ABBA and the rise of a rock star from working from home

TThursday night And the lights are low, like the four members daddy, one of the most successful musical acts in history, appeared on stage for the first time nearly 40 years ago. Or are they? For an audience in a purpose-built square in East London, daddyThe quartet—Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid—looks original, their sequin-seed and feathered dresses swaying to the beat performed by a live band. However, the singers are computer-generated illusions, captured as they sounded in 1979, and their voices are a mixture of recordings from nearly half a century ago. The virtual “Abbatars,” which performed its first concert on May 26, will perform seven shows a week while the human band members collect royalties.

Concert-goers are accustomed to digital performances during the lockdowns of 2020, when in-person gigs weren’t possible. Since coronavirus rules were relaxed, people have returned to shows themselves. But even with live music making a comeback, some digital innovations are here to stay. Selling tickets for online video streaming of live gigs has become standard. Online gaming platforms are experimenting with hybrid music gaming experiences. Musicians know that, epidemic or not, there is money to be made from performing concerts without being physically in front of an audience.

daddyAnd the stunning new “Voyage” show goes even further. It demonstrates the possibility of a new class of events that is both personal and virtual. daddyThe recovery process took six years and cost 140 million pounds ($175 million), of which a third went to a high-tech stadium. The band members spent five weeks performing on stage in Stockholm, in front of 160 cameras operated by Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects company that previously brought Jedi Knights and Avengers to life.

Their renewed virtual selves are frighteningly real: dancing, dancing, between songs, mingling with the audience (Benny’s virtual selves are the real thing: “I just look so good for my age”). On opening night, the audience, including the King and Queen of Sweden, hung in disbelief, subconsciously cheered and applauded for what was, strictly speaking, an empty stage.

Most high-tech concerts don’t look like something as sophisticated as daddy turns out. But basic digital services are changing the economics of regular gigs. In the early days of the lockdown, singers broadcast impromptu concerts from their bedrooms on online video platforms such as Twitch. They soon realized that when competing for screens with the likes of Netflix, “you need to look cinematic and amazing like the latest blockbuster,” says Ric Salmon of Driift, one of the many companies that sprang up in 2020 to help musicians broadcast professional-looking gigs. As the shows got smoother, they paid more fees: While in April 2020, only about 1% of the live concerts were issued tickets, 18 months later about half of them were issued, at an average price of $16, she says Tatiana Sirisano of MIDiA Research, a firm of analysts.

The number of live streams fell by nearly half last year, as life returned to normal. But the business has continued to make money from online gigs — and they expect to make more. in March bts, a K-pop star, broadcast a concert to 2.4 million viewers online and in cinemas. By 2028, live concerts will generate $4 billion to $5 billion annually, more than they did at the height of the pandemic, MIDiA Forecasting. Last year, Live Nation, the largest live entertainment company, acquired Veeps, a live streaming startup. Spotify and Deezer, the subscription music service, have struck deals with Driift.

A recent tour by British pop group Little Mix gives an idea of ​​the new normal. The trio played 24 dates in April and May, in arenas filled with regular teens. They commissioned Driift to livestream the final show, which sold nearly 60,000 tickets at £13 to audiences in 143 countries. Another 29,000 people have paid to watch the synopsis in cinemas, suggesting the total streaming ticket sales are just over £1.1m. The production cost of the live video is around £250,000. “There’s nothing quite like being in the room,” says Steve Homer, president of the company. aeg Presents, the live events giant who has promoted Little Mix personal gigs. But broadcast has become a “good installer”.

Some artists see it as more than that. As social media compresses musicians into ever shorter formats, an hour-long video gig is “an opportunity to create beautiful long content,” says Mr. Salmon. Meanwhile, a new generation of online gaming experience is allowing some artists to bypass the limitations of real-life shows. At concerts in Fortnite, an online video game, Travis Scott mutated into a giant and Ariana Grande appeared with wings and let her fans ride unicorns. Roblox, another gaming platform, hosted a concert titled Wild West featuring Lil Nas X as a giant cowboy. Minecraft, an online world-building game, has held elaborate music festivals. No one would think that such shows are alternatives to in-person shows, but it seems to have bypassed the epidemic as an evolving entertainment category in its own right.

These diverse formats and technologies provide the tantalizing prospect of fans – and concert promoters – with more opportunities to watch artists perform. Life on the road is draining, especially for elderly stars or those with children. daddyHis virtual show is an extension of their early adoption of the music video in the 1970s, which helped the band become world famous despite doing a few international tours. “Voyage” can be played to hundreds of thousands of fans annually as long as the band members – or maybe one day – choose to play them.

Anyone can be that guy

In theory, there is no limit to who can benefit from this technology. Already, Whitney Houston, who died in 2012, performs six nights a week in a Las Vegas hotel, in what the show’s organizers describe as “holographic.” Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Maria Callas, and Tupac Shakur have all been brought back to attend similar concerts after his death.

The daddy The party shows how to improve the effect. The proof of the show’s persuasiveness came at the end of the premiere when, after the closing screening of “The Winner Takes It All,” the Abbatars left and daddy The members came on stage to bow. It was one last hoax on the audience: the “real” band members were another illusion. they disappeared and truly-truly daddy He came on stage with a standing ovation.

“Voyage” had sold over 300,000 tickets before opening night; London Square, which seats approximately 3,000 people, is reserved for the summer. A quarter of tickets were bought by fans abroad. If the Abbatars are successful, they may perform simultaneously in other cities: The advantage of virtual talent is that you can “just copy and paste it,” says Voyage producer Svana Gisla. (What’s more, she adds, “They don’t take vacation days and don’t catch the virus.”) Entertainment companies sent scouts to see the show. That might give other rock stars something to think about.

Ludvig Andersson, son of Benny and producer of the show, is also trying to wrap his mind around the experience of working alongside the recreation of his 33-year-old father. The band members’ digital capture reminded him of “the 19th century idea of ​​a camera that sucks your soul…that’s exactly what we did.” He came to think of Abbatars as individuals in their own right: “A combination of them daddy and being themselves…a ghost in the machine.” Whoever or whatever, the teams, immortalized at 120TB, are destined to continue to entertain new audiences, frozen forever in 1979.

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