Festival goers’ expectations are higher than ever, especially with the large supply of events this Summer after a two-year festival hiatus due to the pandemic. As such, festival organizers are tirelessly trying to outcompete one another for ticket sales. The norm is to position themselves as curated, branded experiences through unique aesthetics and community engagement.

Not to mention bespoke artist programming, value-adds & perks, competitions & giveaways, workshops,  and larger-scale event production. But all this is expensive, time-consuming, and not guaranteed to deliver results.

It’s time to add a new type of technology that not only elevates the visual spectacle of your festival but provides ways for audiences to interact locally and globally – adding scale and engagement to your festival. Game engines and Mixed Reality are becoming a standard in all forms of entertainment, from concerts within games like Fortnite and Roblox to Unreal Engine being used to film whole blockbuster feature films.
Music tech companies have started taking inspiration from what’s been happening in the live events space once lockdown took hold.

The world’s biggest pop stars started creating virtual or mixed reality events, with names like Lil Nas X and Ariana Grande in Fortnite making a dent. Touring managers looked with envy at the viewership numbers (including the astronomical 54 million across Travis Scott’s Fortnite event and realized it would take 200+ sold-out stadiums to get anywhere near the same level of reach. Very quickly, it became apparent that they’d need to spend big to engage fans with something compelling.

It currently costs several hundred thousand dollars to create mixed reality experiences. It also has six months lead time, complex hardware requirements, and heeds a large-scale production crew. However, new tech is looking at democratizing this space and allowing artists to create mixed reality experiences at scale at a fraction of the cost. Providing the next wave of live events to be built around real-time interaction and rendered visually compelling content, which can only be achieved via game engines.

Benefit 1: Power mind-bending visuals on-site

There was a moment in 2007 that changed the festival and concert world. Daft Punk debuted the pyramid during Coachella, cementing that the cultural expectations for live musical events had shifted from focusing on musical virtuosity to the spectacle. But it costs a lot of money to be a pioneer. Amon Tobin, Aphex Twin, Deadmau5, and Bjork were other early adopters of new visual technology, but at the massive expense, effort and ingenuity.

This process still excludes 99.9% of the artists who aspire to be like their idols but cannot obtain the means for it, let alone a festival organizer putting them on for 10s of artists a day.  But rather than spending months with creatives in an expensive production studio, technologies like mixed reality and game engines now mean it’s possible to create truly interactive and audio-reactive 3D visuals from the comfort of your office or bedroom.

Mixed reality tools (think LEGOs for mixed reality) can not only create the next generation of real-time rendered visuals, allowing you to outcompete your peers, but it’s entirely free and is completely no-code. These tools can output normal 2D video content, flat 3D videos for LED walls, and 360 videos for projection mapping entire immersive venues (e.g., the Brooklyn Mirage). Why can’t every show at a festival be like a Transmoderna or an Afterlife performance?

Benefit 2: Hybridise live events and add a global scale

The pandemic normalized live streaming IRL events and catalyzed new ways for artists and their audiences to connect and interact. Real-time rendering in game engines and mixed reality tools creates a new layer of creativity and liveness across time and space: linking artists, local audiences, and global audiences with no extra work. Live streaming to a worldwide audience can improve global fan engagement and drive ancillary revenues.

Benefit 3: Audience Interaction

Music game engines render entire 3D worlds. This means that audience members, both live in-venue and live streaming, can have control over any object within the virtual environment; for mixed reality tech such as Volta, fans type keywords chosen by the festival, artist, or label, into the stream’s chat window, or on your festival’s mobile app. Those keywords trigger effects (as chosen by the festival or artist) in the virtual world, in real-time, and are broadcasted to the LED walls and on the Livestream simultaneously around the world.

For example:

  1. A fan types the word “Particles” in the chat window, and the performer explodes into particles
  2. A fan types “Bacardi” into the chat window, and a 3D Bacardi logo in the video stream explodes
  3. An audience member types in their name into the chat window, and their name appears on the Virtual DJ Booth

Logic is built to prevent people from spamming the chat window and gamify the experience for audiences. For example, if a fan could type into the chat, a chatbot will reply with ten more Booms and make a big Explosion! – after ten more people type in Boom, a giant explosion with your festival’s logo appears behind the performer.

Audience interaction not only brings fans together from around the world, centered around the festival. Engagement drives brand awareness as audience participation features within mixed reality give fans a reason to watch the stream rather than listen to it. This provides the brand with a significant advantage in impression effectiveness.

Fans are united locally and globally to affect the visual content at the show and, thus, the stream. In essence, mixed reality tools provide an excellent means to create visually compelling presentations and add game mechanics like in-app purchases and remote user interaction to live events. For example, audience interaction keywords can be monetized – light visual effects could cost $2, while a fan’s name appearing on the virtual booth could be $100.

Every single show is inherently unique because it is the product of the artist and their fans creating a virtual world together at that moment. The best moments at live shows are when you feel united with the artist and the people around you. Mixed reality empowers you actually to make the experience as a global community.

Engagement and interactivity aside, it’s also an opportunity for product placement and brand sponsorship in a novel way. Brands can not only have their logo on the LED walls/stream but also be made into a 3D object that can have audio-reactive and audience-interactive behaviors, Which provides a new and much more immersive opportunity for brand presence and thus increased revenue from partners.

This article was written by Mitchell Bayer-Goldman the Co-founder and COO of Volta XR; here, he discusses how the application of existing technology can enhance performances.

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