‘Roblox’ Virtual Concerts Are Both Game-Changing And More Of The Same (In A Good Way)

On September 18, 2020, Ava Max released her debut album, Heaven & Hell. Around that time, she celebrated the project’s release with a launch party. The event didn’t take place in some personally meaningful place like her hometown, or in a major city among the big lights. Instead, it happened on Roblox.

Some context: Earlier that year, the COVID-19 pandemic (you might be aware of it) forced the world to essentially shut down. This put the live entertainment industry on pause. Concerts and other in-person events were temporarily no more. Oof!

More context: Roblox, an online game creation platform, launched in 2006 and has grown substantially since then. It was reported in 2022 that Roblox had 57 million daily users (and that half of them were under 12 years old).

So, with both of those things in mind, Ava Max and her team decided to launch Heaven & Hell on Roblox. On September 25, the event began. After a countdown, a pre-recorded video message from Ava Max played, in which she spoke about the event, discussed her new album, and answered some questions. She then sang two songs before the video ended.

It was a neat experiment, as IRL events weren’t super possible at the time. So, Ava Max made the best of the situation and came through with something intriguing and different. Different, but also something of a return to normalcy: While the music industry was on hold, Ava Max pressed forward via the means available to her and delivered as close to a familiar experience as was possible.

It was also just the start.

A few weeks later, Lil Nas X got in on the Roblox fun. On November 14 and 15, the rapper put on quite the show. He opened with a performance of “Old Town Road” before a digital costume change and a rendition of “Rodeo” as bats flew above him. The environment allowed for some fantastical elements not possible in a real-life concert. As the Roblox Wiki describes, the show involved tornadoes, a shift to a futuristic setting, Lil Nas X levitating in front of the moon, and a black hole.

Those were the first two concerts experiences on Roblox, and from there, artists like Elton John, Mariah Carey, aespa, Soccer Mommy, Saweetie, and others hosted their own virtual events. Were they worse than in-person shows? Well, that’s hard to say.

Leaving the house, bringing your physical body to a different environment, and seeing artists in front of your face isn’t something that can be replicated on a phone, computer, or game console. It’s a special experience than can really only be felt that specific way. The thing is, though, that virtual concerts don’t need to be that. In terms of what an in-person show offers, virtual shows can’t do it. They just can’t. In other ways, however, they can present much more.

Stage design for major tours can be incredible, but Lil Nas X isn’t getting functional tornadoes and black holes on a real-life stage. Roblox has long been an open forum for imaginative expression for its users and the same has been true when it comes to virtual concerts. It’s an opportunity for artists to put on a concert in ways they could never pull off otherwise. Give the world’s most talented and creative entertainers a limitless environment and special moments are bound to result.

Furthermore, sometimes, committing a few hours to going downtown, finding parking, getting to the venue, watching a concert, and making your way home is a lot. Nights when that seems overwhelming are the perfect occasion to just open an app on your phone/computer and catch some more convenient live entertainment, to still get the feeling that you’re watching something grand unfold in the moment.

Worth noting is that as novel as this whole thing may seem, a Roblox virtual concert isn’t a completely new idea (and not just because Fortnite did it before them, like with the Marshmello event in February 2019). Roblox events represent what the live entertainment business has long been about: meeting people where they are.

Really, performers have been bringing their shows to the people for a long as it’s been possible: Shortly after the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, circuses started traveling to the western half of the US. People were in their hometowns and most of them presumably didn’t have the means for significant travel (especially for leisure), so the entertainers went to them.

From there, music tours eventually became a major business, and some performers went beyond even just showing up in people’s cities. In the ’90s and ’00s, music lovers young and old spent a lot of time at the then-thriving malls. So, artists like Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne got set up between Claire’s and the food court to get a performance in. That’s where the people were, so that’s where the artists were.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought more popularity to remote-friendly practices like working from home and consuming the majority of entertainment online. Folks were in their rooms and on the internet, so that’s where the artists went.

Again, Roblox isn’t the first video game platform to host a virtual concert: Shout out to Duran Duran for performing a Second Life show in 2006. Roblox was, though, a leader in bringing them to the mainstream at the perfect time. It’s where the people were, and it’s where the artists could be whatever they wanted to be.

In 2023, the live entertainment industry is at the point where concert tours have long been back in full swing. This doesn’t mean virtual events should go back and hide in their hole of obscurity, though. Video games and other online products are as popular as they’ve ever been, and musicians are more open-minded and creatively free than ever before when it comes to self-promotional strategies.

So yes, for most artists, in-person events will return to their spot as the live entertainment priority. There’s no reason why virtual concerts can’t be a piece of the puzzle, though. While they had to fill in as the main feature for a little bit, really, they’re a different side of the same coin, one that offers its own unique value. It’s all just meeting people where they are, and as where they are changes, artists, as they always have, adapt and push the industry in exciting new directions.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. .