Augmented Reality Virtual Reality and the Music Industry

Although AR/VR technology is still in its infancy, it has already made quite the impact on most (if not all) industries including health care, retail, military/defense, Journalism media, & Architecture. One that especially sticks out to me is the AR/VR effects on Entertainment business, specifically the music industry. Each year hardware developers move us one step closer to a future where AR/VR is used as a common household item. Advances perhaps viewed as miniscule by the general public (i.e. simple gaming technology becoming not only more advanced, but also more affordable) are acting as the catalyst to making AR/VR use generally accepted in everyday life.

The music industry is embracing AR/VR with open arms. One of the ways it is doing so, is through the human race’s infinite & undying love for concerts and music festivals. There is so much potential in the foresight of tech-savvy music industry folk. Such potential includes a future where you can be fully immersed in a concert, as though you are actually there with the artists, from the comfort of your own bedroom. “The obvious thing is to use this technology to open up live concerts to a wider audience and give them a better experience than just watching video in flat screen,” (Smith, Nicola). Imagine a world of shared VR concerts, shows, festivals, & simulations populated by friends and strangers from around the globe. The potential is immense, but we aren’t quite there yet. Artists are starting smaller and there are many cases already of VR music videos created and in the works.

According to A List Daily, there is a big new wave of start-ups approaching companies like Warner Brothers & Sony, wanting to talk about how music, or music videos, can be a part of their apps, social media, virtual reality & augmented reality products. Artists such as Taylor Swift and Will.i.am (of the Black Eyed Peas) have already released 360В° music videos and various other artists plan for similar projects in the coming months. In 2016, Queen collaborated with Google Play and Enosis VR to create a 360В° take on the band’s 1975 hit, Bohemian Rhapsody, in a groundbreaking VR music video (Smith, Nicola). The video throws you into an immersive 80’s pop-art style music video, where Freddie Mercury (in cartoon form) serenades you right before your very eyes. The video itself is a narrative that encapsulates every up, down, & in-between of the melodic symphony as you delve into what feels like the subconscious mind of Freddie himself. The creators of this experience even went as far as to re-master the song, making each sound’s volume fluctuate as you turn your head every which way. The experience truly is unique for its time, and it shows the true potential of this approaching technological era.

Music marketers and independent artists are seeking out this expanding technology to see how it can help to reinforce deeper connections to fan bases. It addition, it will be used to form new relationships and provide an innovative way to perform without the expenses of touring. “The music industry is embracing augmented reality that invites consumers to experience music not just through sound, but sight as well. AR experiences create opportunities for brands and artists to engage their fans in new and authentic ways,” (Duran, H.B.). Sony Music Entertainment recently worked with Michael Jackson’s estate on what was the first global AR promotion of its kind. A 13 track CD of his greatest hits, titled “Scream,” was released in 2017, which included posters that, when scanned on the Shazam app, came to life through AR technology. In reality, the whole idea is quite trivial… yet so genius. Since its release, the album has sold an estimated 6 million copies worldwide, making it the best-selling remix album ever released. Had it not contained such enticing features, it would not have sold near as many copies, especially in this day & age where most music is listened to via download or streaming services. This is only the start for AR/VR music marketing.

Snapchat is currently one of the largest & most-used influencers in AR marketing technology. According to Statista, Snapchat currently has over 186 million daily active users worldwide. In early 2017, Ed Sheeran took to Snapchat to promote the release of his new album, through the use of the Snapchat lens feature. Users were able to sample one of his new songs, while a pair of AR sunglasses appeared on their faces on the screen. Then the magic happened, and the add nearly paid for itself as users began sharing & re-posting the lens to various other social media platforms, shooting Ed’s single Thinking Out Loud, up the charts, making it a #1 hit. VR’s ability to be social and immersive will provide the biggest pull to fans.

Will.i.am spoke in an interview about an application he recently worked on. The app is an immersive book that comes to life and tells the story in comic-book style. Partnering with Marvel, Will.i.am worked as a consultant for the soundtrack of the app and scored most of it himself. The app also has a VR version, which is currently for sale on the Oculus store. He expressed in the interview that he at this moment is passionate about telling stories, creating new content, and building immersive worlds. When asked if he thought that VR was the future, he responded,

“If this was 1918 right now, and I was a singer, I would be singing in the opera. If I was an actor I would be performing in theaters. Then if someone said to me, do you think the future of telling stories is this thing called movies [?] fuck yeah it is! The camera changed how we told stories. So if you’re going to ask me, is the future of telling stories Virtual Reality [?] fuck yeah it is! And that’s the reason why the music industry is the way it is right now… a shift is happening, a change, people want deeper stories. The reason why we binge hours of Game of Thrones and documentaries is because everyone is thirsty for richer engagements, worlds, characters and stories, and you’re not getting that from a song, or 12 songs.”

Will.i.am 2018 Red Carpet Interview with NME (Music Crowns).

Something that one might wonder is, aside from the marketing side, where is the money in all of this? That is the challenge, as always… making something commercially viable. The money in AR/VR is initially going to come from the physical product itself, i.e. your VR headset and all of its gear. However, as we advance further into the future, there will come a point in time where that equipment is a common thing in most homes. It will explode just as the television did. There once was a time where only the wealthiest Americans had televisions in their homes. Then one day, it reached that 20% threshold, and within a 10-year stretch, nearly every American had a TV in their home. Once AR/VR reaches that point, from there on it will be all about upgrading to the newest, shiniest version of your product, and downloads of new experiences, games, & programs of course.

Graph of the projected growth of AR/VR technology / Information obtained from:

https://www.weforum.org – AR & VR: The Promise and Peril of Immersive Tech

Music education is forever changed thanks to the technological advances of AR and smartphone applications. Training of the next generation about music has been hugely altered over the last 10 years and is only getting better by the day. Music’s greatest influencers could become its biggest educators, and with today’s ever-advancing technology, these educators will be able to pass on their expertise through real life experiences and turning enrichment into real life engagement. In order to truly learn how to play an instrument, you must practice, and practice, and practice. This can get tiring, especially if you are attempting to learn on your own accord. Leaning scales and chords and everything in between in quite tedious and can easily get old. This is why many people give up during the learning process. Individual practice is often not productive because of the lack of motivation and feedback given.

A 2013 study conducted at The University of Auckland set out to prove that an immersive, AR experience could improve the efficiency of learning of beginner piano students. Using AR goggles and a computer-connected keyboard, the custom-designed program drew inspiration from music, various games, and videos. Text and music were synchronized using visual cues. Green lines representing virtual notes appeared alongside the musical score as the student played, and in “Note Learning Mode,” individual notes paused and waited for the user to press the key before continuing (Mulder, G.). The study showed positive results for nearly all of the students, proving that through interactive AR learning, the potential for advancement in any industry is more attainable than ever before!

As an entrepreneurship student and music producer, It is not difficult to spot the difference between what might be just a trend and something that fundamentally could transform the way artists and fans connect. AR/VR technology is most certainly not a passing craze. It has already infiltrated most industries and will only grow and expand from here. If you are a creator and you want to remain relevant, you MUST learn to leverage the incoming bomb drop that is AR/VR technology. Within no time, AR/VR will not be the future; it will be the present, and very prevalent! It essentially already is the present. It is pivoting and advancing each day just waiting to hit that 20% threshold. Once that happens, it will no longer be just about labels trying to sell more records. It will be about the next big fully immersive experience you can get your hands on. People are always going to want more, its human nature.

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