Digital avatar/hologram-based 'live' shows raise important questions for music fans

What's your view on paying out to see a digital version of your favourite artist in stage?

Dave Benett/GettyImages
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Digital-based live-style immersive performances are the new trend. Holograms or avatars of top artists are being created for a range of events. We already have Abba Voyage in place since 2022. There's news of Elvis Evolution, a digital concert experience in London announced for Elvis Presley in November.  We also had the breaking news in December of a Kiss avatar tour planned for 2027.

Virtual live experiences allow artists, or the owners of their material and rights, to make more money. It’s costly to set up, but highly lucrative. The Abba Voyager production is estimated to make £2m each week. There is also a boost to the local economy, by over £300m since launched in 2022.

You can see why it’s happening from the music industry's perspective. Based on the Abba numbers it’s highly popular with the public too. Of course, there is the need to select the right artist. Abba and Elvis will attract such a broad range of interest that they could run for a long time. Kiss with a touring show will surely pick up loads of rock fans keen to see a spectacular concert along the way. 

Which leaves you wondering who is next. The Beatles maybe, to follow up their AI-based hit “Now And Then”? Or perhaps it's the only way to get Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and Roger Waters side by side on the same stage again. There are likely to be many top acts having a close look at this currently.

Where do you draw the line digital avatar/hologram shows? 

Ticket prices for live shows can be very expensive these days. And we shouldn't expect much of a discount for digital shows just because the real-life artist isn’t going to be on stage in front of us. I can't get my head around how much I would be prepared to pay for these digital shows. 

Taylor Swift had The Era’s Tour as a movie in cinemas in 2023. Tickets were priced at £19.89/$19.89 in a neat marketing move to promote her 1989 album release. That was slightly higher than the norm for a cinema ticket, but way, way below gig prices for a huge star. As you’d expect. It was just a movie, Swift wasn’t actually there. It was all filmed and recorded.

To see the ABBA Voyage show, standing, or dance floor tickets as they are described, are £77 with seated tickets starting at just over £100. I’ve been and it's a very impressive show with a terrific live band on stage performing. The light show and images are incredible, not to forget the incredible work that’s gone into the digital avatars. It really does look and sound like Abba live on stage. Of course, Abba themselves aren’t actually there, their voices and images were all filmed and recorded. 

What's your budget for a live -v- a virtual event?

It’s not quite a fair comparison between a cinema movie, an avatar-based digital gig and a real live concert with the artist live and onstage. But you see the point I’m sure. The decision on how much you’d pay for the digital event will likely involve a huge range of factors, much as you might decide whether to pay for a live concert now. But will the fact that it is a virtual show be a factor that limits how much you’d pay in comparison to a live show, and by how much?

I was lucky enough to be given the tickets to the Abba show as a gift, so I didn't have that point to consider at that time. With more virtual events beginning to emerge, it does seem as though it’s going to be a question we’ll be asking ourselves more in the future. 

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