What Do Hologram Performances Mean for the Future of Music Concerts?

There’s a new player in the modern concert scene in the form of hologram performances. With 1960’s rock-and-roll singer Roy Orbison kicking off the U.S. leg of “his” hologram tour last October, the phenomenon is departing from becoming a one-off novelty performance to a mainstream concert event. Depending on where you stand, it can either be an intriguing or mortifying development. 

So with that in mind, this article will look at the recent rise of hologram performances and what it means for concerts the world over. 

Bringing back the dead

Ever since Celine Dion sang with a hologram of Elvis Presley in 2007 and a hologram of Tupac performed on a Coachella stage in 2012, there has been an increasing interest in this remarkable technology. These concerts often involve a computer-generated hologram of a dead singer performing recorded tracks accompanied by a live band. Through this, artists like Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix have all had a second life onstage. 

The feat comes with its own set of pros and cons. For one, hologram performances are able to recreate pivotal moments in music history for a new generation. Star 101.5 FM reports that Woodstock Music and Arts Festival’s 50th-anniversary concert will be adding Jimi Hendrix’s hologram to their line-up to perform his iconic Star Spangled banner guitar solo. The festival team asserts that Hendrix’s statement piece on U.S. patriotism needs to be heard now more than ever given the historical parallels.

Similarly, holographic concerts breathe new life to artists who’ve played an iconic role in music history and allow audiences to see them in their prime. Billboard spoke to Peter Martin, CEO of Los Angeles’ V.A.L.I.S. studios, who stated how he would like to see a 35-year-old Bowie perform. The death of Bowie left a huge gap in the music industry, and a hologram would allow his theatricality to reach and inspire new audiences. Martin points out that by 2025, nightclubs across the world could be hosting concerts by iconic figures. 

Another perspective

While some see hologram concerts as moving tributes to timeless musicians, others disagree. Many people critique these performances as being ethically wrong. Holograms exploit a dead artist without their consent and essentially blur lines between life and death. Some others see it as an inauthentic attempt to mimic live shows, without any real audience participation. Philly Mag even notes that after a hologram performance, audiences are put in an awkward position as to whether to applaud a computer-generated figure.

An ‘evolutionary step’

Despite criticism and discomfort, some still see hologram concerts as the evolutionary step to the modern concert experience. The music industry has always embraced technology to move forward and reach a wider audience. All popular artists live on through various means, with many having an expansive digital presence long after they have passed away. Moreover, a musician’s online presence allows them to reach an audience that may not be familiar with their music, ensuring that their legacy never dies out. 

The most common way is through officially endorsed digital entertainment outlets that combine an artist’s music with online activity. Gaming platform Slingo has an official Jimi Hendrix slot game, as well as others based on famous singers like Elvis, who’ve sadly left us. Both games use the musicians’ back catalog and famous symbols from their respective careers. Not only does this play on the nostalgia of old fans, but it also appeals to the new tech-savvy generation. Another popular outlet is streaming services like YouTube, which show famous concert recordings of iconic bands like Queen. In some cases, the views are up to 20 million. Hologram concerts are arguably the next logical step for younger music fans that have already grown up with digital versions of the musicians.

In many ways, the modern concert scene has already become digital compared to a few decades ago. Many artists now play pre-recorded instrumentals, using their laptops and synthesizers to loop tracks. These practices would’ve been unthinkable a few decades ago. The music user experience is constantly evolving, and it looks like hologram performances are the next step.

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