Think about all the hassles that come with going to a concert. Getting to the venue, over-priced drinks, the standing (oh god the standing), and the usual inebriated fan, that seems to know every single word to every single song in the band’s discography, who happens to choose you as their buddy for the night. Hate it or love it, it’s the norms of a concert goer or the quirks for the purists. You could see a full gig from anywhere in the world, right from your home and not have to worry about that 11PM curfew that everyone’s been talking about. But if you’re one of the many who can’t stand these gripes, well you might be in luck as Virtual Reality will have you never leave your house again.
The live concert streaming industry never took off the way live streaming has been for video games. Factors could range from low adoption rate with fans to artists being skittish with putting their live recordings out there. Companies like Yahoo! and American Express had been putting on free streaming events for years, with acts like Spoon, The National, and Vampire Weekend. While the Oculus Rift and its company didn’t pan out what its founder’s prophesied, the potentials for the technology are starting to come to full realization. In the summer of 2014, Facebook acquired Oculus Rift for $2 billion. The acquisition was a head scratcher, as scrolling through timelines via virtual reality would be…. well, stupid. But Zuckerberg and Facebook made a move before someone else figures out how to monopolize VR tech. While the music industry is preoccupied counting how many streaming services are out there, startups are rolling out applications for virtual reality concerts.
A startup named Jaunt already has a bevy of artists that have recorded some performances that can be viewed with VR technology like Paul McCartney and Jack White. Another VR start-up called NextVR worked with Coldplay to turn an entire set into a virtual reality spectacle. Early on it will definitely skew towards the bigger artists and musicians with more resources and a bigger audience. The question wouldn’t be if the VR is realistic enough (as we’ve seen our share of hilarious videos showing people(NSFW) using VR headsets), it’s more of how many would embrace and regularly use the tech. To experience VR, you don’t even need one of those fancy headsets, just your cell phone and a piece of cardboard can help you escape reality. Google Cardboard is a project that’s tasked with making VR accessible by just using your smart phone, a piece of cardboard, some instructions, and some folding.
If the new tech can generate enough interest, there could be more artists opting to VR-ify their shows. Even companies like Live Nation could buy one of these companies and turn their recently acquired Bonnaroo into a global event (minus the camping) or any festival that does streaming nowadays. It would allow people who wouldn’t normally go to big festivals or shows a chance to in some capacity to do so. No doubt criticisms of its merits and the inability to replace the actual experience of attending and physically being at the show, but for people who don’t live near a major stop (ex: New York City, Austin, TX, etc) it’ll save them time and give them an opportunity to “see” shows. Touring has been the main source of income for today’s musician, and potentially alter the market, by taking away profits. But this could work in the favor of bigger artists that constantly sell out shows, shutting out a good number of fans. Similar to how the blackout rule works for sports and game broadcasts, VR streams of concerts would only be in effect if the concert has sold out. This would allow the fans who were shut out to see the show at a fraction of a ticket’s face value.
We experience concerts through screens already, might as well take it up a notch. Like with everything else, if proven to be profitable, there will be more startups and many of us might be subscribing to the “Netflix for concerts.” The industry is growing and developing fast, but VR is still a few years away from becoming to an every household purchase. When it does, I’m going to “experience” the Gathering of the Juggalos from my desk.