Many, many musicians were slated to tour in 2020. But with the concert industry indefinitely on hold, performers who planned on being in front of their fans this year have turned to other platforms, mediums, even realities, in order get their music to the people who want it most. So, What are augmented-reality concerts?

Augmented reality, or virtual reality concerts, are not uniform by any means. But all of them aim to translate a live experience into a virtual, online experience. Most AR or VR concerts involve artists turning themselves into digital avatars and using these projected images to stage a live concert. So far, artists John Legend, Lindsey Stirling, The Weeknd, and Travis Scott are amongst the artists who’ve pioneered their own AR and VR shows.

Could augmented-reality and virtual reality concerts become an integral part of the new future concert industry? We think so.

At first glance, there wouldn’t seem to be a huge difference between livestream concerts and AR or VR concerts. But unlike livestream shows, AR and VR performances include the potential for fan interaction as the concert is unfolding. This makes for a much more immersive concert experience, one where the audience directly connects with the artist performing.

Wave, the social VR platform and virtual music venue used by John Legend, Tinashe, Jauz, and Galantis, promises a virtual dance floor and the opportunity to socialize and interact with the performing artist like never before. Recently, tens of millions of dollars were invested in Wave, promising even more immersive visuals, personalized artist avatars, new virtual environments, and “in-game activations and social experiences at the nexus of gaming and entertainment.”

The next generation of concert-goers are slated to go beyond traditional live streaming concerts and into a new age of AR and VR listening. At a time when life feels a little out of our control, artists are turning to AR and VR to hand some of it back. Because when you’re at a Wave or Tik Tok concert fans are interacting, they are alive, like never before.

Recently Abel Tesfaye, otherwise known as The Weeknd, debuted quite the experience on Tik Tok. Tesfaye’s avatar performed several songs accompanied by trippy, 3D visuals in what was dubbed “The Weeknd Experience.” This interactive augmented reality livestream was the platform’s “first-ever in-app cross reality experience.”

Much like traditional live concerts “The Weeknd Experience” included guests such as Doja Cat, who stepped in to perform her verse from the “In Your Eyes” remix. The Weeknd also seized the opportunity to debut a minute-long preview of a new song—another commonality between the AR concert and a live one. But, unlike all concerts The Weeknd has performed since his career ballooned back in 2010, this one was free.

In place of expensive concert tickets, AR and VR concerts, by virtue of being relatively cheap to produce, allow musicians to generate donations to worthy causes. Fans who aren’t purchasing tickets for hundreds of dollars can become empowered to give to charity and are encouraged to do so during AR and VR concerts.

For example, during John Legend’s Wave show, fans were able to send paid “visual gifts” throughout the concert. All of the concert’s proceeds went to benefit Legend’s FREEAMERICA campaign, an effort to reform America’s criminal justice system. During “The Weeknd Experience,” fans raised money for the Equal Justice Initiative, a charity working to support racial equality. Users made donations via the TikTok app, with the social network promising to match donations up to an unnamed “generous amount.”

Time goes on and on without any sign of the concert industry making its grand comeback. Fans are understandably upset, bored, and fatigued with the absence of normalcy. Augmented reality and virtual reality concerts may feel far from normal, but in actuality, the gaming and interactive technology has been heading in this direction for years. So, now that we’re here, will fans embrace these new ways of connecting? Will more and more artists take to virtual platforms, even if it means forfeiting revenue to more charitable causes?

As the beloved pop-rock band Imagine Dragons said once and again: Welcome to the new age.

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