships gives it limitless opportunity to expand. The company’s next step is big: streaming live gigs to paying customers through their headset. This will represent another huge change for the music industry, which has already evolved rapidly in recent years as people transitioned from downloading music to streaming through the likes of Spotify. It technically means artists can sell unlimited ‘virtual seats’ to their performances, possibly presenting a new and highly valuable revenue stream, and could prove to be the springboard for new products such as a VR music album.
Revenue will be shared between the company, the artists and the record labels. In January, Matchett told Wired that he expected a single 360 degree music track to cost customers around £1, with a concert priced at between £8 and £15.
If music proves popular with VR fans then MelodyVR’s model could expand further: why not sell virtual seats to sold-out sporting events, theatre plays or even TV shows like Britain’s Got Talent? Companies like NextVR are already broadcasting the likes of football to VR users, allowing customers to root from the stands from the comfort of their own homes.
The real potential of VR is only just being discovered and new applications are still being found. London-listed SimiGon and Pennant International both use virtual reality for simulation training, Jaywing uses VR to bring data to life, and ProPhotonix has recently released a new IR laser diode (used in sensors) designed for virtual reality applications being deployed by firms looking to optimise their packaging and sorting operations. Newly-listed Immotion Group has seen its share price rise since joining the London Stock Exchange (LSE) this year as investors buy into its ‘out of home’ VR experiences that sees it combine its own content with simulation hardware.
Virtual reality headset sales rise as they become more affordable
Many of today’s groundbreaking technology starts out as nothing more than ideas dreamt up in sci-fi films and fantasy novels, and virtual reality is no exception. But now, much like holograms, smart speakers and flying cars, virtual reality has now become reality.
It has been a slow process, partly because it took time for those producing the VR content and those manufacturing the VR headsets to harmonise. However, MelodyVR’s timing has been spot on. After Alphabet launched its first ‘head-mounted display’, the Google Cardboard, and Facebook splashed out $2 billion to buy garage start-up Oculus VR in 2014, the founders of MelodyVR identified there was a lack of VR content in the pipeline despite growing adoption of VR by the big players.
Facebook, Alphabet, Samsung, Sony and HTC all have their own VR headsets and their adoption has helped spark consumer interest. Yes, the Google Cardboard was as cheap as the name suggested, requiring you to put your phone inside a box and then strapping it to your head, but the standalone VR headsets that have followed have understandably been pricey. That means VR has largely remained an expensive investment for customers with little reward; the price of headsets is high and the quantity and quality of VR content that is available is low. But this is gradually changing. MelodyVR has demonstrated the possibilities that VR brings in terms of content, and the fact it was launched in tandem with the Oculus Go – selling below $199 – shows VR is becoming more affordable. Still, sales of VR headsets was rising before the Oculus Go was released, supporting the view that the entry of more affordable models will accelerate adoption: