Live Music in the Virtual Reality

As technology advances at an unstoppable rate, it may sometimes seem as though there are endless boundaries as to where the live music and music festival industry may end up. Not only is music able to be spread to billions of people across the world within seconds, but it is also able to be conveyed to the public in a way which would have once seemed completely ridiculous; through a virtual reality. This virtual reality, typically representing ‘the opposite of real’ is able to present music to the pubic through a new and completely disconnected world (Flew, New Media, p 19).

By basically having people live and interact with others through ‘virtual realities’ which usually are created through computer games, the opportunity to have live music and live concerts played in this separate world has also arisen. This shared virtual reality environment presents a completely new and creative way for live music to be performed, and also for music to be shared and exchanged all around the world.

Live concerts can be played to viewers all around the world in three main categories, being music streaming with avatar animation, video streaming, and through multi media (Rogers, L., September, 2012).

This form of live performance occurs by having the artist performing it from their home or studio using basic recording programs, and uploading it live through an online service, such as one of the most popular virtual reality services, ‘ second life’.  One challenge that is presented for artists wishing to take this conventional approach to live music is their conveyed image. Many artists will in fact employ assistants to help with either their avatar appearance or the way in which the music is broadcasted (Rogers, L., September, 2012).  Much care is taken in all aspects of live performances in second life, and the stage and set up is set up as though it is a real concert. One main advantage being the desired atmosphere of the concert can basically be created through choosing the weather, the time of day and the exact setting of the venue. For example, in Jaynine Scarborough’s online performance through second life, the setting was created as to supplement exactly how she would have liked it to occur in real life.

Although it may seem pointless for an artist to take the extra time and set up a live performance online through second life rather than in reality, the second life performances have proved to provide multiple advantages. The Royal Liverpool Philharmon streamed a video of a concert into virtual reality, and in doing so created headlines in the New York Times and also the Liverpool Telegraph as well as many other media outlets. These performances have the ability to be shared extremely quickly through social media. Additionally, many artists will also allow for responsive chat with the avatar viewers before and after the show; something that is no longer common at live music venues (Dammann, G., 2007).

However, it is true that there is still a long way to come for virtual reality live music performances. Avatars may lag, and rules can be easily broken and bent through virtual reality. For example, one viewer of the opening concert of the royal Liverpool Philharmonic’s 2007/8 season through second life commented how many avatars could be seen running into walls, discarding random items of clothes or looking completely lost (Dammann, G., 2007). This in turn may be interpreted to diminish the respect for the live music which is being presented in front of these people; whether they are present in reality or not.

Live music can also be presented in the virtual world through another medium; holograms. Put simply a hologram is a three-dimensional image made by recording interference patterns from coherent laser light waves (Kowalski, K. M., 1999). The most well known occasion of a hologram being utilized is when the late rapper Tupac appeared on stage with Snoop dog at Coachella festival. By having the deceased rapper chat back and fourth with the crowd and Snoop, it was described as  “effective enough to both stun and freak out thousands of festival-goers of varied states of sobriety” (The Week Staff, 2012). This performance from a deceased artist was not the first and definitely is not the last. It is even suggested that this technology may be used to conduct ‘resurrection tours’ for deceased bands and artists; ie, the Michael Jackson resurrection tour (The Week Staff, 2012).

But does this implementation of the virtual world into live music cross the boundaries of what is morally right and wrong? Who knows, but for now, it is happening.


Dammann, G. (September, 2007). Concerts in Second Life aren’t quite the Real Deal. The Guardian. Retrieved from

Kowalski, K. M. (1999). Hologram magic. Odyssey, 8(5), 12. Retrieved from

Rogers, L. (September, 2012). Future of Work: Musical Performances in Virtual Reality. H Plus Magazine. Retrieved from

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. (2014). Retrieved 24 March, 2014, from

The Week Staff. (April, 2012). Coachella’s ‘astonishing’ Tupac Shakur hologram: How they did it. The Week. Retrieved from


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