Apple’s Reality Pro headset will pack a number of unique features when it’s announced next week at WWDC 2023. But there’s one thing in particular that I’m interested in seeing from Apple – virtual reality concerts.

Nothing will ever compare to the experience of live music. But when you combine things like 360-degree video, top-of-the-line display technology, and spatial audio, Apple’s Reality Pro headset will create an incredibly immersive experience.

Last week, I was chatting with Zac about his piece on what it was like attending a virtual reality concert in the metaverse using the Meta Quest Pro. In Zac’s case, this concert was performed in a truly bizarre virtual world:

The “venue” was a SIMS-like multilevel platform that wrapped halfway around the VR performer. Four sets of VR drum sets were available with VR drum sticks that you could pick up with the Meta Quest controllers. You could also launch the camera on your VR phone to snap photos or record short video clips that saved to your gallery. 

The artist performance aspect of the “concert” was weird though. It was like watching a music video designed to fill in the space of the circular stage. My experience is limited to this one time so I’m not sure if other VR concerts feel more like being there instead of feeling like a game character in a game world. Oh, and I didn’t have legs.

Apple executives have made it clear that they aren’t fond of the “metaverse” term or idea. The company’s goal is also not to cut people off entirely from the outside world. The concert that Zac attended through the Meta Quest Pro sounds like it was the exact opposite – a metaverse-based concert that completely transported you to a fake, virtual world.

What I want from Apple, and what I think the company is actively planning, are virtual reality versions of actual concerts. Not fake metaverse concerts, but the ability to watch actual concerts – whether live or pre-recorded – in virtual reality.

A headset full of dreams

As 9to5Mac first reported by in 2020, Apple acquired NextVR, a company that was focused on creating VR experiences for viewing live events like sporting events and concerts. At the time, the company’s content was available for headsets from the likes of Oculus, HTC, and PlayStation.

The work on content like this dates back over a decade. NextVR was founded in 2009 and built a wide library of content in the years prior to the Apple acquisition. With Apple’s pile of cash and connections, it’s easy to assume that NextVR has been able to further ramp up the pace at which this type of content is created.

In fact, I’ve also heard from a few friends in the live concert and music documentary field that Apple is already out and filming this time of content in virtual reality.

One of the first run-ins I had with virtual reality concerts was in 2014 when NextVR teamed up with Coldplay. Coldplay was fresh off the release of their newest album Ghost Stories, and they weren’t planning to tour the album given its subdued and dark themes. Teaming up with NextVR allowed the band to film one of the few live shows they did for Ghost Stories in 360-degree 3D VR video instead.

The virtual reality concert puts Coldplay fans directly in the middle of the action, viewing the band members as if they are on stage with them. The concert film is the first ever broadcast quality VR experience. This quality VR experience has never before been possible. 

NextVR worked with Coldplay in London over the summer to develop the VR concert concept as a cutting edge experience for both fans who saw the concert live and wanted to experience it again, as well as those who were unable to attend. NextVR aims to follow up the release of A Sky Full Of Stars with the full concert over the coming months and is in talks with Coldplay for future virtual reality collaborations. 

“You’re literally inside the show, front of stage with the band. The quality of this virtual reality experience is far superior to anything else out there. It’s pretty mind-blowing,” Coldplay creative director and secret 5th member Phil Harvey explained at the time.

The footage was then released via the NextVR application for Samsung Gear VR users. Again, this was over a decade ago, and the technology for filming this type of content has only gotten better since then.

Win-win for fans and artists?

Still image from Coldplay’s second VR concert in 2017

The idea of immersive virtual reality concerts makes even more sense when you zoom out and look at the current state of the live music industry. Given Ticketmaster’s monopoly, concert and event tickets are harder than ever to come by. They are more expensive than ever before and supply is more limited than ever before.

Doing world tours has also gotten much more expensive for bands themselves. This has led to artists doing far fewer shows than they might have done several years ago, visiting fewer countries than before, and in some cases having to scrap their plans altogether. Not to keep harping on Coldplay, but even they admitted they almost had to scrap their Music of the Spheres world tour because of logistical and cost concerns.

All of this is to say that offering an in-depth catalog of live concerts could be a key selling point for Reality Pro and xrOS. Imagine the demand if Taylor Swift recorded one of her recent Eras Tour performances in virtual reality. To recap: More opportunities for fans to experience “live” music, more revenue opportunities for artists, and a key selling point for Apple.

I’m well aware that the idea of virtual reality concerts has existed for years, but it’s something I think Apple can truly revolutionize. After all, the company has been an innovator in the music industry for years. It has deep connections in the music industry, a pile of cash to throw at artists and bands, and industry-leading tech.

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