Can Virtual Worlds Sell Music?

NEW YORK Capital Music Group is making its first foray into the virtual world, skipping the de rigueur island on Second Life in favor of what it hopes will be more choice real estate with smaller metaverse There.com.

The record label is setting up a nightclub on There.com that lets fans listen to music from its artists and even meet them during performances. While most brands claim their goal in virtual worlds is only to learn from the 3-D interactive environments, CMG hopes to sell music through kiosks in the nightclub that link to e-commerce outlets.

“It’s an opportunity to see if this is a really good opportunity for merchandise to be sold,” said Syd Schwartz, svp of digital strategy at CMG. “Like anywhere on the Web, you have to make it one click away. If you have the Beastie Boys in chat, why wouldn’t you have it one click away?”

CMG is promoting five artists on There.com: The Beastie Boys, Korn, Mims, Yellowcard and Lily Allen. Mims has the first concert in The Tower on July 10.

There.com is a lesser-known virtual world compared to the much-hyped Second Life. While Second Life claims 7.6 million “residents,” There.com has a more earthbound 1 million. Both sites do not break out how many are regular users. According to comScore, There.com attracted 177,000 visitors in May.

Despite the smaller audience, Schwartz is confident There.com can make The Tower a hit, in part because it will proactively funnel users to the club via announcements when they log on, signage in the world and even virtual street teams to spread the word. CMG will also have prime real estate on There.com for users to find The Tower.

It was also attractive for its moderation techniques, which filter offensive language, and “community managers” that maintain what There.com parent company Makena Technologies CEO Mike Wilson said is a “PG-13 environment.” This is in contrast to the freewheeling Second Life, where bordellos are regular features and in some cases virtual gangs have attacked brand outposts.

“Our theory is there are more people who are comfortable [in a virtual world] where they will not run into giant walking genitalia,” he said.

There.com is the platform used by MTV to build its Virtual Laguna Beach.

Schwartz declined to put a number on how many avatars would find their way to the club, though he was confident it would not resemble the ghost towns that many brand outposts in Second Life have become.

“If you have several hundred or several thousand people, you’ve got a successful event,” he said. “When’s the last party you went to that had several hundred people that sucked.”