A look at the media landscape will clearly show that virtual reality has become a major player in the music industry and virtual concerts are on the rise with performances by mainstream artists in popular games and other platforms.
Yet with all the hope promised by the “metaverse,” not only do these events fail to optimally leverage the innovation of virtual reality, they also fail to use music to help creating immersive social spaces for people to gather virtually where they feel connected. to each other and their humanity.
Today, virtual reality and augmented reality content related to music falls into 3 main categories:
- Virtual concerts and music videos of popular mainstream artists represented by their avatar image;
- “Rhythm games” and music-making apps focused on popular music;
- Music visualizers.
Audiences and artists are always adapting
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, many artists are including virtual and hybrid events as part of their touring schedules.
Last year, United Talent Agency (UTA) polls indicated that three in four people attended online events during the pandemic, and of those, 88% planned to continue even when in-person events return. .
Given the investment in this virtual space by companies such as Meta, HTC, Pico of ByteDance, and soon… Apple with its planned headset which should be announced in 2023, the AR/VR market is a major player. of the music industry, even spawning the “Best Metaverse Performance” category in the 2022 MTV VMAs.
With the rise of virtual concerts, major artists like Eminem and Snoop Dogg, Travis Scott, Ariana Grande, and BTS are performing in-game musical events, but with mixed results.
See also: NCSOFT Uses Extended Reality To Bring K-Pop UNIVERSE’s First Concert To Life
Some of these events are called nothing more than a “kid’s money grab”, leaving audiences wanting more of the virtual experience that will truly use VR as a medium and as a new form of expression.
Possibility of a new discovery mode
There are, however, many examples of innovative and thoughtful approaches to VR/AR music experiences. 2018’s Sigur Rós and Magic Leap collaboration, Tónandi, demonstrated what can be possible with an immersive and interactive AR music experience, though it’s not currently available on all platforms. This ambitious project showcased the Icelandic pop-rock band in a musical experience for a high-end AR device that brought together music, visuals, and interaction equally to create a synesthetic experience.
One of the promises of the metaverse is to bring people together virtually. Traditionally, live music events were a place where people could gather for a common experience. It’s the missing piece of current VR music events, which have yet to find an organic way for audience members to interact with both the performer and each other.
Then there’s the ability to bring composed scores into virtual spaces, to connect with people’s psyches and emotions the way music has done in concert halls, movies and TV shows during long time.
Music and… Miniature golf?
Although not a music-centric app, Mighty Coconut’s Ambulatory mini-golf – a virtual reality game for which I compose the original scores – provides an example of how VR/AR can become a gathering space for people to experience visuals and music while exploring the virtual world or just hanging out together.
Each course presents an engaging world with a distinct vibe, created by music, visuals, and course design that present an alternative to typical VR/AR games and music experiences. Gamers see it as a place as much as a game, and their connection to the soundtrack has led them to stream it on various services just to bring them back to that sense of place.
The VR music experience is here to stay
Virtual reality musical experiences are here to stay. While VR/AR is currently more strongly associated with games and big business, there is much to be hoped for with content released by independent studios and artists, who are able to be more flexible to adapt to changes. technology and audience demographics. This virtual space will provide exciting new possibilities for musicians and audiences.
See also: Are virtual reality concerts the future of live music?
Anyone invested in music in the future – artists, scholars, fans, bookers, labels, music supervisors and even advertisers – would be well advised to keep an eye on VR/AR and start learning what’s going on in this space.
Like music albums and movies, these tools are just another medium for artists to connect with audiences and hopefully encourage people to connect with each other.
About guest authors
Chris Reyman has joined UT’s music department as an assistant. Commercial piano teacher in 2014. He is also a composer, having written works for jazz ensembles, improvisation ensembles and orchestras. He composed the scores for 2 award-winning short films, “Pigeon Impossible” and “The OceanMaker”. He completed the music for “Undocumented Freedom,” a documentary film by Laura Bustillos; “Memory Box”, a short film by Angie Reza Tures; and “Storm Riders,” an immersive cinematic experience from Austrian company ATTRAKTION!.
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