The Future of Music with Virtual Reality Technology
As far back as the 1980s, virtual reality has been foreseen as the future of entertainment. However, virtual reality is just becoming a reality in the year 2016. Forward thinking revolutionary indie artists like Muse, Bjork, U2, Kasabian and Ash Koosha are bringing up alluring ideas of how music would be enjoyed in the future.
But for now, virtual reality music is very expensive. The New York Times was rumored to have spent about $100,000 a minute on its virtual reality film The Displaced. Two of the artists mentioned above Muse and U2 had their virtual reality forays sponsored by Apple with its $200 billion cash assets and a corporate taste for music.
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In other words, virtual reality and music seems like just another wasteful expenditure made for only the rich to enjoy but investigating further and one would come to see that virtual reality could transform music as we know it today in all aspects including live concerts and music videos. Independent artists are driving that revolution and a lot is to be seen as to where the journey would lead to.
Of course, it’s too early to tell and there are only very few music videos available in 4k. But this won’t be the case in years to come. The Iranian composer Ash Koosha would release the first VR album later this year. Other artists like Squarepusher and Bjork have also released VR music videos.
VR is not necessarily for the rich as there are cheap options like Google Cardboard which costs just $10 and can work with almost any smartphone and a lot of VR videos can be gotten for free.
Music icon Paul McCartney and Kasabian are artists that have been part of VR concerts projects where viewers at home have the privilege of engaging in a live concert from their couches at home.
Koosha’s ideas for VR lie very much in this field. He describes his forthcoming VR album – 20 minutes of visual representations of music from his recent I AKA I release – as “like a journey of 20 minutes inside my head when I was making music”. “What this project is trying to achieve for me is to make people feel the way I feel when I create music,” he adds. “I see sounds, so what if I make something that gives the opportunity to see the same, to experience the same.”
That may sound somewhat fanciful. And yet, the physical tone of Koosha’s music – tQ’s review ofI AKA I referenced “blocks of sound” and “blurts of percussion” – makes it well suited to this approach. “I feel like my sounds, each and every one of them, they have physical value,” Koosha explains. “What is missing from the consumption of this type of music is exactly the VR experience.”
Björk’s approach to VR took a similarly literal bent. Her VR clip for ‘Stonemilker’ transports viewers to the same Icelandic beach, Grótta, where she composed the song. “As you watch this in the Virtual Reality headset it will be as if you are on that beach and with the 30 players sitting in a circle tightly around you,” she said in a statement.
Björk, has sold millions of records and can definitely pay for VR. But what about the smaller musicians those that don’t have a lot of money? How did Run the Jewels, for example, pay for a nice VR production? “We lucked out because we had a director like Peter for free and the studio [Wevr] paid for it,” explains Run the Jewels manager Amaechi Uzoigwe. Similarly, MelodyVR takes the cost of producing virtual reality footage for musicians, with any eventual profits to be divided between Melody and the multiple rights holders.
360-degree video is easier to make than VR videos. It allows users to view a scene from any angle but usage of a headset is not compulsory. It’s less immersive than VR and easier to make.
Mixed Reality and Augmented Reality is another subset of the virtual reality industry. Here, digital information can be interlaced with VR videos for an over the top experience.
Some think VR could end up as a gimmick. But the same was said about fingerprint sensors and video calling which are now technologies that have come to stay after price reduction due to market forces and improvements in technology. The same would most likely apply to VR.