The essence of music has always been simple – just listen. Music is one form that does not require other senses in order to enjoy. However, in this day in age, visualization has become absolutely crucial to the success of music. Without visuals, music becomes almost prehistoric – musicians and artists need to capitalize on their ability to bring their music to life. And with that, the year 2016 has become a breeding ground for music to be good for your ears AND your eyes. In this post, I’m talking about all of the different ways that music industries are shifting to be masters of sound and sight.
So Shazam. You’ve probably heard of this application, and what’s more likely, you have the app on your phone. As the number one music recognition app, Shazam has not only become a verb, but a household name. Recently, you may have seen Shazam partner up with other companies to put their logo in commercials, giving viewers the opportunity to ‘shazam’ the commercials to be taken to a content-curated page. An awesome is example is the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, where if you shazamed Ellie Goulding’s performance, you would be taken to a page to enter her sweepstakes. Now, following in the footsteps of your Snapchat ID and QR codes, there is Visual Shazam. Updates to the app including this feature have been available for a short while, but are now just being widely implemented. Personally, I know that Visual Shazam is becoming very popular for promoting artists. On stickers, posters, and other merch, if you find the Shazam logo, you can open up the camera section of the app and be taken to that content curated page. You no longer need to just hear the music to discover it – you can Visual Shazam it! Now, users have the ability to whip out their phones and discover special content only reachable by using this feature. Definitely a way to catch people’s interest.
Additionally, 2016 is the year that concerts may just be revolutionized. With the Oculus Rift and similar fixtures being released this year, virtual reality is becoming the new norm. My company, Universal Music Group, is planning to release digital concerts throughout the year for virtual headset devices. Essentially, DVD concerts are a thing of the past, and this allows a gateway for bands who would not have access to a big time recorded concert to access far more fans, and give them that personalized concert feel. Some artists, such as Bjork, are making music videos specifically for virtual reality. I’m not entirely on board with the idea. With college students being one of the largest markets for music, I asked another college student, Brendan Clancy, senior at Michigan State University, what he thinks about concerts in virtual reality: “I think that would be a pretty cool idea. Maybe not if you had to pay for it, though. If you were somewhere, at an event of some sort, that provided you with the footage to watch the concert, then that would be cool. I don’t know if I’d spend money to watch a whole concert in virtual reality. That’s a long time to be sitting there, and if you can see them live, then I don’t really see the point. A music video would be a sick idea though. You can do anything with that.” I also asked my friends, who asked their friends, how they felt about watching a concert in virtual reality. Only about a third of them had actually used a virtual reality headset before, so these results will more than likely change in the future.
My take? First of all, Visual Shazam is gonna be big no matter what. Just like QR codes, Visual Shazam is easy, convenient, and kind of fun. I don’t see the downside to having Visual Shazam. All it does it make discovering artists that much easier and more interesting by incorporating visual content, which is nothing to complain about. Conversely, virtual reality for music? I agree with Brendan; I’m not so sure. Maybe if we’re talking about a virtual reality experience of someone like Tupac Shakur, someone we can never see again, then that would be worth my time to sit down and watch a concert. But, the whole point of concerts is to actually be there, and I’m not convinced that seeing it in virtual reality would be more exciting. It’s kind of like watching them play a concert on TV – it’s interesting, but not something I’d spend hours doing. I do however think the idea of virtual reality music videos could be amazing. As the chart above says, the largest majority of video watching is for music videos, besides funny viral content, meaning that music videos are MASSIVELY influential and critical to the success of artists. In these short blurbs of time, artists can really engage with their viewers and find a new way to reach more fans by creating an incredible virtual space – this is an outlet that could spawn a new kind of filmmaking, which would influence entertainment culture in its entirety. That being said, it could also be the worst thing that ever happened. What if you accidentally end up in a virtual reality setting of a death metal video? Being put in that setting might end up being traumatic – virtual reality may be teetering on a fine line. Overall, the music industry is definitely becoming more reliant on visual cues, and as with every technology, it has its potential risks and rewards. But the industry is undeniably changing, and we will be living in the realm of virtual music before we know it. Until then, I’ll stick to seeing my bands the old-fashioned way: live and in-person.