Virtual reality has long since found its way into the homes of many people’s living rooms. Trailing behind China and the United States, Western Europe ranks third at US$3.3 billion where investments in VR are concerned. While virtual reality offers wide-ranging potential uses, such as immersive games or spatial virtual meetings, the physically engaging nature of virtual reality software and hardware is still showing an upward trend that has not yet been picked up by a lot of consumers.
Myles Dyer, a cyber-philanthropist, VR enthusiast and one of two vocalists in a band named Schemata Theory, saw this growth in interest as an opportunity to switch things up. The singer from Reading, England started out as just a regular vlogger on YouTube in 2006, until he turned his attention towards content on wellbeing and mental health in 2009.
More than a decade later, his enthusiasm for new tech and internet communities has not waned one bit. For the release of their single ‘New Vision,’ in 2021, the band later also had the song transformed into a playable format on the highly popular VR rhythm game Beat Saber. Dyer walked us through the idea and process of using VR as a tool for the promotion of music through putting your art into a game with the help of others, along with his outlook on artists seeking to invest into new ways of pushing creative boundaries with the help of technology.
Myles Dyer, YouTuber with 47,300 subscribers
YouTube’s UK Ambassador in 2018, as a part of their ‘Creators for Change’ initiative.
Focuses on mental health, wellbeing and interviews with guest speakers.
Singer in the British band, Schemata Theory.
New release set for 25/02/2022, Unity in Time.
Uses VR as a tool to promote the single, ‘New Vision.’
IO: You refer to yourself as a cyber philanthropist, and for a long time you have invested in using online videos on your YouTube channel to nurture empathy, compassion and social change. How was that expressed in your content?
Myles: I just started experimenting with the platform, making videos, politics, on the environment, cybersecurity, a wide range of subjects and of course, my band Schemata Theory. Throughout the last 15 years especially, I’ve lived and breathed online, video and social media platforms. I’m always focused on how these can be used as tools to improve society.
IO: What got you into the VR community? When did that become part of your life and at what point did you realize that it’s something you’d rather invest in?
Myles: I’ve been a gamer since I was very little. My first games console was a Sega Master System that my parents got me for Christmas. I remember in London, we used to have a Sega World. That was the first time I ever experienced virtual reality, it was maybe 20, 25 years ago. I’m sure if I wore the headset now it would give me a headache, because the graphics were probably terrible.
But back then, it was a really cool experience. My brother invested in a HTC Vive about five years ago, and he brought it over. I was really blown away by the immersion. As a PlayStation gamer, I actually invested in PSVR about four or five years ago. Again, kind of like with online video, it’s not just the platform itself that interested me. It was the community. Virtual reality, like YouTube 15 years ago, was still in its infancy, so it was really close-knit.
IO: What does the VR community then mean to you personally and as an artist, especially if you think about the various uses of music in VR and gaming?
Myles: Music has always been a very important part of gaming. There have obviously been breakthroughs like Guitar Hero and Rock Bands and in the virtual reality space more recently, Beat Saber. I’ve been playing it for about four years. During the pandemic, I played it about half an hour, an hour a day; it’s a part of my fitness routine. When my band Schemata Theory were bringing out this album and working on each of the singles, it was an idea that I’d had for many, many years: We need to have a Beat Saber map made for one of our songs.
IO: What is the single ‘New Vision’ about that you made the track for?
Myles: It’s about bouncing back from adversity, it was inspired by my own experience of dealing with a head injury and recovering from that, and the relief of finally feeling like myself again.
When most of the band were sick after the tour, ‘New Vision’ came out as a single. We were able to go into different Twitch rooms and request our track, we were able to watch people play our song.
IO: What was the process like when it came to creating the Beat Saber track, and how does your song translate into a game version?
Myles: I wasn’t involved in that in a hands-on way so obviously. I trusted a beat mapper that we commissioned to just work on it, they had a track record of making really great maps. I sent him the song and then the instrumental version for creating the beat map. Depending on what the genre is, if it’s electronic dance music, it’s going to be with more synth rhythms. Sometimes it’s the drums, sometimes it’s more the guitar lead. This is a very drum-driven song. Our track was four minutes long, so you’re paying X number of dollars per minute per difficulty level.
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So, what the beat mappers do is they send you the track of them playing it, and they’re 100% spot-on or pretty close. And the quality that they’re playing is mind-blowing. They’re hitting every note. These guys are great players, especially in VR, where there’s that physicality. It’s not just about how it visually looks, or how it sounds. It’s about how it feels, like the way your arms swing. Is there a rhythm? Are you performing along with the songs? There are a lot of layers to it. But it was really, really cool to see it all come together.
IO: What would you say is the thing that you enjoy most about the VR community? Given that you already said that you really connect closely with the other creators because of the physical aspect of playing your music in Beat Saber.
Myles: When communities are small and are just starting out, there’s a lot of energy, and they’re genuinely not toxic because everyone knows each other. And so a big theme on the album is about empathy; it’s very hard to hate people that you know. Obviously, as communities become massive, they start having subsections and let’s say, you know, in gaming there is a bit of toxicity between some of them, you know, console wars and stuff like that. There is a bit of that in virtual reality like, which headset is the best and such, but I do think it is a minority.
It is incredible, that you can now have virtual events where you can say to your fans and supporters or journalists, ‘come here, we’re going to celebrate the launch’.Myles Dyer
People are just so loving and once again, with virtual reality there’s that immersion aspect, you’re in the game. I think it humanizes people a lot more and so you have a real sense of presence with each other. Especially if you go on Twitch streams, everyone’s just really happy to chat and share tips. Although I knew quite a lot about it already, doing this Beat Saber campaign has really made me learn more about it and appreciate it on a deeper level. The whole band is just so grateful for all the love. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people have played it already. Then you tell them that the song is about getting through adversity and feeling relieved that you finally made it. And they’re like, ‘Wow, I really connected with that song, not just emotionally, but physically. […]’ All this is just phenomenal for a band like us who are really trying to break through with this album.
IO: How do you think recording and touring artists can make use of VR or even the metaverse for their own promotional purposes?
Myles: My hope is that we shine a light on what is possible with VR and other bands then say: ‘This is a cool idea, we should do it, we should pay someone.’ You know, these are talented people who are working in this community. We should pay them and get them to do a track for us, not just wait around until a fan does it for free. I mean, that can happen and it’s great if it does, but invest in these people, invest in the community and allow it to thrive.
The second thing I’d say goes beyond Beat Saber. When you talk about the metaverse, one experience I’d quickly touch upon was at the start of the pandemic. A friend of mine, Anna Ribeiro, who created a VR game called Pixel Ripped 1989, had its sequel come out so she invited me to the virtual launch party.
She made a speech there and throughout the night, you could see everyone’s heads tipping back when they were drinking, you know, like in the real world. It was an amazing celebration. I thought to myself, especially during a pandemic, ‘this is incredible, that you can now have virtual events where you can say to your fans and supporters or journalists – come here, we’re going to celebrate the launch.’
IO: Have you ever had discussions with other artists about the impact of VR music?
Myles: I have spoken to my musician friends and I think they think it’s a really cool idea, but the truth about VR is, the uptake is still quite limited. […] I think as VR builds up and becomes more commonplace, people will be more willing to do it. I still think it’s in its early days, but that’s not a reason not to give it a try if you’re already a VR gamer and want to play it.
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