VR: Real Future Of Live Music Or Another Shiny Distraction?
While there is a prominent school of thought in the industry that Virtual Reality shows will soon replace the expensive and detached traditional concert format with a cheaper, more intimate alternative, the "reality" may in fact be somewhere in the middle between the two.
By Chris Robley of CD Baby from the DIY Musician
Bridging the gap between virtual reality and house concerts.
Some people are convinced that in a short while most “live” music will happen in a virtual space. They believe VR will offer a far more intimate and interactive experience for fans sick of sitting in the 400th row with no money left for pretzels because they spent $250 on tickets.
Other people think that absolutely nothing can replace the “real” human experience of a bunch of bodies hearing or making music together in a room.
Two different kinds of intimacy in live concerts.
I kinda fall in the middle.
Having hosted a house show recently, I can attest to the power of two singers harmonizing five feet in front of a captivated audience. These singers cast a spell with zero amplification and only one crappy reading lamp to set the “mood.” That’s a legit emotional experience.
Up until recently I suspected that VR could perhaps adequately replace or improve upon the distant spectacle of an arena rock show, or some festival DJ set, but NOT compete with the truly intimate experience of a house concert or small listening venue. My opinion might be changing though.
VR doesn’t have to offer the concert equivalent of a Marvel movie.
In the video above, innovative songwriter Imogen Heap talks about staging a VR concert that is shot at her home with a focus on the personal space: the floorboards, the paint on the walls, the parlor room piano.
She’s aware of the dangers and distractions offered by digital technology — all the meaningless possibilities that add up to a visual equivalent of shouting — and she’s attempting to bridge the gap between VR dazzle and the comparative starkness of a house concert.
Adam Arrigo, CEO of TheWaveVR (the company who partnered with Imogen to create the VR concert), has also made strides in bridging the gap between audience members in a virtual concert space, enabling them to interact with one another as well as the performer.
He says, “social VR closes the distances between people.” And that can happen across many kinds of borders, not just national ones.
For me, that’s an exciting promise.
What do you think of virtual reality concerts?
Have you had a legit emotional experience in a VR concert space? How long do you think it’ll take before VR music performances feel as “human” as a house concert?
Or are they just different beasts altogether?
Should we pray for solar flares to destroy the grid and go back to the days of catgut guitar strings and banging sticks and stones?
Lemme know below.
Chris Robley is the Editor of CD Baby's DIY Musician Blog. I write Beatlesque indie-pop songsthat've been praised by No Depression, KCRW, The LA Times, & others. My poems have appeared in Poetry Magazine, Prairie Schooner, The Poetry Review, & more. I live in Maine and like peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, a little too much.