Interview with Adam Arrigo, The Wave VR

Story by Benjamin F. Kuo


Earlier this week, The Wave VR announced a round of funding, to develop a virtual reality environment specifically for live music. We spoke with Adam Arrigo, CEO of the startup, to learn more about what the whole idea behind The Wave's VR software is, and how the company it looking to apply VR to the music industry. The Wave VR is backed by PCB Edge, Presence Capital, Rothenberg Ventures, RRE Ventures, The VR Fund, Seedcamp, plus angels, and dual headquartered in Los Angeles and Austin. (This is also posted on our sister site in Southern California).

What is The Wave VR?

Adam Arrigo: What The Wave VR is, is the world's first, interactive music concert platform. The way it works, is it allows anybody, from an aspiring artist, to a famous electronic artist like Deadmau, to host shows in a virtual venue. Right now, we are focusing on the DJ use case, but anyone can drop their tracks in and put on a VR show, use the 3D interactions, and be a DJ. Our fans can be networked into that virtual venue as avatars, live from anywhere in the world. You can consider it a VR dance party. People are able to be in totally different locations, and interact in real time.

How did you start The Wave WR?

Adam Arrigo: I love music games and music, and had worked at Harmonix on the Rock Band franchise, Dance Central, and a bunch of other games that had this interactive, social component around music. What I saw, working on Rock Band, was how fun it is when we interact with others around music. The Rock Band experience is very different playing it as a single person, versus having four band members. From that, I saw how much room there is to innovate in the interactive music space. I met my co-founder, Aaron Lemke, at GDC. He's a virtual reality design guru. Everyone knows him in this industry, and he has nine VR titles, including some of the best VR content out there for Oculus. We started brainstorming on how to use this new medium to push the music industry forward, and see what we could do in terms of music creation, performance, and ultimately, connecting people together using virtual reality. We started prototyping and it all coalesced around this vision of a VR music social platform, where people can socialize around these live music shows. We formed the team, built our first prototype, and started showing it to people. They were blown away. We were amazed at how positive the reaction was from people in not just the technology industry, but those in the music industry at large. We had a bunch of labels, management companies, and other reach out to us when we started showing the demo, with everyone asking us how we could use VR to push the music industry forward, and create new experiences for fans.

What's the hardest challenge in creating that VR environment?

Adam Arrigo: There are some technical limitations on how many people can be in the same exact space. And although we don't know what the specific limitations are yet, hypothetically, we can have infinite people attending the same live show. It's the same way servers work now, in that it's infinitely scalable. However, those people may not be in the same physical space, but will see the same single performer, who can hypothetically perform for all of their fans at the same time.

How are you distributing this VR content?

Adam Arrigo: The platform is fundamentally for music lovers, so we are supporting as many platforms as possible for viewing, and the creation experience. Right now, we have it working for HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR. Our intent is to support as many headsets as possible, via mobile VR, console VR. At a minimum, we want to let people on any platform to come in as an audience attendee. If you want to be a DJ and create music, we feel like you need to have touch controllers. But in terms of consuming that content, it will be available to anybody.

Is this something that just some key acts will be able to use, or what's your plan there?

Adam Arrigo: It's really for anybody. We think the growth of the platform will come from user generated content, though we'll definitely have key influencers in there. If you ever used Turntable.FM, that was awesome. They started letting anyone become a DJ in the browser, and ended up attracting influencers like Sir Mix-a-Lot and other celebrity Djs. So, we think it's a mix of both. We've started building this for musicians. Everyone in our company is a musician, most of us are Djs, and so we found something about the 3D, interactive experience VR attractive. It's even something non-musicians can use, which we were surprised to find out during development—anyone can do this. Our goal is a democratic, live music experience, both from the audience and creative perspective.

Will there be a cost to access this VR content?

Adam Arrigo: We're not sure yet. We're exploring several monetization models. We are focused on creating the most engaging, social experience, and then figure out what the model will be. We have several different things we are looking at, from selling concert tickets, to in-app purchases, to letting you customize your avatar, to brand integration. There are several different models, but right now we're looking at creating the most engaging experience for users.

What's the biggest challenge you've run into so far?

Adam Arrigo: The biggest challenge is VR in general, and finding the things you can do in VR you can't do in reality. Our design philosophy is to double down on creating a very high value proposition. We want you to put on a headset, and get an experience that is not only impossible in reality, but which you haven't dreamed of before. For us, with our background in games and design, we're hyper-focused on creating a great aesthetic experience. We want users to go in there, find a place they can stay, and put a piece of themselves where they can social in ways not otherwise possible.

Finally, when will your first event in virtual reality be?

Adam Arrigo: We haven't announced when the first version comes out, but hope to have a beta by the end of the year.