Thank you for the music: how will live concerts evolve in the Augmented Age?

Oct 17, 2022

Nick Bolton, CEO, discusses how live concerts could evolve in the Augmented Age

17 October 2022 - Digital transformation is impacting almost every dimension of our world and the live music industry is no exception. The innovative adoption of motion capture technology has enabled the realisation of cutting edge, creative ideas and developments for live performances.

The live concert industry has always been quick to adopt technological change - just look at how virtual performances have evolved from the first experimentations by South Korean boy band H.O.T., to the critically acclaimed ABBA Voyage Experience. It was back in 1998 when H.O.T. became the first to experiment with holographic performances, aiming to appear in multiple locations at once on their world tour. The technology continued to develop so that 2Pac could appear posthumously with his holographic appearance at Coachella 2012, where one video of the performance amassed over 57 million views on YouTubei, his album sales increased 500% and downloads of his song 'Hail Mary' rose 1,500%ii. Not only this, but a 2015 live music video performance by Japanese pop group, Perfume at SXSW, which seamlessly combined live footage of the trio performing with motion captured 3D avatars, was described by Wired as an “ecstatic vision beamed back from a future in which the physical and digital have converged to the point of being utterly indistinguishable”iii - truly the blurring of the physical and virtual worlds.

Concerts are now being performed by avatars of the musicians, to critical acclaim. The best example of this in action is the ABBA Voyage experience.

The momentum was building for augmented projects. The announcement of Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour with a virtual reality experience in 2018, showed key moments over his 50-year career. To create a true to life performance, Elton was motion captured by Vicon customer, House of Moves, ensuring the moves of ‘digital Elton’ stayed trueiv. The Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour announcement and the ABBA Voyage Experience were both underway before 2020. However, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic accelerated musicians’ readiness, and indeed, the readiness of fans, to embrace this technology on a wider scale, moving the industry into the next era.

As we move into the Augmented Age, where machines and humans partner to achieve what neither can do alone, concerts are now being performed by avatars of the musicians, to critical acclaim. The best example of this in action is the ABBA Voyage experience. The band members, Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny, and Björn, were tracked using motion capture as they performed their set to perfection over the course of five weeks. The motion measurement sensors and software captured every idiosyncrasy, every mannerism, emotion, enabling Vicon customer, Industrial Light & Magicv to merge the physical and the digital and create the band just as they performed in 1979, not as hollow images, but avatars, virtual twins of the artists, complete with the performers’ real essence and emotions.

A study conducted by Middlesex University reported that 95% of fans surveyed said that emotional engagement from the artist during live stream concerts is important to themvi. The commercial and critical success of the ABBA Voyage experience is testament to the fact that this emotional engagement has been achieved, with motion measurement technology at the very core of the operation.

We are already seeing consumers embrace this digital format in the live music industry, as the possibilities enabled by motion measurement begin to crystallise. Now, what leaps out is the potential longevity of these augmented concerts. Virtual concerts allow concertgoers to experience the greatest performances of their favourite bands and musicians, past and present. The performance possibilities are truly exciting, as we have seen with ABBA, bands like the Rolling Stones can be immortalised, even Oasis could be reunited onstage. The sense and analysis capabilities which form the backbone of these projects are there, how they will be applied to transform the future of the live concert industry will be determined by the imaginations and creative genius of the digital artists, technicians, and performers. What once seemed a possibility in the distant future is now being realised before our eyes in the Augmented Age of the present, enabled by developments in motion measurement technology.

YouTube, Tupac Hologram Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre Perform Coachella Live 2012, 18 April 2012
ii Digital Domain, Virtual Tupac
iii Wired, Hot Damn, This Concert Is Straight Out of the Future, 23 March 2015

iv fxguide, Digital VR Elton, 28 January 2018
YouTube, ABBA Voyage: The Journey Is About To Begin, 2021
vi King’s College London, Research finds live streamed concerts are here to stay post-pandemic, 14 May 2021


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