Karta is one of the metaverse specialists that’s pioneering in-game experiences to help acts expand their reach on platforms including Roblox and Fortnite.
In the last few years, Karta has delivered a number of projects on Roblox, Fortnite and Decentraland for the likes of Amazon Music, K-pop group Twice and Blackpink.
The company has just launched its own Fortnite studio to partner with rights-holders from music, entertainment and sport to create maps and games within the platform, opening up new revenue streams for rights-holders.
Fortnite just had the biggest day in its history, with 44.7 million logging a total of 102m hours of game play on Saturday (November 4) in new season Fortnite OG, according to Epic Games.
Karta recently secured $1.1 million in investment from industry figures across music, gaming, sport and finance, including Amy Thomson, artist manager and former chief catalogue officer at Hipgnosis.
Here, CEO Erik Londré and co-founder Tony Barnes – who held senior digital roles at Virgin EMI and Hipgnosis, as well as chairing the 2020 BRITs Digital Committee – open up about the evolution of the metaverse and music…
How has the company grown in the last two years? What have been the key developments in this space?
Erik Londré: “We started with nothing more than a vision of the future really – that virtual worlds were to become increasingly important to all aspects of human culture, commerce and social life. Now this is a reality, anyone that needs to reach as many young people as possible is going to need a company like Karta. It turned out we were right, and this vision has now turned into 21 full-time staff and work for some of the world’s biggest artists, sports teams and brands.
“The platforms we mainly work on such as Roblox and Fortnite have become more popular, easier to use and just better overall from a creative and commercial standpoint. The future is really exciting.”
Where do you think the metaverse is heading next, how is it evolving – and is it important for the music industry to embrace it?
Tony Barnes: “Ultimately, we see a world in the not-too-distant future where every artist, brand, sports team and IP owner who is looking to talk the talk and be relevant to younger audiences will need to have a strategy for the metaverse, much like they need for social media. TikTok and YouTube are brilliant entertainment channels for young people, but where they hang out, socialise, play games, shop and spend their time is in social video games and the metaverse.
“The metaverse isn’t a vision of the future, it’s happening right now, on platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite. But we envisage a more permanently connected world, and believe tech such as blended VR and AR will have an increasingly important role in the future.”
Tony, how have you found transitioning from music to tech – what are the lessons you can apply from working at labels?
TB: “Well, I have always been focused on youth culture and connecting artists and music to new audiences using new platforms and technology, so the transition feels familiar but refreshing at the same time! However, my label background also means I completely understand what artist teams are looking to achieve, what success looks like, the internal dynamics, how they like to work, budgets and timelines. And on a more practical level, the challenges and complications around licensing music for this space.”
The metaverse isn’t a vision of the future, it’s happening right now
How do you work with artists and labels on metaverse projects - how do you ensure that they are a good fit in the virtual world?
TB: “It begins with research. Our entire team will immerse themselves in the story and journey of an artist, to help ensure we deliver a concept and strategy that is completely aligned with the artist and their audience. Karta approaches every challenge with a marketer’s mindset and we take a long-term approach, so we like to collaborate very closely and become a trusted partner to our artists and labels. And we’re very honest about whether we think the artist is right for the platform, as it is not always the case – even a superstar artist may not have the right audience for Roblox for instance.”
How do the worlds of gaming and music complement each other? Will this continue to develop?
EL: “If we’re talking about youth culture and how young people spend their time it’s almost impossible to separate the importance of music and gaming. Deloitte says that 42% of gamers listen to music whilst they are playing.”
TB: “We have also seen the integration of music in video games going back to Nine Inch Nails’ soundtrack to Quake in 1996! And more recently with Fortnite Radio for instance. But the opportunity right now is that whilst there are three billion gamers in the world and hundreds of millions of players in Roblox and Fortnite, the artists are only just beginning to enter themselves.”
How are the new investors in Karta helping the development, particularly on the music side with high-profile execs?
EL: “We are so proud and excited about the investors we have on board, they are all so experienced and successful in their fields and will add so much value to Karta on a strategic level.”
TB: “On the music side, to have Amy Thomson on board with us is simply massive as she is, in my eyes, one of the greatest music managers and marketers of all time, who has so much knowledge, creativity, passion and drive. We’re very lucky to have her with us.”
What will the funding enable you to do in the next phase? What have you got planned at Karta?
EL: “The funding we've secured allows us to be more agile in our operations, including hiring new talent and expanding on to new platforms and regions. As the virtual world platforms continue to advance, new opportunities arise which we can take advantage of. With this investment, we're excited to be able to go after these opportunities more easily and more frequently.”