From The Soundboard: Virtual reality could transform the live music experience

Shutianyi Li/Daily Trojan

If your experiences missing concerts are anything like mine, then you’ll surely relate to the pain of FOMO. Sure, there are fan videos taken from the crowd or live streams of the event. But I’ve always wanted something that could make me feel like I was actually there, even from home. Up until now, that wasn’t possible.

Today, thanks to advancements in technology, virtual and augmented reality are making that dream come true. If adopted quickly and used correctly, VR could be huge for the next decade of the music industry.

Live events are potentially the biggest fields for virtual reality. Missing concerts always hurts, and having a platform that allows someone to view the show they missed — as if they were actually there — would be highly popular. I am convinced that within the next five years, watching concerts through virtual reality headsets will become common.

It’s actually already beginning to happen. In September 2017, NextVR partnered with LiveNation to stream the Global Citizen Music Festival in virtual reality. They also currently offer a LiveNation “channel” on their platform, which broadcasts VR recordings of concerts and other music-related events.

The VR startup MelodyVR presents a similar service, and it has now acquired licenses from three major record labels (and is the only VR startup to have done so thus far). The company made deals with over 600 artists, including Jay-Z. Seeing as how live events are one of the most profitable aspects of the music business, making moves to incorporate an emerging technology like this will only improve their economic viability.

Aside from concerts and festivals, VR technology would also be applicable in many other areas of the business. One example? Music videos. Imagine the famous video-film for “Thriller,” shot in VR: Viewers would feel as though they themselves were being paraded by Michael Jackson and his zombie friends. There could also be a companion video shot entirely in VR through the perspective of one of Jackson’s dancers, enabling viewers to fully immerse themselves in the choreography and plot. Implementing VR in this way would greatly enhance the landscape of visual media for music.

VR can also be used to enhance fan interaction online, for viral marketing campaigns, merchandising and online ticketing. (Being able to view the stage from a particular seat in a venue before purchasing a ticket? Sign me up.) The possibilities are infinite.

However. the issue with such technologies is that there is potential for misuse. In the future, if being able to see Beyoncé live and in person becomes more difficult for someone than seeing Beyoncé from their couch through VR, that may pose a significant issue for touring musicians. Also, just as streaming culture arguably weakens the value of music among the general public, VR streams of concerts can similarly weaken the value of attending live events.

Thus, there would need to be a way to encourage society to view VR as a supplement for the traditional concert experience and not a replacement. Perhaps there could be a premium attached to VR streams of concerts; those who purchase the VR stream would pay a ticket price (for that show) in addition to a small fee for the convenience of never having to leave the comfort of their living rooms. This also opens the door for VR recordings of concerts, which can be sold alongside traditional Blu-ray discs.

Virtual reality has the potential to become as lucrative and revolutionary for the music business as iTunes and digital downloads were. However, before embarking on that quest, we must find a method of monetization that satisfies everyone and a way to maintain the value of music without interference from disruptive technologies.

Willard Givens is a junior writing about the music industry. His column, “From The Soundboard,” runs every other Monday.