How the Next Concert You Attend Could Be in VR

You can’t beat the convenience factor

Key Takeaways

  • You don’t need to leave home to experience the growing array of live music concerts available in virtual reality. 
  • Sensorium Galaxy is launching a social VR music platform that will let you use avatars to interact with fellow concertgoers. 
  • But observers say that the sound quality of VR concerts can’t match that of music in the real world.
Someone watching a live concert in virtual reality.

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Live concerts are going virtual as technological advances make the experience more realistic.

A company called Sensorium Galaxy is launching a social VR music platform that claims to revolutionize live music experiences. The virtual world will let you use avatars to interact with fellow concertgoers. It’s one of a growing number of options allowing users to experience live music from the comfort of their headsets. 

The Sensorium Galaxy is a virtual world in development that focuses on musical performances. The first area to launch will be Prism, which will feature various artists, including famed DJ, producer, and musician David Guetta.

A virtual motion-captured version of him and other DJs will play sets in fantastical venues. The company says you’ll be able to listen or explore the responsive environment, as well as interact with virtual characters and avatars controlled by real people.

"Through the use of immersive video formats and spatial audio recording, audience members within virtual reality can hear and see their favorite artists from any vantage point, ranging from the front row of a concert hall to the center of the orchestra, all without any physical distractions: every seat can be the best seat in the house," Rob Hamilton, a music professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, said in an email interview.

Concerts filmed with 360-degree camera views allow users to watch individual performers at their discretion and choice, and move through the space to adjust their viewing and listening location, "giving them more control over what they see and hear than if they were attending the concert in person," Hamilton added. 

Growing Options for VR Concerts

A wide range of virtual concert spaces recently have launched because of the plummeting cost of high-quality VR gear and the social distancing measures put in place over the past year. 

Someone attending a VR concert and playing air guitar.

Ildar Abulkhanov / Getty Images

Wave XR and Melody VR are two key players that offer concerts. Roblox also is an emerging platform for music. 

Virtual concerts have some advantages over the real thing. For one, you won’t get beer splashed in your face in VR.  Fans also can get an up-close look at artists and shows, and some platforms give you the ability to view from different angles.

"Platforms like Wave XR give you the sense of being in a different world with avatars and the like," Seth Schachner, a music and technology executive at Strat Americas, said in an email interview. "So much so that you might not even feel as though you are at a concert."

It’s not just pop music that’s going virtual. A recent project from the Royal Opera House in London reportedly was the first to explore virtual reality for opera in December 2020. 

Offering a virtual reality experience for live concerts could attract a new diverse audience for classical music and opera, Mitchell Hutchings, a music professor at Florida Atlantic University, said in an email interview. 

But You Can’t Mosh in VR

While VR technology is getting better all the time, few observers think it will replace live concerts altogether. 

"Platforms like WaveXR give you the sense of being in a different world with avatars and the like."

For one thing, the sheer power of the sound in a live arena concert is challenging to capture, as home users generally don’t have speaker systems capable of replicating the robust bass response of a touring band’s rig.

For acoustic music, whether an intimate solo piano, a string quartet or bluegrass band, or a full orchestral performance, speakers of any kind "struggle to recreate a sonic experience that comes even close to the richness and subtlety offered by a live in-person concert," Hamilton said. 

Pop music fares a bit better because the "quality of the sound, itself, can be replicated much more easily to audiences, as it is already designed and mixed to be presented using speakers," he added. 

Virtual environments that allow users to control avatars also risk distracting users from the musical performance. 

"Live concerts performed within Fortnite, for instance, show that audiences spend a significant amount of time within the virtual space doing extra-musical actions, such as building structures and driving cars," Hamilton said.

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