Back in October, HBO featured a one-of-a-kind VR performance and music concert by Janelle Monáe available to stream on HBO Max and YouTube, to celebrate its series “Lovecraft Country”.
Like many other industries, the world of live events, music concerts and festivals is adapting to a new “normal”. New travel restrictions and lockdown orders imposed by state and local authorities around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic prevent people from gathering together and attending live concerts and music festivals. And since many understand music as something that should be “experienced” and not just “listened to,” people are looking for new immersive and interactive music experiences. Virtual reality (VR) is stepping into the spotlight to meet that need.
Way back in 2017, the British visual band, Gorillaz used YouTube’s 360-degree video feature to pioneer a new type of music videos with a new video version of their song “Saturnz Barz,” subtitled “Spirit House.” Since, VR music experiences has dramatically evolved and companies like Wave and MelodyVR have raised millions of dollars based on impressive valuations to host virtual concerts and live performances to allow artists and music fans to connect in new ways using VR.
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Billie Eilish performed in VR using the Oculus Venues app on Oculus Quest. So did Imagine Dragon. Acclaimed electronic violinist, Lindsey Stirling rocked a fully virtual performance in front of a live crowd of 400,000 people. Rapper Travis Scott headlined a virtual concert on Fortnite that attracted more than 27 million players in game, which encouraged Fortnite to follow up with additional VR parties and events with musicians such as Dillon Francis, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, and Dominic Fike. Even the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony-winning artist, John Legend, hosted a live VR performance which was livestreamed around the world.
Nate Nanzer, head of global partnerships at Fortnite’s parent company, Epic Games, noted in an interview to Rolling Stone that “The message to the music industry here is the stage is open.” Interactive, immersive, and social VR concerts open up new possibilities for the music industry to engage music lovers in a post-COVID world. By simply putting on a VR headset, you can be transported to a concert of your choice, performed on the other side of the planet. By using VR, every concert-goer can enjoy a front row seat at an affordable price, while allowing event organizers to forgo the need to worry about venue capacities. According to Nanzer, VR concerts represent “…a different level of connection.”
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Earlier this year, VR was also introduced to the opera world, with Miranda, a VR steampunk opera performed live on-stage by a cast of professional actors. Amazon also sent a powerful signal to the markets regarding the possible expansion of immersive live music events, by bringing Twitch’s live stream to its Amazon Music App. As stated by Adam Arrigo, CEO of wave, “… the value proposition… has never been clearer.”