Live & Touring

Ernest Lee, CEO of AmazeVR talks the future of VR concerts

As the future of in-person concerts remains unpredictable, the CEO of AmazeVR tells us that Virtual Reality may be the future of live music.

A guest post by Clayton Durant, Alex Jeffery, and Bayleigh Bogan of CAD Management.

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has damaged the live music business. Although nowhere near as
severe as 2020’s pause of the live business, 2021 didn’t go as smoothly as many had hoped
mainly due to the emergence of new variants of COVID and the slow recovery of the US

In 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that major acts such as the Eagles, Dead & Company,
and more were seeing 20% no-show rates at their in-person concerts. Even now, despite
positive signs of a receding pandemic, consumers continue to remain slightly weary of returning
to large in person concerts.

Although in-person events are still finding their stable ground to regain the momentum they had
in 2019, the growth of virtual concerts has certainly become a silver lining in the past two years.
In 2021, we saw Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Wale, and many other artists take on the virtual
concert space with partners such as WAVE, Fortnite, and Dreamstage. Superstar and smaller
artists alike are converting their social media platforms into virtual stages.

Even this coming week, Jennifer Lopez and Maluma will be performing live on Snapchat.
Beyond superstar artists, even smaller artists and content creators saw more consumption of
their online live streaming content. A report published by StreamElements found that Twitch’s
viewership increased 45% this year to over 24 billion hours watched across the site, a number
which certainly benefited artists who adopted that platform to perform for fans globally.
Beyond just music, the virtual events space has paid big dividends to industries like speaking
and conferences. In 2020, the 92nd Street Y in New York City saw nearly 4 million attendees to
their virtual programs and classes, up from 300,000 the year before.

Although the virtual concert space has provided unprecedented scale to events, these events
need to continue to innovate not only in the delivery of the content but in the underlying
technology to bring fans closer together with their favorite artists.

One of the companies moving the needle is AmazeVR, who will be partnering with 3x GRAMMY
winner Megan Thee Stallion and select AMC theaters to provide concert goers with a unique
virtual concert experience. Powered by proprietary 9K cameras and Unreal engine-based visual
effects, AmazeVR seeks to bring VR concert experiences to theaters and homes weekly by
2024, a goal made possible by a total of $30.8 million in funding.

We sat with Ernest Lee, CEO of AmazeVR to discuss the direction of the company including
how they plan to expand, who they plan to collaborate with, and the future of virtual reality
technology in concerts.

AmazeVR just announced a $15MM bridge funding round. Can you share with our
readers what that process was like securing your new funding round?

We decided to focus on VR concerts in late 2019, and we spent 2020 building out our proof of
concept with Roc Nation. With the overwhelming excitement from existing investors for our proof
of concept, we decided to open a bridge round in early 2021 to capitalize on that excitement,
raising $9.5M from new and existing investors. We were actually only targeting $6M, but the
round was quickly oversubscribed, and it’s best to raise money when you’re not desperate for it.
As we’ve finally found product market fit, 2021 was a massive year for us—we tripled our team
to 40+ professionals from across the music, gaming, entertainment, and tech industries; built a
pipeline of A-list artists; and secured theatrical distribution with AMC Theatres across the US.
With this momentum, we extended our bridge to raise a total of $15M to give us the room to
make myriad key hires ahead of our series B later this year.
The recent raise was really encouraging because we’ve dedicated our lives to this future we’re
building, and to get that external support is validation that we’re onto something big. We still
have much to do and figure out, but this is just the beginning of what’s to come.

You noted that one of the key uses of your new seed round will be to “hire new talent
aggressively”. Can you share with our readers what your corporate talent strategy is in
terms of hiring and what roles you will be hiring for in the future?

The magic behind what we do stems from our intense commitment to deliver an incredible
product that provides meaningful value to this world. And as we’re in uncharted territory creating
a completely new category of entertainment, it all begins with bringing in the best people who
share our vision for this next stage of music.
AmazeVR is equal parts a tech startup and entertainment company, and we need top talent
from across multiple disciplines. Our core VR concert product needs professionals from the AAA
gaming and tech industries to develop our Unreal Engine-based VFX pipeline and modules,
while collaborating with professionals from the music and entertainment industries to build out
culturally-relevant creative concepts and production tools that will resonate with artists and fans
As much innovation we have with our product, we’re pursuing the same level of innovation with
our business model—on the offline side, we’re solving the problem of artists’ fans not having
their own VR equipment by partnering with movie theaters to transform traditional auditoriums into VR concert venues. On the online side, VR mass adoption is finally now beginning, and
we’re building a music metaverse for users to experience VR concerts with their friends as we
strive for every artist to have a VR concert on Amaze someday.
Our success is contingent on bringing in the best people from diverse backgrounds to set a
strong foundation to scale our product and business. We’re building a team of entrepreneurs
with a founder’s mentality, hiring visionary leaders of today, while building a pathway for our
leaders of tomorrow.

AmazeVR is teaming up with 3x GRAMMY winner Megan Thee Stallion, to roll out a VR
concert experience in select AMC Theaters in Spring 2022. Can you share with our
readers a little more background on this concert and how this deal came to fruition?

When we decided to pivot into music in 2019, we did so with a belief that our proprietary VR
technology we had been developing since 2015 would create an entirely new way to enjoy
music. We had no music industry connections, just a passion for music as fans; but after a lot of
hustle and a bit of luck, we were able to work with a Roc Nation rising artist to build our proof of
concept in 2020.

After having an incredible experience collaborating with Roc Nation, they introduced us to one
of music’s most talented and exciting artists, 3x Grammy-winning artist Megan Thee Stallion.
Typically, most companies would build their way up to working with an artist like Megan, but with
our years of VR expertise and new teammates from the music and gaming industries, we were
confident to execute.

Strategically speaking, we believed that we needed a cultural tastemaker like Megan to usher in
this new medium of VR concerts. Megan’s a true artist and performer who isn’t afraid to push
the limits, and we’re grateful to her team for trusting us with her brand to create a mind-blowing
experience for her fans around the world.

Many virtual concerts we have seen in the past have been pushed to at home viewing
mediums like Twitch or Netflix. Why was pushing the Megan Thee Stallion VR experience
distribution point to AMC Theaters (in addition to the at home VR headset option) so
important for this upcoming concert?

With the current state of VR, you can reach the masses in two ways—you can (1) dilute the
product to reach the lowest common denominator through mobile and web, which then is no
longer real VR, or (2) take the product to the masses without compromising the user experience
through location-based entertainment (e.g., movie theaters). For us, delivering Megan’s VR
concert in the best fan experience possible is top priority, hence taking the second approach.

We believe in the future of VR and the online music metaverse we’re building—at-home VR has
recently taken off with Quest 2 shipping over 10M headsets, Beat Saber earning $100M+ in
lifetime revenue, and The Walking Dead earning 20% of their $60M lifetime revenue in the past
three months—so VR adoption is happening now. But as our target audience is the artist’s fans
who likely won’t have headsets of their own just yet, theatrical distribution removes any barriers
to entry as fans just need to purchase a ticket from our ticketing site, show up with friends, and
enjoy the show.

The VR technology that AmazeVR has developed is a big selling point for its product.
Can you share with our readers why VR technology will make these concerts so
“impactful” and why it is even more captivating than the 2D concerts many consumers
have likely experienced in the past?

The memory of a 2D concert is exactly that—the user is where they’re at in the real world
watching the artist from across a flat screen. Fans already have unprecedented access to their
favorite artists through social media and other formats, so we believe the next evolution of
music must provide exponential value as opposed to a new spin on what already exists, and VR
concerts are just that.

Our goal is for our technology to be so good that it becomes invisible, so that the fan’s memory
is not that of a great VR experience, but it’s that they actually came face-to-face with their
favorite artist sharing a moment in time, blurring the lines of reality. Our VR concert is a new
category of entertainment unlike any other medium that brings artists closer to fans than ever

In terms of the size of artists that can do VR concerts, is this reserved for the superstars
or will there come a point when emerging acts can tap into this technology to build their
own shows to connect with fans?

Our mission is for every artist to perform a VR concert on the AmazeVR platform someday.
While our current pipeline consists of A-list artists with highly customized projects that take
nearly a year to produce, we’re simultaneously redefining the VR concert experience to
eventually be accessible to every artist in the world. Through building out VFX and AI modules,
we’re templatizing and automating much of the foundational VFX work to decrease time, cost,
and resources necessary so that every artist can create an extraordinary VR concert experience
like none other. And by 2024, we’ll be releasing a new VR concert weekly through our online
metaverse service currently in development that we will continue to build out with our series B

While we’re excited about the US market, we’re extremely excited for the global opportunity VR
concerts will provide artists. Not every artist can tour internationally, but our VR concerts will empower artists at every level to reach, build, and monetize a global fanbase to which they
typically wouldn’t have access.

In terms of technology and consumer habits, what are some of the biggest challenges
that AmazeVR faces as it looks to scale into the future?

We see three major challenges as we’re looking to scale into the future.
First is hardware technology. While VR headsets have drastically improved in the last few years
with the Quest 2 being arguably the first great consumer-ready VR headset, the hardware still
needs to become lighter, better, and cheaper for mass adoption. We’re not in the hardware
business, but big tech companies are solving for this now—20% of Meta’s workforce is focused
on VR/AR, Apple is projected to release their MR headset next year, and ByteDance acquired
the world’s third largest headset maker Pico VR—and VR headsets will only get better from

The second challenge is the time, cost, and resources necessary to produce a VR concert. But
as previously stated, we’re solving for that now through our Unreal Engine-based VFX pipeline
and modules as we redefine the VR concert experience that will be accessible for all artists.
The third challenge is user adoption, but this will be solved as hardware improves and becomes
more accessible, and as the content becomes compelling enough to drive the cultural narrative.
The pandemic has accelerated user adoption of new technologies and formats, and we’re
thrilled to be collaborating with a tastemaker like Megan Thee Stallion who will help drive
adoption with our first commercial VR concert.

In regards to physical touring, do you see virtual and VR concerts as an additive to tours
or potentially replacing tour dates in an artist’s routing in the future? How do you see
virtual concerts impacting physical ticket sales of an artist’s tour? Will they help build
ticket value or could they negatively impact sales as consumers adopt experiencing
virtual concerts?

We’re creating a completely new category that provides a different value to fans than concerts
or music videos. And as an artist strategy comprises touring, streaming, partnership, etc, so will
VR concerts be a core category and revenue stream for artists.
The incredible thing about what our team is creating in VR is that VR concerts are not an
afterthought or something that’s just a nice add-on to concerts—VR concerts are a completely
new category and should carry weight independent of touring. And while we don’t intend VR
concerts to ever fully replace live in-person concerts, I do think VR concerts will allow artists to
not have to tour as often to provide meaningful shared experiences with their fans.

Overall, what do you hope fans will get out of experiencing a virtual concert with

We want fans to leave the experience not thinking they had a great VR experience, but that they
actually came face-to-face with their favorite artist in a shared moment, blurring the lines of
reality. We want to bring fans closer to artists than ever before, making them feel seen and
deeply connected with their favorite artists, expanding their reality.
Someday soon, as people associate music videos with YouTube or touring with Live Nation,
people will associate VR concerts with AmazeVR. And whether they like a particular artist or
not, they can trust that a VR concert by AmazeVR will always delight and inspire.

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