The concert sector has been one of the parts of the entertainment industry hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Large crowds and free-flowing international travel are simply not possible under coronavirus restrictions. Many bands have turned to online performances instead, but even a live feed can’t replicate the feeling of being there.
Taiwan-based tech firm HTC Vive, which is a leader in virtual reality (VR), sees holographic concerts as an exciting answer to that problem. These combine the uniqueness of a band performance on a specific day and date with audience participation from anywhere in the world.
The company’s content arm HTC Vive originals is close to launching beta version of Beatday, a platform that recreates more of the concert experience than can be captured by conventional cameras and allows for greater audience involvement. The company pitches it as “a metaverse with music as its main focus.”
The experience first involves the conception and creation of a virtual performance space. This allows a show’s set designers and lighting team far more freedom and creativity than is available at any real-world venue.
That is followed by the volumetric (3D) recording of a band’s live performance in a motion capture studio – facilities are available in Taiwan, Japan and France.
The separation of the two components allows the musicians and dancers to concentrate more on their performance without distractions or physical limits. Their design efforts need only be focused on hair, makeup and costume.
Then, combining the virtual venue with an actual performance creates a holographic concert, complete with rendezvous date, tickets and virtual merchandize.
Audience members can be as active or as passive as they choose. They join in by creating their own avatar, which can be dressed accessorized and flown around the virtual venue.
The initial iteration of Beatday is expected to be available in two versions, one for desktop, the other for mobile. Augmented reality and fully VR editions may follow.
(HTC Vive is one of the leading pioneers in manufacturing VR equipment for consumer usage and has worked in partnership with developer Valve. Since the first launch in 2016, its hardware has moved through several generations.)
“We will launch Beatday first on both mobile and PC in order to attract the mass public and to be available to younger users. After we reach a certain scale in the market, we will then release a VR version to really provide the high-end experience for our audiences,” HTC Vive Originals president Liu Szu-ming told Variety.
Among the first concerts on Beatday will be Amazing Show, a popular indie band from Taiwan which will play a half hour set as a closed beta test. Six show dates are to be announced.
By the end of 2021, HTC Vive Originals expects to have signed up three or four additional acts, including one of Taiwan’s biggest name performers.
“We believe that performers will be attracted to Beatday because of the way it is creating significant change to the industry,” said Liu. “It is integrating music licensing, record labels and artist management agencies, and generating new business opportunities and an innovative revenue sharing model.”
Ticket pricing has yet to be finalized, though an affordable $10-20 is indicated by the company. That is likely to include concert entry and a personalized avatar that can be owned as a non-fungible token (NFT) and retained after the event. Audience members can go as individuals or with friends, and they will get a chance to add paid-for costumes and accessories.
“After singers’ physical concerts were canceled due to the pandemic, ‘holo concerts’ have emerged as the new way of putting on shows online,” says Liu.