In 1996, cyberpunk author William Gibson wrote Idoru, a novel that predicted holographic musicians would become popular and commonplace in the near future.
Well, that future is here.
In 2006, virtual band Gorillaz, who are real musicians but perform as cartoons, performed live at the Grammys as holograms and sang a duet with Madonna. Celine Dion performed a duet with a holographic Elvis Presley the next year. In 2012, dead rapper Tupac Shakur performed “live” at the Coachella Festival.
Today, dead musicians can be seen as touring holograms, ranging from Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison, to Michael Jackson and opera singer Maria Callas, to heavy metal singer Ronny James Dio.
In Japan, an anime holographic singer named Hatsune Miku is a huge star and even “toured” North America with a live band in 2016.
We’ve also seen holographic technology used with real people. Canadian singer Feist used it to appear to perform simultaneous concerts at multiple venues over the world.
There’s something to be said about being able to see an artist perform that you’d never get a chance to see play live, mostly because they’ve passed away. What does this mean for an actual musician though? Will Elvis impersonators disappear if we can see Elvis play as a hologram? Do cover bands stop playing if the band lives on as a hologram?
The technology is great if a musician wants to get somewhere they normally couldn’t, due to other commitments, or being stuck someplace else due to weather or distance.
A German circus is using holograms to show animals like elephants and horses, to avoid actually bringing in animals to perform, to avoid animal cruelty and to drop costs involved with transporting huge animals.
Seeing live musicians play live is an experience that can’t be replicated. Even when seeing a musician as a hologram, you’re still only seeing a recording of them. Is it any different than watching it on a TV? A hologram has no physical or emotional presence, so live musicians can’t interact with them in meaningful ways.
Nothing will replace a live musician, though holograms could help get music out to more people in less expensive ways.
Steve Marlow is the program co-ordinator at CFBX, an independent radio station in Kamloops. Tune in at 92.5 FM on the dial or go online to thex.ca.