Virtual music is testing the limits of human connection

Metaverse artist Sami Tauber, aka VNCCII, says it will be some time before artificial intelligence breaks its own repetitive patterns and behaviors and creates music we’ll want to listen to. Here’s why she says we should accept it when it does.

Virtual music is testing the limits of human connection | Ipsos | What the Future
The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab
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Sami Tauber is a Gen Z Australian musician and artist who performs worldwide as a human, and metaverse-wide as a super-sentient crime-fighting cyborg heroine named VNCCII (pronounced like Leonardo da …). She blends virtual realities with real-world talent to create new ways of connecting with fans. But how long will it be before music itself is created virtually?

Matt Carmichael: Do you do many interviews in your actual form?

Sami Tauber: I'm kind of like Daft Punk. They’ve got the helmets. My mask is my character, but I enjoy talking as myself.

Carmichael: How did you develop this persona and how did VNCCII start?

Tauber: I love gaming and I love storytelling. It was around 2017. The name itself was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci. I respected the polymathic approach to art. It was an aspirational name, and that inspired a super-hero character. I thought, when I put out my music, it'd be cool to tell a story and add an extra dimension that I didn’t have at the time. I didn't have anyone really to look to who was doing that.  

Carmichael: How does she interact with you?

Tauber: I'm a bit of a director in my mind. The character became a bit of a muse for me. I'd have a song idea in my head, and I'd see the full music video or story. Sometimes I make my sound design around that. I would see that in my head as I was literally programming in the bass to fit to the visual.

Carmichael: Who are your influences?

Tauber: I grew up loving the Doors and strong front personas like Michael Hutchence from INXS — he’s from Australia. And then I saw Flume come through in Australia. He was the kid in the bedroom producing, so that was a bit of a nod of confidence for me to go and become that as well.

Outside the music, the thing that actually means more to me is storytelling. I love George Lucas and “Star Wars” — iconic characters and franchises that take you on a hero's journey and transport you to other dimensions and landscapes and worlds.

Carmichael: How do you technically make it work when you perform as your avatar? Is it scalable?

Tauber: It’s transported me across the planet doing the Superverse Dubai, their first metaverse conference. I was beaming in real time on a giant LED screen and seeing a camera input of the audience in Dubai.

It’s a surreal experience, playing the role of a character because that’s how they perceive you. But also getting all the tech set up because there’s a lot going on. I think everything will become democratized. At the moment, it still takes quite a bit of computation power to pull that off.

Carmichael: How does VNCCII grow a fan base and connect with her fans?

Tauber: VNCCII can be a little bit everywhere at the same time because she’s a 3D model, whereas there’s just one of me. I’ve written a novel, and there are other characters besides VNCCII. There’s a futuristic world. I want to give that back to the community. I’ve got a storyline and it’s done, and everything’s mapped out.

What’s not mapped out is the unknown variable of whom the community will be in the story. It’ll become a co-created story and experience. They will be part of the VNCCII story.

Carmichael: How do you monetize all of this?

Tauber: It’s a work in progress as the metaverse space is so new. Partnerships are a great way to monetize based on a brand’s equity as well as the traditional model of performance fees. Being a phygital model also creates opportunities for virtual appearances without the hassle of traveling, etc. NFTs are another way to monetize and build a community as they are portals to the VNCCII universe.

Carmichael: Is all this a steppingstone to a world where we don’t even need the humans behind the virtual performers?

Tauber: I don’t think humans will accept that, and I hope they don’t because there’s an intangible nature and quality to being a human that you can’t get from an algorithmic-filtration-bubble-recommendation-hologram-AI-best-friend-of-some-musician. But I do think it will become part of the world, once you’ve accepted that there’s no point going against it. If [someday] an AI can do exactly what I’m doing and literally make a song, then it becomes a matter of what is it about being a human that I can give as an experience to people that this technology cannot?

The author(s)
  • Matt Carmichael What the Future editor and head of the Ipsos Trends and Foresight Lab