In 2016, streaming was positioned as music’s savior. For the first time in almost two decades, the industry saw a growth in revenue thanks to services like Apple Music and Spotify. Yes, streaming has made music more accessible than ever, but if we are truly going to “save” the industry, we need to offer listeners engaging, emotional experiences through digital technology. That’s where augmented reality comes in.
We’ve all read statistics about millennials preferring to spend on experiences, like this Harris study that says 78% percent of them would rather put money into experiences and events over a desirable object, and another 72% say they want to increase the amount they put towards experiences over physical objects in the coming year. It’s more than just creating memories and selfies, though. Experiences need to have real value.
As an example, let’s look at another segment of the entertainment industry: film. Studios bet big on 3D technology bringing people back to theaters. While revenues have gone up on major blockbusters, 2016 was the worst year since the 1920s in terms of tickets bought per U.S. adults. The takeaway is fewer people are spending more money on inflated prices. The novelty of 3D is wearing off because the experience is transactional, not transformational.
As an industry, we need to face the music: Record labels and marketers have been sorely lacking in ways to engage digitally native generations. AR is the use of technology to overlay digital information onto the physical world, largely through mobile devices. Virtual reality is different in that it is completely immersive. And it has real value — Apple CEO Tim Cook described it as having as much potential as the iPhone.
The most popular, mainstream examples of AR would be Pokemon Go and Snapchat. The former capitalized on millennial nostalgia to earn $10 million per day at its peak, while Snap Inc. has followed in the footsteps of the ill-fated Google Glass with the Snapchat Spectacles, a sunglass-camera hybrid that CNet describes as, “world's hottest training wheels for AR.”
The industry has a potential hit on its hands with augmented reality. Having a decade of experience in digital music marketing and publicity, I know from experience that opportunities like this do not come along often. Audiences are already primed and familiarized with the technology; we just need to make sure we don’t miss the beat.
Here are four ways AR could change the music industry forever:
- Music Videos
As far back as 2010, Rihanna and David Guetta partnered with Doritos to create an AR experience for the video to their track “Who’s That Chick.” With YouTube paying the music industry $1 billionin 2016, attracting viewers to videos has never been more valuable. AR can empower musicians to bring the video to their audience and even make the listener part of the video. Imagine a world where it appears as though the artist is performing the song directly in front of you, as viewed through your smartphone or special spectacles.
- Music Marketing
AR has a proven track record when it comes to marketing. Case in point: One restaurant in New York City increased business by 75% through a strategic use of Pokemon Go. As Inc. notes, AR can bridge the human and virtual worlds. While technologically impressive, virtual can be hard for audiences to connect with. Picture a world where fans could hunt exclusive content from an artist’s upcoming release, similar to Pokemon Go. Innovation has word-of-mouth and public relations value as well; if you’re the first to do something, people will talk about it.
- Music Education
Training and educating the next generation about music could be hugely impacted by augmented reality. In fact, it’s already happening: A Japanese company has already produced a hologram that can teach people to play the piano. AR is a tool for the music industry to meaningfully and emotionally connect with younger audiences. Music’s biggest influencers could become its biggest educators, passing on their expertise through experiences and turning enrichment into engagement. Picture Elton John teaching millions of piano pupils through a hologram or Sia demonstrating writing songs on the page right in front of you.
- Music Experiences
The possibilities for altering physical experiences like concerts and events with AR are limitless. As I mentioned earlier, AR has the potential to bring the concert to fans in their own environments. Better yet, imagine if the entire audience could connect to AR technology for an entirely new concert experience via AR. Imagine seeing lyrics flying through the air or the feeling of being inside of your favorite music video while the artist is singing live.