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Universal Virtual Reality

2016 may well be tipped to be the year of Virtual Reality for video games, but there are also early signs that the format could have an impact on live concerts. Universal Music Group (UMG) has partnered with US radio and events giant iHeartMedia to create a series of virtual reality music experiences designed to “connect artists, music fans and brands and sponsors”.

Which admittedly doesn’t sound like a great deal of fun. However, it’s a first step on a potentially lucrative road and raises several interesting questions- could we see a world where ‘virtual’ tickets to concerts and festivals are sold on a mass scale? Can the format ever truly recreate the live experience? Would the secondary ticketing market be displaced if a promoter could essentially sell unlimited virtual tickets to ‘immersive’ live streams once the show has reached physical capacity?

Of course, the first step is hitting a point of mainstream adoption, with consumers that actually have the hardware in their homes to begin with. On that point, price could be an initial hurdle, with the Oculus Rift price tag already exceeding expectation. The headset will launch in 20 countries on March 28th this year, retailing for $599. Facebook paid a cool £2bn for the company in 2014.

Complete shows from four individual Universal artists will be shot and distributed in VR later this year at the iHeartRadio VR Concert Series held at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles, dates and artists are TBC.

Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group Lucian Grainge said: “At UMG, we are focused on harnessing cutting-edge technology to pioneer new creative and commercial opportunities for artists, labels and fans”.

Grainge continued: “By combining iHeartMedia’s music events and hundreds of millions of listeners with the ability of our artists to forge powerfully emotional connections with their fans, we are ideally positioned to use VR technology to create authentic experiences that benefit our artists, consumers and marketing partners”.

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