How VR Could Change the Way You Go to Concerts

Crowdsurf from your couch

Key Takeaways

  • Virtual reality concerts are letting fans experience live music in new ways. 
  • A new YouTube channel claims to be the first virtual reality classical channel. 
  • New technologies promise to make VR concerts even more realistic.
Person wearing VR headset with concert footage superimposed

Emilija Manevska / Getty Images

Musicians are taking advantage of virtual reality to reach concertgoers as many in-person venues remain closed. 

A new YouTube channel lets you become a virtual "presence" in the space where the pianist is performing. It claims to be the first virtual reality classical channel on the video service. But it’s only one of a growing number of ways to experience concerts through various types of headsets. 

“Fully virtual concert experiences allow remote audiences access to physical locations around the globe that otherwise would be out of reach,” Rob Hamilton, a professor of music and media at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told Lifewire in an email interview.“

“More intimate than a simple pay-per-view television viewing of a live stream, concerts captured using 360-degree cameras and immersive binaural or ambisonic sound allow virtual concert goers to be part of the spectacle, from the best seat in the house, without the inconvenience of physically being present in the concert hall,” he added. 

VR Goes Classical

The new YouTube concert channel works with the aid of 3D glasses or VR headsets. One video shows the work of composer Jeremy Cavaterra, who was recorded at a world premiere performance at the Auditorio de Tenerife, a concert auditorium in Spain.

Many companies are broadcasting concerts to users of virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Quest 2. For example, Live Nation and NextVR use high-quality production values, multiple camera vantage points, and access to top-tier commercial pop artists. 

Billie Eilish performed in VR using the Oculus Venues app on Oculus Quest. So did Imagine Dragons. Acclaimed electronic violinist Lindsey Stirling rocked an entirely virtual performance in front of a live crowd of 400,000 people. 

Person playing guitar on bed wearing VR headset

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“Perhaps more interesting, however, are artists and designers creating virtual musical experiences that truly leverage the power of modern computer graphics and audio systems,” Hamilton said, pointing to a series of concert experiences showcased within Epic Games’ Fortnite platform, featuring Ariana Grande, Travis Scott, Marshmello, and others.

“By combining the interactive aspects of video games with the communal listening and viewing experiences of traditional concerts, Epic is succeeding in creating digital concert experiences that reach their core demographic of young gamers thirsty for something more than a passive stream or recording of the 'real world,'” Hamilton said. 

VR allows artists to interact with their fans in a new way, Scott Lynch, a music industry professional who is the founder of VOYRE, an immersive media company, told Lifewire in an email interview. 

“VR's superpower is the ability to transport the viewer to unique places, by capturing a concert in stereoscopic 360 video and ambisonic audio, we can give any fan the chance to have the best seat in the house,” Lynch said. 

Works in Progress

But VR concerts have their limits. For one thing, it’s hard to interact with other fans at virtual performances, Lynch pointed out. 

“Music concerts and music festivals are at their core a very social experience, and the main reason people attend these events is because they are going with a group of friends,” he said. 

Another problem is cost. The number of people who own VR headsets still lags behind the number of people who own smartphones, so it can be challenging to reach an audience and cover production costs, Lynch said. 

“The music industry at large is relatively conservative when it comes to utilizing new technology,” Lynch added. “But I think we'll see the brands and artists that start to embrace the new medium of VR will be the ones to really build the next chapter of what music experiences can be.”

New technologies promise to make VR concerts even more realistic. Upcoming slimmer and lighter headsets will help, Amir Bozorgzadeh, the CEO of VR company Virtuleap, told Lifewire in an email interview.

“But much more important is the integration of biometrics like physiological sensors, including heart rate, pupil dilation tracking, skin conductivity, and EEG,” he said. “Which promises to enable the content and user experience to begin to interact with one another in a way that is only possible through the magic of spatial computing.

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