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Will virtual reality gigs help or hinder live music?

Laura  Barnes
Will virtual reality gigs help or hinder live music?

The live music scene is essential to most working musicians.

Bands and artists typically start off in the gigging scene by playing anytime, anywhere and mostly for free.

Over the years more pubs, clubs, cafes, rented spaces and even charity shops have put on gigs to get punters in, make more money, and give local musicians the chance to play for people.

London is a fantastic example of this. One would be surprised if they walked past more than two pubs on a single high street that weren’t putting on live music on any given night. Bands are able to find gigs in interesting and novelty venues that they wouldn’t have even thought were possible.
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Despite the unfortunate and inevitable experience these bands are bound to have at some point of playing to people who don’t really care (or playing to no one at all!), gigs are so much easier to come by now that it gives more bands the opportunity to get out there and work on becoming great.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the U2s, Kings of Leons and Coldplays of the world who play to thousands of people in stadiums and sell tickets for sometimes hundreds of pounds a pop.

Of course there are gigging musicians laying in between these two polar opposites, those just about making a living off touring Europe, those who have managed to get the support slot for a bigger band for a handful of dates and have made enough money to go into the recording studio, etc.

Through the combination of a multitude of things like recessions, the rise of music streaming, illegal downloads and the general public's attitude towards paying for entertainment, one thing is becoming clear: artists simply can’t rely on just selling albums anymore.

Check out my interview with Flock of Dimes A.K.A Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner to see how a talented, working musician feels about the value of music these days – and how gigging is vital to her livelihood, despite wanting to do more studio work.

So, while gigging is so important to musicians, should we be worried about how virtual reality might impact the scene?

On the one hand, VR could be the downfall of social gatherings.

Rather than standing around in a sticky-floored venue for two hours before the main act, being body searched on your way in, and being nudged in the ribs every time someone with an armful of beers tries to get back to their spot at the front, you could sit in your pants on your comfy sofa and feel like you’re closer to the action than when you're stuck at the back of Brixton Academy because you’re not in the mood for getting roped into a mosh pit.

The likes of Universal are currently pushing their VR ventures. They’re even bringing ABBA back to the stage in digital form.

Music Week recently spoke to UMG and XIX Entertainment founder and CEO Simon Fuller about it all.

“We are exploring a new technological world, with Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence at the forefront, that will allow us to create new forms of entertainment and content we couldn’t have previously imagined,” he said.

Are we likely to see long-gone artists and bands ‘reform’ for concerts that only exist in a piece of software beamed into our eyes? I think it's likely.

If that’s the future, one has to wonder where the real world live scene fits in.

On the plus side, VR will be a great tool for fans who are unable to get to physical gigs, or for those who aren’t able to leave their own house or bed. Advancements in technology enrich our lives and help us experience things that we never thought we could.

While I’m excited to see the new forms of entertainment that VR can bring, I just hope people don’t forget that great feeling when your right there in the real life moment when something amazing happens.

Tags: live music , music week , Opinion , universal , VR , virtual reality , gigging

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