Do we care about Music’s involvement with the Virtual Reality Craze?
A “hot topic” in media right now is virtual reality; it’s all the rage especially in storytelling. Major media platforms like Huffington Post, New York times and more are building VR teams or acquiring VR studios to bring life like experiences to their storytelling. I’m with it but these integrations are also occurring in live music experiences.
No this isn’t an intelligent article seamlessly explaining the ways VR has been optimizing live performances and festival experiences; it’s more of paranoid take on the state of music consumption. Put on your aluminum foil hats folks!
Before I launch into the collegiate level research I did via google lets highlight the general consumption status of music. The amount of time that an album or mixtape has lasting power with the general public would be the time it is “announced” or “leaked” to when the general chatter of the album starts to dwindle. This time frame in the past was dictated by weeks, months even years. Now we are in a new time frame which I personally refer to as “Eastern Standard TwitterTime”. I’m not on the west coast so I chose EST but no shade to Cali, Pac forever.
Nowadays Music has the lasting power of a synthetic wig in a basement party on a hot summer day. We are constantly being inundated with song after song and have minimal time to process what we’re hearing.
What’s crazy is there are memes that outlive what public opinion has deemed legendary albums. So with the rate of music consumption being unhealthily short how does virtual reality mosey itself into the equation? Live performances, let’s use the term live loosely, real loose.
In a BBC article Jacek Naglowski, chief executive of Circus Digitalis said:
"Experiencing the concert in VR is something that people would be willing to pay for," he says. "In future it may be one of the most important revenue streams for musicians and producers."
Hello people reading this, would you pay for it? Especially if they charge concert prices, would you?
In 2016 Google Play and Enosis VR collaborated with queen to create a 360 VR version of their hit Bohemian Rhapsody. As a way to pay tribute and reignite a music staple such as Freddie Mercury into music again is genius. In that sense I cannot argue with the use of VR.
But let’s consider VR being used at a festival. Essentially you’ll be watching a screen while outside and pay a festival price for it. My wallet and my pride say no.
In an article written by Miles Raymer for VICE he details his VR – concert experience which surprisingly wasn’t as idiotic as it sounds.
“I expected to see demo stations and groups of headsetted guests in the awkward postures of people trying out new VR setups as they experienced what it was like to see a music festival from a drone's 360-degree perspective. I didn't expect that I'd be walking into a chilly forest scene with actual birch trees reaching up toward the sound stage's ceiling and actual snow drifting down, alongside a mob of young Californians who seemed legitimately mystified to be suddenly encountering winter.
The experience only got more Narnia-like as I was escorted through an entrance in a wall full of doors and into a cubicle, where an attendant strapped me into a Playstation VR headset. With the headset on, I was left to experience a short immersive animation set to the Chainsmokers' "Roses," starring wolves and giants rendered in the psychedelically vivid style that pops up frequently on branded festival merch. When it was over the attendant opened a door in the other side of the cubicle from where I'd entered and let me out into a huge room elaborately decorated to resemble an IRL manifestation of the animation's summery dreamworld, where the Chainsmokers would perform on what looked like a grassy hill. I was confused. This… didn't suck?”
Setting up the ambience of a room for an artist isn’t the initial thought when you hear live music and VR in the same sentence. In my own sarcastic way I can’t knock this idea either. Will the majority of VR experiences offer an extravagant bridge to our natural senses, one could hope. There are plenty of million dollar grossing festivals that could “afford” something like this but there isn’t a standard to set for VR festival experiences. Remember festivals aren’t built out like customer service holy grails; they can still mess up i.e. Fyre festival.
The question still is do we care? Maybe-kind of-nah.
The forefront of technology always breeds innovation within respective areas and music is no exception. We will see more immersive events that cater to live aesthetics and a VR counterpart. Is VR something that people are clamoring for just yet, no. VR infused festivals are essentially the whole foods of live music experiences, expensive and somewhat unethical so you will make the trek downtown to Trader Joes because it has the same shit for much less.
Will I be paying for a VR concert anytime soon? Nope.