When I wrote about Miro Shot back in June, it was just a glimpse into the impact of their mixed reality show. This time, I could’t pass on the chance to experience this new type of live immersive concert first hand. With Miro Shot to feature at Nuit Blanche, where art takes over the city in Paris from dusk to dawn for one night, there was no question that I should attend.
It’s easy to explain the tech integration of music and mixed reality, but the question that everyone is asking about VAR (virtual and augmented reality) from the music industry is how to bring it to an audience, and then from the audience, is how this impacts them. How does virtual reality, augmented reality, and then a combination of the two, add value to their experience?
From 6 p.m. to midnight I sat in on the Miro Shot shows, watching as people quietly walked into the room, were seated, and began their mixed reality adventure with the band playing live.
Some of the audience turned in all directions on the swivel chairs to wonder at their new surroundings, some remained still, and a couple even waved at me if they caught my eye during what must have been when the VR headsets switched to a view of the live band playing.
As the show ended, participants seemed surprised at the abruptness, or the sudden blast back to reality. They were gently tapped on the shoulder, headsets were collected, and they filed out slowly while looking around to the now empty stage, the digital patterns on the walls of the studio, and listening to the murmur of a women’s voice that whispered about technology and change.
Once out of the studio, each group of about twelve participants had the opportunity to talk about their experience, as Miro Shot is adamant when it comes to listening to their audience. In the first few groups I noted the presence of current musicians, representatives from YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, Miro Shot’s label Believe Recordings and management from East City Management, and a number of other individuals who waited up to an hour and half for one of the limited seats available that night.
One of the first people I spoke with was music artist Denis Teste. At first he was concerned that the visuals would take away from the audio, but he explained that alternating between VR and reality brought him back to the live band and that he was surprised at the harmony between the two.
Donatien Bozon from YouTube has had many prior VR experiences, and said this one was over far too quickly. He wanted to look everywhere and to see everything. He says he’s heard of other bands incorporating VR, but none who have taken on the challenge of a live show like this.
While the representative from Spotify could not make official comments for the company, Jerome Coic, from Deezer, said that looking into a combination of VR and streaming would give them a competitive advantage against bigger companies like Spotify and YouTube.
Peter Barrett, who came out of personal interest, said it was his first VR experience. He was able to explore by looking around, and described the VRscapes as “blissful.” He described a focal point in each scene that was helpful to direct his gaze and he also mentioned the perfume, or scents, that he “could not specifically identify.” This as I learned before, is because Miro Shot has their very own scents manufactured by Timothy Han.
Then I spoke with William Headlam-Wells from Miro Shot’s label, Believe Recordings. He also wished the experience was longer. It wasn’t just VR or just music, he said, but a combination of the two to create a new experience. We also discussed that there are “no cheap seats anymore.” When I asked Headlam-Wells about the decision to sign Miro Shot, he said there was never a question as to whether or not to sign the forward-thinking band with their label. He’s known Roman Rappak, lead artist in Miro Shot and CEO of production company Mirocolabs, for quite some time through Rappak’s last band Breton. Headlam-Wells was able to see Rappak learn about VR, begin to immerse in VR and then combine VR and music into something entirely new with the team that evolved into Mirocolabs.
One of my favorite reactions throughout the night was from an elderly chap who excitedly said that this was “une experience du vrai” and “c’etait genial” which means “a true experience” and “it was amazing.”
With all these thoughts to consider, I still had no exact concept of the Miro Shot immersive concert. I entered the room once more and merged into this new reality. From little white vectors darting around aimlessly, then constructing faces, then off to a desert landscape with ancient columns, to a very surreal setting with two dancers, then suddenly looking up to a tree with red leaves and around a dark wall of stone pillars that all appeared intermittently between scenes of the live band playing… I hope to give the impression with that this was a dive into a very real experience with nothing real to compare it to.
As I leave the studio (and the show really is over too quickly!) I get a sense that any limitations in our day to day are those of our imagination. When the headset switched between VR and the live band and then to VR once again, it connected the two in a way that no other music or VR experience has offered. It was an alternate reality that brought on an even greater emotional connection than a regular performance. After all, art is about expression which cannot always be communicated with just words or images, and the Miro Shot’s live VR concert can only be described as a full sensory experience.
The team began to pack up at midnight, and by then, I had a much better understanding of the mixed reactions to this performance that is mixing up the music industry. It can be difficult to understand such a novel concept and its potentials, and then to make or accept the resulting change so that it becomes an experience that all can participate in. From the perspective of both the industry and the fans, or consumers in the case of other technologies, it can take time to adjust to something of which we have no prior concept.
Last weekend at Nuit Blanche was a special opportunity to see first hand the change in reactions from before to after the Miro Shot show. It’s quite possible too that we are witnessing the birth of a new form of music, and I know that everyone who was there will be back for more.
*Mixed reality- using virtual reality, augmented reality, and reality to create an experience.
*VAR- Virtual and augmented reality