Ready Player One film

Virtual reality and the music industry

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I find virtual reality fascinating. Growing up in the late ’80s-early ’90s, attempts at VR were everywhere — which is enough for its own feature down the line.

Recently, I got to thinking a bit about how much I love the book Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Music plays a significant part in the story and that got thinking about virtual reality and the music industry, and how it may be affected by the emergence of good-quality VR. Imagine Oingo Boingo or Devo in virtual reality. Who can resist?

John Gaeta from Industrial Light and Magic puts the VR idea into perspective in a very interesting way when he says, “there is no longer a wall between cinema, or storytelling. It could just be the opening gateway.”

He is referring to the future of how we consume entertainment. We’re not talking about immersive TV or the Virtual Boy here. We’re discussing music and live shows. With this new type of format, it can create stability for music creators due to its un-piratable nature. It can also allow artists to include artwork, interviews and other content into a release, giving consumers more bang for their buck, so to speak. On the other hand, it could flop like fish out of water and end up being the worst debacle of music history. It will be interesting to see.

With their NextVR release, Coldplay certainly finds itself ahead of the game. However, the press release is dated for three years ago, which isn’t exactly recent. However, it is quite innovative to release a concert in this fashion and has obviously inspired bands like MUSE to do the same. It seems as if both groups are using VR as a way to get tech-savvy folks to become interested in their work and to keep fans engaged, especially those fans who may not be able to make it to the concerts.

I predict the format eventually becoming a new way to consume music visually, much in the same manner music videos became popular in the ’80s and ’90s. It seems like a logical progression for bands to embrace the new technology for their artistic and creative purposes. U2 pioneered the large screen at concerts with the ZooTV tour; perhaps they’ll do something similar with VR. The possibilities of this technology are limitless. Perhaps we’ll see the ability to attend a concert in VR without ever having to leave the comfort of your own home, and for a smaller fee.

Rather than pay $300 plus travel expenses to go see the band, you can hang out with them virtually for a fraction of the cost. While this isn’t the same as actually attending the concert, it may be more of a reality for some.

Coldplay might use VR to highlight stage performances for release or may even release an entire album in VR. I can see MUSE, based on the prog-style nature of their music, to use VR as a way to augment the spacey music they make, whether it be a VR music video or simply a live performance. I can also see MUSE putting together some VR videos of their recording space, because nerds like me always want to know how the songs are put together. Being in the studio with the band, albeit virtually, would be an amazing experience.

U2 has also done quite a bit with VR. I can see U2 doing something similar, perhaps going on another 360 tour, but recording and releasing it in VR. It would be quite interesting to see. Mostly, I foresee all of the pioneering bands using the format to promote both older and newer songs, create music videos, generate an interactive experience with their audience and to go where no man has gone before …

Nowadays, one can easily obtain an inexpensive VR headset at the local convenience store or purchase their very own Google Cardboard kit. Many apps are available for the use of VR, such as Cardboard and VRSE. My experience has only ever been with the Cardboard app and one of those inexpensive headsets, but it was incredible. I see this becoming more prominent over the next few years and hopefully it will revitalize the music industry.

I still want my new retro wave in glorious VR. Let us know what you think about virtual reality and how it will affect the music industry in the future.

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About David Buck

David BuckDavid Buck is an author, musician and media professional based in Colorado. He likes to write about interesting music, video games and science fiction.