With Music In New Realities, We Can Go Deeper Together

A look around the media landscape will explain that virtual reality has become a major player in the music industry and virtual concerts are on the rise with performances by mainstream artists in popular games and other platforms.

But, with all the promise of the “metaverse,” not only do these events fail to optimally leverage VR innovation, but they also fall short in using music to help create an immersive social space for people to gather virtually where they feel connected . to each other and humanity.

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Today, virtual reality related to music and augmented reality content are classified into 3 main categories:

  1. Virtual concerts and music videos by mainstream, popular artists represented by their avatar likenesses;
  2. “Rhythm games” and music-making apps focused on popular music;
  3. Music visualizers.

Audiences and Artists Still Adjust

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, many artists are including virtual and hybrid shows as part of their tour schedules.

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Last year, a United Talent Agency (UTA) poll showed that three out of four people attended online events during the pandemic and, among them, 88% planned to continue even when in-person events return.

Given the investments in this virtual space by companies including Meta, HTC, ByteDance’s Pico, and soon… Apple and the anticipated headset will probably be announced in 2023, the AR / VR market is a major player in the music industry, even producing the “Best Metaverse Performance” category in 2022 MTV VMAs.

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With virtual concerts on the rise, major artists such as Eminem and Snoop Dogg, Travis Scott, Ariana Grande, and BTS have performed in-game music shows—albeit with mixed results.

See also: NCSOFT Uses Augmented Reality to Bring UNIVERSE’s First K-Pop Concert to Life

Some of these events are said to be nothing more than a “kiddie cash grab,” leaving audiences wanting more out of virtual experiences that will actually use VR as a new medium and form of expression.

Possibilities for New Discovery Modes

There are, however, burgeoning examples of innovative and thoughtful approaches to VR/AR music experiences. Sigur Rós’ 2018 collaboration with Magic Leap, Tónandi, shows what an immersive and interactive AR music experience can do, although it’s not currently available on all platforms. This ambitious project features an Icelandic pop-rock band in a musical experience for a high-end AR device that combines music, visuals, and similar interactions to create a synesthetic experience.

Tónandi - interactive audio-visual exploration
Tónandi’s interactive audio-visual exploration

One of the promises of the metaverse is to bring people together practically. Traditionally, live music events are places where we can gather for a communal experience. This is the missing piece for today’s VR music events, which have yet to find an organic way for audience members to interact with the artist and each other.

Then, there is the possibility of bringing the score built into virtual space, to connect with the psyches and emotions of people as music has been done in concert halls, movies, and television shows for a long time.

Music and… Miniature Golf?

While not a music-centric app, Mighty Coconut’s Walkout Mini Golf – a virtual reality game in which I composed the original score – gives an example of how VR / AR can be a gathering space for people to experience visuals and music while exploring the virtual world or just hanging out together.

VR and music - Walkabout Mini Golf game
VR game Walkabout Mini Golf

Each course presents an interesting world with a different atmosphere, created by music, visuals, and course design that presents an alternative to VR / AR games and music experiences. Players consider the place as much as the game, and their connection to the soundtrack has led to streaming on various services just to bring back that sense of place.

VR Music Experiences Are Here to Stay

Virtual reality music experiences are here to stay. While VR / AR is currently most strongly associated with games and major companies, there is a lot of hope with content put out by independent studios and artists, who can be more flexible in adapting to changes in technology and demographic audience. This virtual space will offer new and exciting possibilities for musicians and audiences.

See also: Are Virtual Reality Concerts the Future of Live Music?

Anyone who invests in advanced music—artists, academics, fans, bookers, labels, music supervisors, and even advertisers—would be advised to keep an eye on VR/AR and start learning what’s happening in this space.

Like music albums and movies, these tools are just a mode of expression for artists to connect with their audience and, hopefully, encourage people to connect with each other.

Guest Post



About the Guest Author(s)


Chris Reyman

Chris Reyman

Chris Reyman joins UT’s Music Dept as Asst. Professor of Commercial Piano in 2014. He is also a composer, has written works for jazz ensembles, improvising ensembles, and orchestras. He has completed scores for 2 award-winning short films, “Pigeon Impossible” and “The OceanMaker.” He completed the music for “Undocumented Freedom,” a documentary film by Laura Bustillos; “Memory Box,” a short film by Angie Reza Tures; and “Storm Riders,” an immersive movie experience by Austria-based ATTRAKTION!.


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