Technology has given us some pretty amazing inventions and has opened a lot of opportunities to explore previously uncharted territory in a multitude of facets. In music alone, the advancements made even in the past fifteen years are astounding. From outrageous pedal effects and wireless instrument capabilities to painless studio recording, technology has made playing and listening to music easier and even more enjoyable. Sometimes though, these technological advancements are used to create mind-blowing and borderline insane phenomenon.
How would you feel if, as you were scrolling through Facebook, you see an advertisement urging you to buy tickets to see Jimi Hendrix live? Undoubtedly, you would be intrigued considering, after all, the legendary guitarist has been dead for the past forty-eight years. Sure, producers and record labels are still uncovering “lost” or unreleased music from a variety of deceased artists; but we would never expect to actually see Hendrix light up his Strat on stage again.
But, this befuddling notion has actually been translated to reality; well, virtual reality. Holographic imaging has made it possible to sync up audio with “real-life” representations of our favorite deceased musicians. It might sound like something you will only read about in a science fiction novel or see in Star Wars – the princess Leia hologram scene was one of the first instances of this technology and probably blew the minds of 1970’s moviegoers – but holographic musicians have now been used for over ten years, with the technology becoming more advanced each year.
One of the first music related holograms we experienced is the highly innovative virtual band Gorillaz, made up of four primate-looking characters who are the face of the rock and electronic music of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. When people saw Madonna singing next to these “projections” on stage at the 2006 Grammy’s, they weren’t sure what was going on.
Then in 2012, hip-hop fans who still believe in the “is Tupac alive?” conspiracy got their world’s turned upside down when the infamous west-coast artist appeared onstage at the Coachella Music Festival in California. The hologram – which UPROXX writer explains is “inaccurate: a hologram is a three-dimensional figure; Tupac was actually in 2D; and just appeared as a 3D image – was created by Digital Domain and AV Concepts, a San Diego tech company who “worked with Dr. Dre, and it was his vision to use the technology to bring Tupac back to life.” The companies used a mixture of pre-recorded material and an actor in order to make it appear as if the rapper was addressing the crowd and fellow performer Snoop Dogg onstage.
Other notable musicians who have been holographically resurrected include Elvis, Selena, Frank Sinatra, and a spectacular show from the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards in 2014. The latest musicians who have begun hologram tour or some of those in the works are Roy Orbison, Ronnie James Dio, Frank Zappa and David Bowie. Also, the realm of onstage holograms is not exclusively reserved for the departed, as current bands and musicians are experimenting with the technology to create an even more alluring experience for their audience.
For example, the front man of the iconic pop-rock group Matchbox Twenty, Rob Thomas created a unique experience for his fans. He offered a VIP package to sing karaoke-style with you backstage, only he won’t be there. This is just the tip of the iceberg for what is possible with virtual reality and holographic technology. Some artists even use this opportunity to “perform” with other musicians halfway around the globe as an intriguing gimmick.
So, is that all the hologram craze is, an expensive albeit exciting and intriguing gimmick? According to Hologram USA owner, Alkiviades David, who made his living in this career, “I believe the holographic industry is going through a ‘gold rush’ moment but as I see it, where it is certainly a new paradigm in entertainment, it’s not the future of entertainment.” It may sound snobbish, but the average modern technology consumer has been there and seen that already. It was all the way back almost ten years ago when Will I Am of the Black-Eyed Peas appeared on television for the 2008 presidential announcement when his actual body was nowhere near the set.
There is no denying that the prospect of seeing your favorite musician who has been gone long before you were born is exhilarating, and there may be some moments of high profitability with tours like David Bowie or Frank Zappa; but in the long run, promoters and record labels may be trying to entice fans with an already dried up fad. At what point does the mass consumer think “I could watch this on YouTube for free?” The sudden spike in musicians going on “Hologram tours” have warranted intrigue, but I do not think this will be enough to sustain this facet of the industry for very long.