How Virtual Reality is Affecting the Music Industry


Written by Mary Woodcock

03 May 2017

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With new and revolutionary platforms such as Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens, Facebook Spaces, and Google Cardboard, technology is developing at an extremely exciting pace.

Just two weeks ago on April 19th, 2017, Facebook launched Facebook Spaces; a virtual environment in which you can hang out with the avatar versions of your friends using Oculus Rift. I had a great afternoon exploring this new platform, that shows extremely positive and exciting potential for development and is presenting a new wave of interaction and communication. Facebook Spaces presents features such as sharing timeline photos to pass around your virtual friends and live drawing that you can pick up and pass around too. This new platform of sharing and communication has the ability to open many doors for how we share media in a contemporary context, and I couldn’t help but wonder how this type of interaction will impact the music industry. Perhaps the next stages of the relationship between VR and musicians will be creating a space for artists to jam, a space in which international conferences can happen, meetings to take place and live performances can be visited and experienced without the boundary of space, creating an intimate experience for every music lover to engage in, and a dimension in which everyone is welcome.

Not too long ago, Google Cardboard gave me an insight into how VR has already had an effect on live performances. With a 360 camera sat in the middle of the front row at a Jean-Michel Jarre concert, I found myself with a brilliant view, getting a real insight into the live atmosphere there. With headphones on, I had a high-quality stream of the audio and a 360 perspective of the show. The experience was completely immersive, leaving me with the ability to watch the spectacle of lights and morphing animation in the comfort of my home, and a cup of tea to my side. Where for many people, music is seen as an outlet; a new dimension to explore, and a new world to lose yourself in, VR presents a new way of levelling up and breaking all traditional boundaries. This feels like a really exciting next step into an experience of a gig. What more could you want? Front row, great view, with no rowdy people to bump into.

Though this is a revolutionary step in the industry, I feel as though an authentic experience of a gig will remain as impactive as ever, leaving the option of VR to only enhance the music scene, not eliminate the organic magic of visiting a live show. The reality of being in a crowded room, amongst fellow fans, feels as though it can never be outdated, only enhanced and developed. Perhaps the use of Augmented Reality such as HoloLens will eventually become an inevitable aspect of a live performance that enhances everyone’s experience, offering a magical world where technology and music harmonise to make something spectacular. There is a certain fascination with synesthesia, as it’s a rare insight into a new way of experiencing music, that so many of us can’t access. Perhaps this new technology will allow us to explore similar ways of experiencing our surroundings, connecting the dots that are often providing the illusion of separation.

The development of VR offers a platform for artists to get even more creative, and to jump on board the new wave of exciting technology. Last year, Björk curated a completely immersive exhibition, where she premiered her latest endeavour into creating an intimate and mystical experience for an intrigued listener. The exhibition was very successful and reinforced her frequent demonstration of a progressive artist making the most of the pioneering tools around her. Attendees were able to watch footage of her new music video for Stonemilker, and find themselves in mystical lands, adventurers of a new dimension that she has so carefully created. This example of VR is not only a great step for musicians but a great step for fans too. Björk has set an example for artists to use cutting edge technology to allow fans to experience the artist’s imagination in a more intimate way than ever before.

When Beyoncé dropped Lemonade last year, the album came with a complete set of music videos to compliment her tracks. Her accompaniment of the multitude of beautiful videos had never been done before. However, with this year’s breakthrough of technology allowing us to harness another dimension,  I can’t help but imagine what the next step will be. Perhaps a series of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality videos is in store!


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