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Imagine being able to watch your favourite artist perform a sold out show from the comfort of your living room – instant gratification gone mad, right? It certainly sounds that way, but that’s exactly what London-based start-up Melody VR have set into motion with the launch of their new live music virtual reality app. Boasting endorsement from Sony, Warner and Universal, ‘Melody VR’ stands heads above the competition as the ‘industry-approved’ standard for the technology. Having spent the last two years building a huge archive of 360-degree videos from festivals, concerts and intimate VIP gigs, and with footage of over major-label 600 artists, it would be easy for the company to claim early victory against it competitors. Despite this, start-up head Anthony Matchett remains quietly modest about projections for the future, aiming instead for ‘Melody VR’ to be within “the top five to ten” VR apps.

Offering its users, the option to switch between numerous camera positions in the audience (and even watch the performance from the point of view of the artist on stage) ‘Melody VR’ provides an immersive and unique take on the live music experience, and will undoubtedly tempt many music lovers with the opportunity to attend performances they otherwise missed in real life, or indeed relive past gig highlights from a new perspective. However, as with all private consumer imitations, the question inevitably comes to mind as to what long-term damage this will have on the communal experience. After all, strapping on a headset and some headphones surely can’t compare with the atmosphere of a live performance, can it?

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Live music VR certainly isn’t the first time that the wider ethics of home viewing has been brought into question (cinema attendance obviously taking the brunt of illegal downloads, and more recently the streaming revolution over the last few years), but taking away the social aspect of a live performance sounds almost contradictory in its very nature; after all, isn’t the social aspect inseparable from the experience as a whole? At least, we can’t think of any live performance we’ve attended where there wasn’t some degree of important exchange between the performer and their crowd, or between the crowd themselves. These exchanges are much more than just annoyances, or bi-products, right? This stands as a glaring shortcoming to the very premise of the technology, as launching it into user’s homes as a cheap and convenient alternative to a real human interaction might sound just a little creepy.

We certainly aren’t against progressions in technology that look to move us all forward in many ways (after all, it was only really a matter of time before someone capitalised on this gap in the market), but like with all ‘imitations’ of human experiences, we can’t help but feel a little taken back by how strangely dystopian it all sounds.

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Thinking of the industry as well, it’s hard not to see it as extremely counterintuitive for major labels to be investing money into a business that could potentially massively undercut one of their only remaining pillars for income. With streaming and illegal downloads making the age of big record sales a thing of the past, live performances have become an essential way for the record industry to still make money. Undercutting this with VR alternatives (at a fraction of the price I may add) could arguably sounds like a really bad idea.

From another perspective however, this might be a means of escapism and entertainment worthy of the monetary/social sacrifice elsewhere, particularly in the example of non able-bodied customers who are otherwise unable to attend such events. So really, giving such people the otherwise impossible opportunity of ‘attending’ a live music show sounds like an incredibly exciting prospect, right?

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Source: MelodyVR

What do you think – would you be tempted to give ‘Melody VR’ a try?