How this 30-year-old raised $60 million for a VR firm that wants to transform the way you experience live music
- Anthony Matchett is CEO and cofounder of MelodyVR, a software company that lets people experience live music in virtual reality.
- The listed company has raised $60 million and collaborated with hundreds of artists including Wiz Khalifa, Liam Payne, Bebe Rexha, and Imagine Dragons.
- Matchett spoke to Business Insider about the challenges he faced in the company's early days, its current status in the music industry, and its potential for covering live sports.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
When you think of use cases for virtual reality, what springs to mind?
Gaming? Almost certainly. Films? Possibly. Live music? Probably not. But if Anthony Matchett gets his way, live music might just be the future of the medium.
The 30-year-old is the cofounder and CEO of MelodyVR, a software firm that lets people experience live music in virtual reality. Since setting up MelodyVR in 2014, Matchett says he has helped raise approximately $6o million in funding, and has worked with stars including Post Malone, Liam Payne and Bebe Rexha to produce content.
MelodyVR posted its first revenue last year of £1.2 million ($1.5 million) after launching its app - through which it serves its content - in May 2018. MelodyVR's losses nearly doubled to £11.2 million in 2018, from £6.2 million in 2017, but CMO Nikki Lambert was relaxed when asked about its long-term sustainability.
She said "it's very standard for early-stage businesses to take a number of years to break even or become profitable," adding that "at this point in our journey, we are still investing into growing our technology and platform." MelodyVR is listed and has raised much of its financing through issuing new shares.
The potential market for virtual reality is growing all the time. According to market research firm Orbis, the global VR market was valued at $3.13 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $49.7 billion by 2023. To put things into perspective, Business Insider Intelligence estimates that just 175,ooo VR headsets were shipped worldwide in 2014, the year MelodyVR was founded.
So how did someone in his mid-twenties convince bosses at Sony and Universal to buy into an idea based around a nascent technology, created by a company which had a long road to profitability?
How Matchett won over LA's music moguls
"When I and my business partner [Steven Hancock] walked into Universal's head office, with a very early Oculus Rift and a very heavy laptop with about 1,500 wires coming out of it, and told people 'this is the future,' we got a few funny looks," Matchett admits.
"I used to run a recording studio on the West Coast, and I saw a very early Oculus Rift prototype. I thought 'it's amazing for games, but what about other forms of entertainment? What about music?'
"When Facebook bought Oculus [in 2014], VR became very interesting. I had a chat with the guys at Facebook. They said 'we'd love to do live music for VR, but we're just not sure if it's possible'.
"One of the challenges at the time was that all the tech was huge. So we built our own, to make sure it was really high-resolution, and so that we could get five to 10 cameras onto a stage without upsetting tour managers.
"Beyond that, we wanted to build a platform that actually got the content into consumers' hands. I'm relatively techy by background, but I'm not an engineer or a coder. So we bought an engineering company in Hastings [in south England], and they became our in-house team.
"Over a period of about two years, our laptop went from the world's biggest laptop to a much smaller one with far fewer wires. Now, we use devices which have no wires and no sensors. Thankfully, the music industry was receptive enough to believe that we weren't talking rubbish."
'We're trying to bring live music to people who can't necessarily experience it'
Given the technical complications Matchett has overcome, his main reason for setting up MelodyVR is strikingly simple. "The vision was always: if you can put a fan on stage with their favourite artist through VR, what an amazing experience that would be," he says.
"With something happening at 7 p.m. on a Friday, there are people who haven't been able to buy a ticket or reach the venue, and our tech enables them to do that. We're trying to bring live music to people who can't necessarily experience it."
At this point in the interview, Matchett lets me try the tech. Headset on, I pick a show by The Chainsmokers from 2018 and am transported to the arena where they performed. It's striking how realistic my visual field is. I try going up on stage with the band, being on the front row, and loitering at the side of the arena.
To get MelodyVR, you'll need an Oculus Go or Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset. You then download for free the MelodyVR app, from which you can purchase any number of its live performances. There app also offers some free promotional content, as well as free previews of all shows.
Certainly the tech seems immersive - but how has it been received?
"There have been moments in user testing where people's jaws literally drop," says Matchett. "We've had a few users faint, which isn't necessarily what we're trying to do. But that's what VR delivers - that idea of empathy.
"The thing that makes [our tech] feel so real compared to traditional 2D TV coverage of live music is that you can spend the entire gig just watching a crazy fan in the crowd, if you want. Nobody's telling you where to look.
"The hope is that future people will be able to go back and experience today's artists anew."
MelodyVR eyes move into sport
One possible worry with MelodyVR is that this library will remain inaccessible to many music fans, at least in the near term. VR headsets - which you currently need to own be able to use MelodyVR - typically cost around £200. What does Matchett make of the price of headsets?
"For a lot of people, [our tech] might be pretty cost-effective," says Matchett. "If a ticket to traditional gig costs around £200, then what we're offering is a whole catalogue of gigs for more or less the same price: Oculus Rift headsets are around £200. But, yes, we're somewhat reliant on hardware manufacturers to market, promote and help build the hardware.
"That said, something we're keen to push this year is a device enabling people to access content on their smartphones, and we aim to get those into people's hands for much less than £200."
Driving down the cost of its existing service is very much the company's present focus. But what about other forms of entertainment? Will MelodyVR ever cover live sport?
"Potentially. I don't think [we'd do it] today, but as you can appreciate, what we do translates very well to certain things - comedy; opera; probably boxing. Whether we'll be going after the [English] Premier League any time soon, I'm not sure.
"There are amazing things you can do with VR that you just cannot do with anything else."
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