Will Virtual Reality Usher In A Creative Rebirth For Music Videos?

1Although music videos and their accompanying budgets slipped into a decline after the early 2000s, the rise of VR could spell a resurgence, as a whole host of creative doors are opened.

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Guest Post by Bryce Clemmer, CEO and co-founder of Vadio

If you grew up watching MTV in the eighties and nineties, a few images are probably seared into your brain: Axl Rose’s wedding being disrupted by a rainstorm; Kurt Cobain being backed up by punk rock cheerleaders; any number of rappers lounging in hot tubs and making it rain. Sometime after the boy band explosion of the early 2000s and the rise of YouTube, not to mention MTV’s pivot away from music and the death of TRL, the music video started to die out. Sure, there were some exceptions, but the budgets had dried up, and the central currency for a music video wasn’t art, it was virality -- and if you got enough kids to do a dance to your song, virality came cheap.

The rise of VR, however, could shift forces back and spell a creative rebirth for the music video. While VR is most often talked about in the music space as a means to live stream concerts and events, there are plenty of other ways artists can use the technology to explore other forms of storytelling that go far deeper than any four-minute music video ever could.

At this point, the biggest limiting factor is cost, not unlike the days of million dollar video shoots back in the nineties. While it’s unlikely labels will ever shell out that kind of money again, plenty of brands are now lining up to jump in and provide funding for interesting projects. Additionally, the productions costs of creating a VR experience are dropping, which should open up the technology to more artists.

The real leap forward will be the ability for bands to incorporate multiple modes of storytelling into their experiences. Some bands, like Radiohead or Arcade Fire, are natural at this, but many other artists are struggling to figure out ways to create compelling content. The good news is that bands don’t need art school backgrounds or grand creative visions to make great VR experiences -- fans are often more interested in learning more about bands members and songs rather than something that could be shown in an art gallery.

Take Pearl Jam’s iconic “Jeremy” video, for example. Back in the day you could watch the video on MTV and read some articles about how the band came up with the song -- but with VR, you could spend time with them as they wrote the song and came up with the treatment, not to mention exploring the incident that song was based on. You could also view the video from different angles and viewpoints, and move around inside the narrative for a richer experience. Being part of such an immersive experience is also something fans would likely pay for -- a nice bonus, since MTV considered videos to be “promotional content” and didn’t pay bands for them back in the day.

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We’re still at the beginning stages of the VR revolution, but artists should start thinking about storytelling and content creation now. In a few years we’re likely to see an explosion in VR and a whole new format for video consumption, and smart artists will get ahead of the curve.