Technology is always changing, and VR is a technology that has and will keep revolutionising the way we experience music. It is a digital wonder, one that is constantly moving forward, offering engaging, emotional experiences to the headset-wearing user. The Harris Study found that 78% of millennials would rather put money into experiences and events than spend money on an object, which is why VR is more relevant now than ever before. This is especially the case in the music industry, with VR having transformed the way we engage with music videos, live music and music education — the three topics that will be delved into below.
VR has become a popular medium for artists to connect with fans. After YouTube and Facebook launched their 360° video-posting platform in 2015, people have started creating more immersive video content, especially musicians, who began posting 360° music videos. A very cool example is Gorillaz VR music video for Saturnz Barz, which broke a Youtube and VR video record, racking up over 3 million views in just 48 hours! The animated video features the band rapping and singing surrounded by 360° eye-catching imagery whilst being transported into trippy sceneries, such as space, where a singing pizza flies by.
Also, who hasn’t heard of School of Rock? What you probably didn’t know is that you can become immersed in their 360° video! You are placed in the centre of a classroom, following the action and enthusiasm of the kids as you move from one band member to another.
VR has even made it possible to feel like you’re inside your favourite music video! At Mbryonic, we have developed Amplify VR, a platform where audiences can watch any music video in an amazing reactive immersive virtual reality environment. During the experience, users are able to interact with the content — applying audio effects, manipulating environments through movement and remixing their own experience. Tom Szirtes, Director at Mbryonic, states “Amplify VR allows fans to experience their favourite artists and music videos in a completely new and immersive way, where they can literally feel like they’ve entered the music.” A unique feature of this platform is its ability to turn 2D video content into a 3D VR experience. This means artists don’t have to create specific new content just for VR, which significantly reduces costs.
Although VR will never fully replace the sweaty, crowded, beer smelling, excitement-filled environment of a live performance, it has transformed the manner in which fans listen, see and experience music. Music lovers who can’t physically be inside the venue can experience watching their favourite artist, feeling closer to the action as they move around the event, experiencing it from the front row, the middle of the stage or next to the drummer.
Coachella, a music and arts festival in California, partnered with Vantage.tv in 2016 to give the festival goers and others unable to attend an exciting way to enjoy the event. Attendees with wristbands received a cardboard VR headset, while those that did not attend could purchase one online or use their own. The headset could then be paired with the Coachella VR app to watch videos by the artists performing that year, watch experiences around the festival grounds in 360° and immerse themselves in fun VR experiences created by other individuals that attended the event. Through VR, Coachella invites individuals from all over the world to come in and experience the festival in an original way!
Also, Boiler Room, an underground music streamer, collaborated with Google Pixel in 2017 to design the first virtual dance floor experience in Berlin. The 15 minute immersive VR film called ‘VR Dancefloors: Techno in Berlin’, devised for Google Pixel and Daydream View, was shot at the Arena Club, allowing users to move around, explore their surroundings, view art installations and, as Boiler Room states on their website, be taken into the “subversive and liberated world of Berlin’s nightclub culture”.
These are just two examples of the many ways VR will continue to redefine how artists broadcast their music, connecting audiences from around the world to experience real-life music moments. As VR will continue to evolve, we can definitely expect to see more engaging, creative music experiences coming our way! However, both Coachella and Boiler Room need to be careful that they do not utilise the technology too much that it eventually replaces the real music experience.
VR will change the way that we learn, practice instruments and entertain ourselves. Digital approaches to music learning have become more prevalent, with countless different apps being developed to make learning a more shareable and exciting experience. In May 2016, Sam Shi and Sean Kelly, students at New York University’s Shanghai campus, developed Teach-U:VR, an innovative solution that provides individuals with an engaging and immersive way to play piano and drums in VR. Using Google cardboard VR headsets, users can play virtual instruments as well as interacting with others in the same virtual space. As not everyone has the time or money to learn in a traditional setting with a teacher, Teach-U:VR gives individuals the opportunity to learn music in an interactive manner, at a lower cost, whenever they want.
In addition, although this application was not specifically created for educational purposes, Survios, a Los Angeles-based VR company, created Electronauts, a music creation experience that will be coming out in 2018. Users can utilise different sound manipulation tools to create their own music, which is played by cool looking astronauts in psychedelic settings.
Both of these apps, and others alike, will redefine how we understand music creation. Creators and music lovers will be able to express themselves and experiment like never before, enhancing their musical abilities as well as learning more about music development in an exciting manner.
Overall, although VR is still in its infancy, it has already changed the way we interact with music, allowing us to listen, see AND experience it in an untraditional manner. To give you an idea of the incredible possibilities of VR, Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has described the technology as having as much potential as the iPhone. Tom Szirtes of Mbryonic states that it will become the future of music technology, with it “not only changing the way we consume music, but also the way we create it, connecting musicians together from around the world to jam in a virtual recording studio. Eventually, we may even see albums recorded and performed entirely in VR!”
VR will only create a greater, more personal and thrilling music experience, and with further digital technological advancements we can only imagine what the future of music and VR will hold!