You Can’t Miss This Concert

Holographic concerts make live atmospheres

The greats of music that have haunted America’s pop culture psyche are returning one by one. Tupac swaggers, Michael Jackson moonwalks, and in 2016, Whitney Houston will sashay across the stage in post-mortem concerts. Hologram concerts are on the business track to become more than just a gimmick. In case you missed it, our own Xcel Energy Center had two holograms visit already: Japanese vocaloid superstar Hatsune Miku and country singer Carrie Underwood.

Illustrator: Max Smith

Illustrator: Max Smith

From a logistical standpoint, hologram concerts can save money while being more accessible to people. The technology’s $400,000 price tag could be less expensive than shipping big-name performers to Dubai, according to ArabianBusiness. If people can yell and throw food at a TV during football season, remote fans can get excited for the chance to see one hologram superstar amid the rest of a show that is very much alive.

Putting aside ethical debates about the virtual resurrection of the dead (a profit has been made on those concerts, case closed), naysayers sometimes criticize a lack of spontaneity. “It’s a niche market,” Joel Dahlbreg, the sales director of the Varsity Theater said, “but other than a cameo from a dead rapper…” He trails off into silence over the phone. To Dahlbreg, holograms lack the direct relationship that “gives both the artist and the audience something to feed off of.”

If people can yell and throw food at a TV during football season, remote fans can get excited for the chance to see one hologram superstar amid the rest of a show that is very much alive.

Before a live singer yells “Hello Minneapolis!” he stops to make sure he doesn’t fumble the city name with another one on the tour. Then he begins the same magic he has done every night for the past year. He croons over high-decibel bass, recites stories from the road, points at indivisible shadows in the crowd, and has a few just-awkward-enough moments on stage to make the audience feel that their performance is quirkily fingerprinted and special.

Here’s the thing: You can program that. Hologram concerts don’t have to be footage of past performances played back with better technology. Michael Jackson’s 2014 performance was conceived, recorded, and choreographed just for that night.

On a regular basis, concert goers can pay hundreds of dollars to sit in the cheapest seats at a live show. The atmosphere is their reward for brand loyalty: the screamed sing-along, the spectacles of choreography and confetti, and—don’t forget—the famed and blurry silhouette that is their idol. Once you get over the stigma of holograms in your mind, though, can’t these earnest illusions create the same atmosphere?