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Can MelodyVR Nail Live Music in 360?

Since the start of the current VR wave, it’s been thought that the ability to experience live music in 360 would help drive mainstream consumption of the technology.

Like the rest of VR, this prediction has been slower to play out than many anticipated, both for technical and content reasons. Capturing and producing high quality audio/video in VR remains expensive and labor intensive. Bandwidth issues can lead to lags when someone is streaming live in 360 as well.

Early movers in the space, like Rivet VR, which posted 360 videos from the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, seem to have faded out — the company’s YouTube page hasn’t been updated with new content in over a year. NextVR and Vantage.tv continue to release concerts, but they are tentpole events, rather than everyday occurrences.

Some of the same problems that plague other forms of VR content are also present in the live music space. Often, the camera is simply too damn high, leaving users with a feeling that they are freakishly tall, or levitating above a scene. This happens in lots of types of 360 content, but is especially noticeable in the live event setting because the viewer is often placed in a crowd and it’s obvious when their viewpoint is two feet above everyone else.

Many live music experiences currently on the market don’t allow for much agency in terms of where the user views the concert. They wind up jumping from place to place, including watching the show at angles that seem completely unnatural, like next to the bass player.

Finally, and perhaps the hardest to solve: many live music experiences are completely anti-social, while one of the biggest reasons people go to concerts is to experience the show with friends and other fans.

So can MelodyVR, the hotly tipped UK company with two major label deals (Warner Music, Universal Music Group) in the bag, provide any solutions?

According to co-founder Anthony Matchett, whom I recently interviewed, they’ve worked with over 500 artists to shoot concert footage and are currently building up a content library in anticipation of a launch later this year. He said that in terms of the camera height issue, it’s been a process of trial and error. But they’ve finally found a height that seems natural for most people and won’t make users feel like they’re 10 feet tall.

In terms of user agency, MelodyVR’s app will allow viewers to select from a number of angles and pick their vantage point. Although he added that if someone wants a completely lean-back experience, they might produce “director’s cuts” where the viewer will be moved at will.

But the social aspect remains a tough nut to crack. Matchett said that one issue is simply beyond the control of his company or any other content creator: there aren’t enough headsets in the market to make watching with friends a realistic option right now.

Matchett did remark that MelodyVR is working with Oculus and other partners to integrate avatars into the experiences, however. So once more headsets are in homes, people will be able to see each other and communicate at shows.

Of the players in the live music VR space, MelodyVR seems to be furthest along, at least in terms of the amount of content they can release and experiences users can play with. And while they’ve also taken great steps in terms of solving some technical issues, it still remains to be seen if people will be drawn to watching concerts in the headset as a solitary experience, at least right now.