There’s been lots of buzz about metaverses lately, thanks to Facebook’s grand ambitions and the burgeoning blockchain gaming industry, but gamers know the metaverse has been around for a while now. Roblox launched in 2006 and in has built a community in the billions that’s captivated an entire generation (and their parent’s credit cards) — all by creating the sprawling metaverse experience coveted by tech and crypto giants. Now the biggest metaverse this side of Snow Crash is about to get even bigger. It’s about to get Spotify.
Beginning May 3, Roblox players can access Spotify Island, a new experience from the world’s premiere music streaming platform. Billed as a “paradise of sound” this parkour-forward experience lets players explore a vibrant world full of unique sounds, badges, and merch. It will also serve as a launchpad for a new way for artists and fans to connect online.
“Spotify Island is completely different from anything we've ever done before as a brand we built from scratch an entire interactive experience,” Spotify’s Director of Business Development Abby Stewart says.
So what’s it like on Spotify Island? As far as Roblox experiences go, don’t expect it to become the next Brookhaven, but it’s a fun space to play around. The funkadelic aesthetics definitely go all the way to 11, and the interactive soundboards and beatmakers (powered by Soundtrap) are especially cool.
“The main focus is to roam around, jump on and interact with objects and create sounds all while collecting points. You'll also see that everything on Spotify Island is alive and interactive. There's always something to discover,” says Stewart.
Spotify Island has a lot to see, but isn’t a gigantic space. This isn’t meant to be the final form of the company’s Roblox ambitions. It’s just the first of many such islands the music platform will launch as it collaborates with artists on their own unique content.
Kpop superstars SUNMI and Stray Kids are the first artists to partner with Spotify Island, which will soon turn itself into Kpop-themed wonderland K Park. Through this Roblox experience, the Korean superstars will offer custom merch for their fans’ in-game avatars. As Stewart explains, this is about giving artists a chance to connect with their fans on another level without having to make big commitments.
“In this world, so much is demanded of artists. They're asked to be ‘on’ 24 hours a day, constantly creating content, etc.,” she explains. “We want to create a low lift opportunity. If that's just creating digital merch, we're happy to take on the heavy lifting to do designs and come to them and have them approve them. Or if they want to go deeper, we're happy to do that, too. We really want to make it easy for artists to engage.”
That engagement is about more than artists just selling merch to fans. Spotify Island will provide opportunities for artists to host virtual meet-and greets-and signings, too. This won’t be a one-off arena for the biggest names in music to host special concerts a la Fortnite, but rather a place focused on building connections for artists — whether they have 15 fans or 15 million.
“We're really interested in flipping the script and have it be a lot more of rather than one artist broadcasting to many, we really want it to feel intimate,” Stewart said. “Part of our ambition is really creating the distinction between players and creators.”
There is enormous potential in this partnership. Roblox is a massive platform, reaching close to 50 million active daily users as of the end of 2021. That level of activity drives a lot of commerce, with nearly 6 billion virtual items acquired on the platform last year. If you’re an artist, partnering with Spotify island gives you a chance to tap into that. Spotify isn’t taking any revenue from those sales, either. All the money goes back to the artists.
So what’s in it for Spotify? Easy. In order to reach the next generation of fans, Spotify needs to meet them where they are and, increasingly, that means gaming. The company has already had successful partnerships with League of Legends, Sony and Microsoft so it understands how powerful a force gaming can be for driving connections between players and creators. Spotify Island is an extension of that kind of thinking.
During my brief hands-on it was clear to see how this could all come together. Spotify Island was a fun place to play, and I’m curious to see what kind of changes occur when K Park launches in a few weeks. If Kpop fans flock to Spotify Island, expect to see even more artists there soon, too.