Universal Music launching Virtual Reality concerts this year


Welcome to the future.

Universal Music Group (UMG) has partnered with US radio and events giant iHeartMedia to create a series of virtual reality (VR) music experiences designed to ‘connect artists, music fans and brands and sponsors’.

Full shows from four individual UMG 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, with dates TBC.

Many tech experts believe 2016 will see the mainstream maturation of VR headsets, which last saw popularity in the mid-’90s when video game giants released primitive arcade devices such as Sega’s VR-1.

This year’s crop are rather more sophisticated.

Facebook paid $2bn (yes, two billion dollars) for headset maker Oculus VR in 2014. Its Oculus Rift (pictured) will launch in 20 countries on March 28, retailing for $599.

“We are ideally positioned to use VR technology to create authentic experiences that benefit our artists, consumers and marketing partners.”

Lucian Grainge, UMG

A rival product, the Vive, has been developed by HTC in conjunction with video games developer and download portal Steam.

In addition to recording the full shows, UMG has pledged to unveil at least six one-off VR experiences across iHeartMedia events throughout 2016.

Its first attempt at doing so will arrive at the iHeartRadio Music Awards on April 3,  2016.

Whatever and whoever this showcase involves, it will broadcast live on iHeartMedia radio stations nationwide and on television channels TBS, TNT and truTV.

Other events featuring UMG’s VR showcases, with dates to be confirmed, will include:

  • The iHeartRadio Country Festival
  • The iHeartRadio Summer Pool Party
  • The iHeartRadio Fiesta Latina
  • The iHeartRadio Music Festival
  • The iHeartRadio Jingle Ball Tour

Although details are light on how these VR packages will be accessed by consumers, we know one thing: iHeartMedia reaches a heck of a lot of eyeballs and earholes.

Across its radio network, iHeartMedia attracts 245 million monthly broadcast listeners, while online it attracts nearly 90 million digital unique users.

“At UMG, we are focused on harnessing cutting-edge technology to pioneer new creative and commercial opportunities for artists, labels and fans,” said Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, who unveiled the VR plan at CES in Las Vegas today.

“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.”

UMG says it and iHeart will “create entertainment experiences that leverage cutting-edge technology, making immersive VR performances and experiences accessible to U.S. audiences for the first time at scale”.

The partners are inviting brands to partner with them to develop, produce and distribute these one-of-a-kind entertainment experiences, using integrated approaches to connect their brands and products to both artists and consumers.

“Our greatest strength at iHeartMedia is that we curate for our listeners – in this case, working with UMG to create a completely new entertainment experience using state-of-the-art VR technology,” said Bob Pittman, Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia, Inc.

“And now, as advertisers seek to tie their brands and products to music and artists in innovative ways, we can use our industry-leading reach and best-of-breed music events to unlock the combined power of music and VR as a revolutionary marketing tool. We’re excited to work with UMG in a partnership unlike any in the music and entertainment industry.”

 Music Business Worldwide

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  • Brett Pemberton

    Incredible article… question – do you guys know of any resources for Indie artist to begin educating themselves on how to create content for the Oculus/VR experience? Any pointers or advice (From anyone) would be super helpful. Thanks! -Brett

    • Brett: Couldn’t help but respond to your visionary question on creating indie conent for VR.

      I’m a musician and writer, and convinced anyone will be able to star in their own movie. Instead of watching movies in a 2-D space, where the audience is passively watching movie stars playing leading roles, VR technology will flip the movie experience upside down.

      Imagine being chased by dinosaurs, aliens or the mob! Make love to your favorite movie starlett.

      And Porn? It’s impossible to estimate the size of the porn industry once VR technology kicks in.

      Musicians and writers will be writing songs, scores and scripts for everybody.

      Can a home made VR movie compete with a major studio release?