Interview

Roblox's Jonathan Vlassopulos on music biz meets the metaverse

Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #6 kicks off on April 19th

Roblox's Jonathan Vlassopulos on music biz meets the metaverse

Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #6 takes place from April 19th to 23rd, so to give you a taste of what to expect, we'll bring you interviews with some of our esteemed speakers at the show.

The conference spans five days and will feature a broad selection of tracks, talks and speakers, as well as various fringe events and the return of our meeting system.

For more details on the event and to book a ticket, head to the website.

This time, we spoke with Roblox vice president and global head of music Jonathan Vlassopulos, who will host a Fireside chat on 'The Relationship Between Music and Games’.

It will explore new opportunities between music and games for artists, labels and players alike.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about your company?

Jon Vlassopulos: Roblox is an online community where every day an average of 32.6 million people come together virtually to share experiences, play, create, consume entertainment and explore millions of immersive worlds with their friends.

These virtual worlds are created by our developer community of over eight million creators.

There’s something for everyone: building your own amusement park, working at a pizza place, becoming your own DJ, or enjoying a music concert.

Visionaries and futurists call it the Metaverse. We believe it’s the future of how billions of people will connect, play, work, learn and share experiences together, and we don’t see any limitation on what Roblox can be and what people will use it for.

What does your role entail?

As global head of music at Roblox, I lead the company’s initiatives and partnerships with music, including record labels, publishers, management companies, artists, brands and music startups.

It was too exciting to not be a part of building the future of the music business and helping generate promotional and commercial opportunities for all parties in the music ecosystem.
Jonathan Vlassopulos

We work with the industry to create new commercial and promotional opportunities around virtual concerts - like our recent Lil Nas X concert or the recent Royal Blood virtual gig - as well as in-game music distribution, virtual merchandise, interactive artist worlds and interactive music and video experiences.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I joined Roblox in 2020 after having spent most of the last decade as an entrepreneur and investor. I wasn’t sure I would ever be tempted to join a company again, but when I started getting to know the Roblox team and hearing about the vision, I was hooked.

I started my career in the 90s in music as a DJ and then as a record label exec at BMG, so it is really coming full circle for me, career-wise.

Back in the day, I pitched artists on why they should get on the web and create a website. Then at AT&T Wireless, we worked with the music industry to drive billions of dollars of unforeseen new revenue with self-expression products like ringtones and wallpapers. This opportunity really felt like a similar step-change - getting artists excited about the Metaverse and all the opportunities that exist for them on platforms like Roblox.

It was too exciting to not be a part of building the future of the music business and helping generate promotional and commercial opportunities for all parties in the music ecosystem. I am confident that we can build an ecosystem on Roblox where millions of artists can earn a living wage which would be transformational for the music business!

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

There are so many exciting opportunities in the games industry right now - its impact is much larger than games! Games are shaping the culture at large, they are connecting people and helping them find communities, teaching them real-life skills. There are virtual economies built around games that are growing exponentially and raising the next generation of entrepreneurs.

There are virtual fashion trends emerging from platforms like Roblox. There’s music that’s embedded in games, and the entertainment industry is still exploring opportunities that are arising as the metaverse is materialising. And consumers want to be a part of shaping their experience and expect a two-way dialogue with creators.

For example, a recent study from the National Research Group found that "nine in 10 Generation Z are excited about playing games that change in real-time,” also discussing how “endless metaverses of games like Roblox are raising the bar for how young audiences expect to control and impact the content they consume.”

I’d recommend really understanding all these recent changes and trends, identify niches and areas of focus that resonate most with you and enable your creative expression, and get on that metaverse train as soon as possible. You have a chance to be early but that window is not going to last long.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

Given the global pandemic, the games industry has obviously boomed and people are spending a huge amount of time on platforms like Roblox. As a result, it’s been amazing to see the industry respond and try to innovate and experiment with new, immersive experiences for players.

For many of our users on Roblox, their first-ever concert was Lil Nas X, this is crazy to think about...
Jonathan Vlassopulos

For example, Roblox is all about shared experiences, so we used virtual concerts to deliver immersive, interactive musical events that brought our community together and offered unique features that they may never experience in the real world. Our virtual concerts have allowed artists to still engage with their fans in a virtual space, performing and interacting with them almost in the same ways they would in real life.

For many of our users on Roblox, their first-ever concert was Lil Nas X, this is crazy to think about but they do not see a distinction between the real world and the virtual world so for them it will always be their first concert! It’s been great to see music and games come together so seamlessly and creatively in the last year, I am very excited for what’s to come.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

I think the partnership between music and games is only going to get bigger moving forward and more and more developers and publishers will take notice. We’re only scratching the surface of a massive new industry that will continue to combine games and music in unprecedented ways.

For example, I think that as we start to move out of lockdowns, virtual music experiences in games will complement physical ones. Virtual concerts could be a great way to kick off a real-world tour for artists, and fans won’t need to pick between virtual or live concerts - they’ll be able to attend both. Simply put, labels and artists will only want to further extend their brands onto platforms like Roblox.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

For me, the key change is the growth of music as an exciting, innovative component of games. Music has always been a part of games - through soundtracks - and it’s always been present on the Roblox platform; our developers can access licensed music, for example, from the Monstercat library based on the partnership we signed last year, and our users can explore music-themed worlds.

But since I joined the industry, we’ve really seen music collide with games, and platforms like Roblox have started to connect players with their favourite music and artists in new and unprecedented ways, like virtual concerts and launch parties.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

I’m really looking forward to my fireside chat with Dave Bradley. I can’t wait to dive in and discuss the exciting new ways music is changing games together.

Want more?

The full conference schedule is now live on the website. In the meantime, you can also check out our other track rundowns and coverage of previous Pocket Gamer Connects conferences ahead of the event itself.

Register for Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #6 today!


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