The summer is now in full swing, and plenty of people are participating in one of the classic warm-weather rituals: the road trip. Windows down, the wind in your hair, a great song blasting on the stereo system — it’s a trope for a reason. It’s also one of the most powerful ways to experience music, and one reason so many of the songs we love are deeply associated with places and senses.
But until now, this has been hard to capture and share. Try telling a friend about a transformative road trip experience and it often comes out as dull; it’s something that needs to be experienced. Plenty of startups have tried to capture musical moments and locations, but none of them have taken off in a meaningful way, mostly because they are map-based and lack real visuals. You might have had a moment listening to a Yeah Yeah Yeahs song in a truck driving through New Jersey on a night full of possibility and promise, but seeing that as a dot next to Newark airport doesn’t do it justice.
This is why the news about YouTube’s 180 camera could be the start of something bigger for both music and VR. We often talk about music in VR in terms of live concerts or music videos, but there are plenty of other options, including user-generated content. What if you could capture and share your road trip moments (or any other music moments) and share them with the wider world? What kind of new stories would be told?
Technically, this is totally possible to do now. It’s not all that hard to shoot with a 360 camera, edit in some music, and post to a social network or YouTube. But there’s a difference between the current state of affairs and having what basically amounts to Musical.ly for VR. We spend a lot of time talking about what it will take to make VR mainstream, and maybe this is something that could do it — kids making quick, immersive, music-centric videos and sharing them with friends and the wider world. If a headset manufacturer partnered with a site like Musical.ly and offered deep discounts for users, it could scale quickly.
Of course, this will result in plenty of blurry videos and terrible content — but the vast majority of content on Musical.ly (or any mass video platform, for that matter) isn’t very good, and it hasn’t stopped that app’s meteoric rise. What it’s done is create a new platform for telling personal stories, intertwined with music, and a new language for creation among Generation Z. Of course, the licensing won’t be cheap, but the possibilities for ad support and integration is definitely there, and ad-tech in VR exploding rapidly.
Part of what is exciting about VR is the ability to create immersive memories. Even if no one else watches your video, you can go back and relive it again in a much deeper way. Six months from now, when we’re wrapped in blankets and watching the snow fall, it should be possible to strap on a headset and hit the open road once again, even if it’s only virtual.