Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
The world is transforming before our eyes due to the emergence of Web3 technologies. In addition to the movement toward decentralization, these groundbreaking efforts include artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, extended reality, metaverse infrastructure, NFTs and the intertwining of each.
When it comes to artists and musicians, perhaps the most exciting and promising catalyst for new, untapped opportunity lies in mixed reality — the medium consisting of immersive, computer-generated environments where elements of both the physical world and virtual worlds combine. This not only gives artists a chance to create new value and performance opportunities through digital and visual art but allows for cost advantages and “economies of scale” for artists, and others, to produce, share and sell content more efficiently.
Accessibility and Virality
There’s value in creating these economies of scale because you can reach a wider global audience from a single point of broadcast, whether it be performance, distribution or commerce. Artists simply want to create something of intrinsic value for as many people as possible. Every artist wants a viral effect — for their work to be spread, recognized and appreciated en masse. The digital realm provides that opportunity because it’s efficient and cost-effective, but it often misses the real-life experience. How do artists combine both the digital world and real world into one experience to reap the best of both?
New technologies are exploring the best ways to incorporate both elements to synergistically boost the consumer experience. For example, technology today has advanced to the point where you can render an artist’s painting, photographs or other physical items through an augmented reality application on your phone and depict how the piece may look on your living room wall. This process takes what is deemed as physical art, shifts it into a digital format, and then virtually previews it in “real” physical space. Once you purchase the item, you then can physically display it in the spot you envisioned. That is the power of connecting the digital and physical.
Mixed Reality Experiences and E-Commerce
Another potential vehicle of mixed reality is performance art. An artist may hold an event that is both accessible virtually and in person — but the mixed reality experience wouldn’t stop there. Fans who attended the concert, in either space, could then acquire the performance digitally as an exclusive piece of art they can re-experience with the crowd. This is also where NFTs come into the picture, in what I refer to as the “mini-me principle.” Virtual concert attendees often want to purchase merchandise for their physical self, but what if they also received a digital T-shirt for their online avatar to wear?
Artists could be able to extend their reach and sell across multiple mediums to further build their brand by incorporating mixed reality offerings. NFTs could very well operate as the blockchain-powered string that ties these offerings together. From icons, skins and wearables for avatars to scarce, exclusive audio and video content, and more, the blockchain is an immutable process that creates new levels of engagement. This is a huge opportunity to support good works and auctions as well. The combination of mixed reality and NFTs could bring new scope to awareness campaigns, virtual auctions and sponsorships.
From the fan’s perspective, the most promising aspect of mixed reality is the access to art and performances in unprecedented ways. Consumers of art have a new basket of choices available with which to experience their favorite artists and bands without leaving their desktop or mobile phone. As availability and access increase, consumers could get more bang for their buck. I might be able to see a top-name artist in a virtual setting costing a fraction of the price of attending in person. From the artist’s perspective, this creates a wider opportunity to create value and a diverse array of offerings for fans.
Interactivity and Involvement
Another noticeable opportunity of mixed reality is increased interactivity. Take meet-and-greets for example. Many artists want to engage with their fans and provide a personalized experience, but when these are done strictly in person, the process can often be taxing, distracting and time-consuming for many artists, which can affect their ability to perform. However, adding in the virtual element allows for these meet-and-greets to take place in smaller groups without limiting access entirely. Artists can offer varying purchase packages and price points to differentiate between in-person and virtual attendees. However, the interactive possibilities don’t end there. Artists can host online karaoke with fans, interactive whiteboard sketches, multi-media art and other collaborative environments that may not have been available in strictly a real-world setting.
There will be new things that we can’t even conceive of yet that allow artists to create more involvement with fans and other collaborators. The Covid-19 era showed us how hundreds of people can gather from around the world and produce a beautiful choir together in a virtual setting. What’s exciting about this acceleration is the progressive possibilities. On any given day, we’ll wake up and be a witness to a new form of engagement with our favorite artist. We might be in different locations, but virtually in the same space, and these efforts create new forms of value for the art we consume.
Although new media has done wonders to change our consumption of art, sometimes, the human element is lacking. Mixed reality holds the potential for us to virtually engage and re-create our human interactions as close to an in-person feeling as it can be while remaining remote. In the same way that remote surgery has opened a new realm of telehealth technology that paves the way for the next generation of medicine, mixed reality could be the gateway for the next generation of engagement. This combination will continue to establish the necessary emotional bond between artists and fans because art by its very nature is an emotional product. Without emotion, the interaction with art can feel bland and unexciting.
While mixed reality won’t replace the entirety of our in-person experience, it has the opportunity to inject emotional and exciting aspects into the online experience.