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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.

Go deeper

Patreon raises $90 million as the pandemic drives artists to it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Patreon, which lets artists get paid directly by fans for content subscriptions, has raised $90 million in new funding at a valuation of $1.2 billion. The investment round is led by New Enterprise Associates and Wellington, with Lone Pine, Glade Brook Capital, Thrive Capital, DFJ Growth, and Index Venture also participating.

Why it matters: With the pandemic shuttering traditional performance venues, eliminating live events and slowing the broader economy, creative workers of all stripes — musicians, writers, actors and more — are seeking alternative sources of revenue.

28 mins ago - World

U.S. intelligence expects a stormy year in the Middle East

A technical team explodes remnant ammunition near Sirte, Libya. Photo: Mohammed Ertima/Anadolu Agency via Getty

Ongoing conflicts, economic crises and the fallout from COVID-19 will likely destabilize several countries in the Middle East in 2021 and could even put some on the brink of collapse, according to the U.S. intelligence community's annual Threat Assessment Report, released on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The report is the most comprehensive assessment the intelligence community produces every year. It paints a portrait of conflicts, insurgencies, terrorism and protest movements across the Middle East.

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Officer Kim Potter arrested, charged with manslaughter in Daunte Wright's death

Photo: Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune via Getty Images

Kim Potter, the former police officer who fatally shot Daunte Wright outside Minneapolis on Sunday, was arrested and charged by Washington County Pete Orput with second-degree manslaughter on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The shooting of the 20-year-old Black man in Brooklyn Center, Minn., just ten miles from where George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer last year, has reinvigorated Black Lives Matter protests and led to three consecutive nights of unrest.