Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With concerts and music festivals canceled across the country, artists are flocking to virtual gaming platforms like Minecraft and Fortnite to give fans the next best thing to a live music experience.

Why it matters: As artists continue to figure out how to get paid performing online and aim to connect with even bigger audiences there, expect more virtual concerts to pop up, even as the country reopens.

Driving the news: Minecraft, a popular video game in which players can create and join 3D worlds, will host a dance music festival with some of the biggest electronic artists next month, including Diplo, A-Trak, Above & Beyond and others.

  • It comes on the heels of several successful Minecraft concerts, a virtual spin-off of the cancelled SXSW festival called Block by Blockwest.
  • Minecraft allows users to create virtual pixelated worlds that can resemble real-life places or be completely made-up. In the absence of live concerts, some venues are recreating stages for performances within Minecraft.

Be smart: Virtual concerts started out as a natural fit for electronic music artists, given how tech-heavy their work is, but they're quickly catching on with other music genres.

  • More than 12 million users watched rapper Travis Scott's concert on Fortnite last month. Many more watched the concert outside of the game, too, on live-streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube.
  • Last year, alternative rock band Weezer debuted four tracks exclusively from its new album on Fortnite.

Background: Electronic artist Marshmello introduced the idea of the first-ever virtual concert last year, drawing over 10 million viewers on Fortnite.

  • The successful performance inspired other major artists like Steve Aoki and deadmau5 to work with gaming companies to design their own virtual concerts.

The big picture: The pandemic has accelerated a budding trend of transitioning the $12 billion+ live concert industry online.

  • Many artists are also turning to Twitch, the Amazon-owned live-streaming platform, to make money during the crisis. While other platforms like Instagram Live make it easy for artists to reach big audiences, Twitch is seen by many artists to have better opportunities to make real money, per The Verge.
  • While Twitch has long been considered a destination for gamers and esports, it has started to diversify its live content to include everything from video blogging to live music.

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