Virtual concert production company Wave can now further expand the reach of its live shows into China, thanks to a new investment from Tencent Music Entertainment Group.
Wave would not disclose how much Tencent invested in the company this Series C round. Funding tracker PitchBook Data Inc. estimates the company raised $40 million since its 2016 launch and following its Series B, which was closed in June.
Tencent is one of the biggest technology investors in the world. Its music label has backed Spotify and also operates its own fleet of Chinese music streaming services and apps, including Kugo Music, Kuwo Music, WeSing and QQ Music. Following this investment, Wave will be able to air its virtual concert experiences on those apps in China -- a new market for the Culver City-based startup.
Wave will also work with Tencent Music Entertainment to create virtual music content exclusively for TME Live, Tencent's brand for live performances, which launched in March.
Tencent joins an existing fleet of high-profile Wave investors, including music manager Scooter Braun, Alex Rodriguez, and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin.
"The collaboration with Wave marks an important step forward in our efforts to integrate technology and music, aiming to amplify the immersive music experience for our users, enhance user engagement and promote content consumption," Tencent's vice president of content, TC Pan, said in a statement Thursday. "With this strategic partnership, we will further extend the boundaries of music services through virtual performances and build a broader music ecosystem."
Wave's technology enables musicians to create lifelike avatars of themselves that can "perform" their music on a virtual stage. Wave calls these virtual concerts "Waves," and the company says it has hosted over 50 live virtual concerts, featuring artists like The Weeknd, Tinashe and John Legend.
Most of these virtual shows are hosted on the company's YouTube channel, but Wave's apps also let users tune in on gaming consoles, phones or an Oculus Rift VR headset. While watching a Wave, viewers can log in to comment in a chat function and give live feedback to the avatar performers.
Virtual concerts are taking off as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put live events on hold -- and industry insiders believe the technology will remain a valuable supplement to live music even once venues can sell live show tickets again, since virtual shows allow artists to reach far larger audiences worldwide.