The virtual music festival: a pandemic one-off or trip to the future?

By August 17, 2021News

July’s virtual reality music festival, Splendour XR, was not a pandemic one-off: it could be a model for a permanent addition to future Australian music festivals, says one of the organisers.

“Watch this space,” said Jessica Ducrou, co-CEO of Secret Sounds, the company behind major Australian music festivals including Splendour in the Grass and Falls.

“I’m still getting over it, to be honest, putting the pieces back together, but [I’m] just trying to think about how you can take this and actually make it a really great addition to what we’re doing in real life, whenever we’re allowed to run [again].”

Ducrou was speaking at Indi-Con Australia, an online conference for the independent music industry, which ran over three days last week.

Splendour XR created a virtual North Byron Parklands, crafted by US developers, where users could immerse themselves using expensive VR gear or watch through the ‘window’ of a web browser. Visitors could switch between different spaces, observe each other’s bizarre avatars, and watch a range of pre-recorded performances by artists such as Tash Sultana, Charli XCX, King Gizzard and Chvrches.

Ducrou said she was inspired by a visit to a gaming music convention where a fan had made a version of Splendour in Minecraft and “we all looked at it and went ‘oh we just want to be there” . But as the technical hurdles became clearer she realised the scale of the challenge.

“I’m a big believer in this being a new area for artists to work in,” she said. “We’re very much at the early stages of working out how it works best for music … sport has broadcast rights [and] music hasn’t necessarily nailed the broadcast part of it. You kind of see it as a little bit of a broadcast option for your event to a global community. It will never replace ‘live’, but I do think it’s a new area and a new way of earning, and it’s just early days.”

Less than a quarter of viewers accessed the full VR experience: the market is still small and the gear expensive, despite big investments from companies such as Facebook.

Courtesy:The Sunday Morning Herald