AMY LAMEYER’S PASSION lies at the intersection of slick virtual experiences and refreshingly raw live concerts. As an enthusiastic proponent of virtual reality technology who also advises companies on their VR strategies, her two worlds collided in December when she virtually attended Live Nation and NextVR’s streamed performance of Thievery Corp. Even for a diehard music junkie who attends over a dozen concerts a year, the careful blending of cutting-edge tech and visceral mic-rocking created something entirely new, novel, and unexpectedly engaging.
“For a new technology it was surprisingly good!” LaMeyer said in her wrap-up of the experience. “I’ll admit it, I got up and danced. I may have even clapped and whistled. This is the future and I’m eagerly awaiting more.”
LaMeyer’s toe-tapping experience offers only a small glimpse at how VR is now revolutionizing live music. Since the sudden resurgence of affordable VR hardware a few years ago, content providers have been clamoring for new ways to delight the eyes, ears, and equilibriums of this new audience. Understandably, content providers have turned to the larger-than-life on-stage spectacle of live concerts to fill this niche.
Last year, Live Nation teamed with Citi and NextVR to broadcast dozens of concerts in VR, and since LaMeyer’s groundbreaking VR experience last winter, Live Nation and NextVR have also broadcasted an array of shows.
A portion of those shows, including the Slash and Little Steven concerts, included Backstage with Citi – behind-the-scenes backstage footage that follows the artists as they take the stage – in VR, of course. Slash & Friends were the first artists to be showcased in the Backstage with Citi VR series. In addition to performing live, in VR at the LA Zoo, fans were also invited to take a virtual journey with Slash as he explored the zoo, interacted with reptiles and shared his love for animal conservation. That programming is the result of a partnership between Citi, LiveNation and NextVR.
“Live Nation continues to deliver fans unparalleled access to amplify their live music experience,” said Kevin Chernett, Executive Vice President, Global Partnerships and Content Distribution for Live Nation. “VR has the ability to deepen the fans relationship with the artist while providing access to fans around the world to experience the energy of live when they can’t physically be there.”
Concerts aren’t the only live events to get some 360-degree virtual love. Pro basketball is already broadcasting one game a week in VR, and professional hockey, racing, and baseball leagues are following suit with their own experiences. The good news? This is just the tip of the iceberg for live VR. The even better news? Teams of content creators, artists, and technologists are already working on clever new ways to craft and deliver the next generation of these eye-popping live VR experiences.
A New Type of Concert Experience
Live VR concerts offer a variety of benefits. Since cameras are generally positioned onstage, viewers don’t so much watch the concert as experience it – from the point of view of the band. For much of a VR concert, the participant is looking from stage into the crowd, offering an approximation of what it feels like to be the singer or guitarist during a show. It’s better than the best seat in the house, in other words.
There are other perks. For her second VR concert – a multi-band performance at an iconic venue in Boston, LaMeyer said she was able to be transported from her living room in San Francisco to the venue, which she had visited many times. Not only that, but during a break in the performance, she checked on social media and saw that she knew several people in the audience. Using the camera’s 180-degree view, she was able to look back a few rows and see one of her friends from time to time. (Of course, another big benefit of the Citi-sponsored shows is the “Backstage” access as well.)
VR concert experiences are likely to evolve as well. Wilson Standish, director of innovation for media agency Hearts & Science, said that directors of VR concerts can “jump from camera to camera in a way that tells a story.” Other elements, like animation or augmented reality could also be brought in. The format is a wide-open canvas at the moment, awaiting a dose of creative inspiration.
The Future is Virtual
Over the past few years, the tech community has accepted that VR was poised to go mainstream. The question was what form it would take. While many assumed that VR would primarily be a vehicle for games and movies, a recent poll by the Consumer Technology Association found that consumers’ most popular suggestions for VR content were for concerts, sports and exercise. Data from Greenlight Insights’ 2017 survey also found that 65% of consumers said they were interested in live events and 58% said they were interested in sporting events. That compares to 65% for gaming.
Alexis Macklin, an analyst with Greenlight Insights, said that the younger consumers were, the more likely they were interested in using VR for live events. “So we’ll see this market grow as these younger generations grow as well,” she said. In a recent Citi Research report, analysts predict that the overall virtual reality/augmented reality market could reach $692 billion by 2025 and continue to increase after that.
Citi, Live Nation and NextVR capitalized on this interest with its current concert series, which is likely to feature at least 10 shows over the course of a year. The concert experiences aren’t just multi-camera broadcasts of the shows though, they also feature time backstage with the artists before they hit the stage.
Live Nation for one is not new to streaming; the company streamed more than 600 concerts online. But while traditional Internet-based streaming is much like TV, VR is more like actually attending the concert – or even better in some ways since the view is likely to be an improvement unless you happen to be right up against the stage. Plus, you don’t have to drive home when it’s over.
One area for improvement is to be able to buy the shows on a pay-per-view basis, after the fact. Right now, because of copyright concerns, fans can only watch the shows in real time. “If I couldn’t make it to the show then I could watch it on VOD,” said LaMeyer, who added that she’d also like to re-watch shows that she attended.
Meanwhile, almost no one is convinced that VR will kill the concert industry. Right now, VR is being presented as an alternative for concertgoers, but not a replacement. “Such a big part of a concert is the audience and the energy that they give, which the artist is feeding off of,” said Standish.
Like video calls versus in-person meetings though, VR concerts might turn out to be the next-best thing compared to the alternative. That said, Standish was enthusiastic about the potential to bring performances to a wider audience. “They will open the experience to people all over the world who might not have the chance to physically get to the venue,” said Standish. “That’s a win-win for the artist and fan.”
Content sponsored by Backstage. Be in the front row on on-stage for unprecedented access to some of your favorite shows! For more ways to experience free, exclusive Live Nation concerts in virtual reality, visit Backstage with Citi.