Front Row Seats From Your Couch: How VR Could Change Concerts

Front Row Seats From Your Couch: How VR Could Change Concerts

Fill Ryabchikov

As the virtual ­reality market and the music ­industry increasingly cross paths, an immersive live-music experience no longer requires setting foot in a crowded venue.

Companies have more creative freedom than ever when it comes to developing music — VR ­platforms. There’s TheWaveVR, ­allowing DJs to ­broadcast virtual sets; Ossic and Dysonics creating 3D audio (what you hear depends on your head position); and, on the ultra-ambitious end of the spectrum, MelodyVR, which has recorded 1,000-plus shows with more than 500 acts worldwide to create a virtual concert library.

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Recently, MelodyVR has captured ­performances by acts like The Chainsmokers, Fatboy Slim, Tegan & Sara and JoJo, and a recent partnership with Warner Music Group will soon give the company unprecedented access to WMG artists’ shows (a free, cross-device app will debut in 2017). “I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to feel like you’re onstage with The Rolling Stones?’ ” says co-founder Anthony Matchett. “If it’s a live show — say, at London’s O2 — we’ll have 12 to 15 vantage points that a user can move around in real time. If you want to be onstage, you can be onstage.”

Artists, too, are using VR as a novel way to present their music to fans. When the indie pop group Stargroves and actress-singer Abigail Breslin recently shot the video for their song “Telephone,” they partnered with Nokia, using the OZO VR camera. “It looks like something they’d use to torture Han Solo,” says singer Teddy Watson with a laugh. “But it was so easy and ­nonintrusive,” adds Breslin. By April, fans will be able to watch the video on a variety of headsets.

The Chainsmokers Will Debut Sony PlayStationVR Video of ‘Paris’ at SXSW

Hordes of ­concertgoers may not skip an arena date in favor of one on their headset soon: Motion ­sickness remains a common user ­complaint, and audiovisual quality isn’t quite up to snuff. But within the next three years, ­developers see the VR-music ­connection ­becoming more ­commonplace. “I’d love to see a near future where every artist releases an interactive experience with their album or single,” says Matchett. “With any form of technology, it’s so rare to get something indistinguishable from magic.”

     
Fill Ryabchikov

A VR Gear Guide

The Luxe Leader 
HTC VIVE
The most immersive headset, its whole-room tracking ability allows for experiences like Jaunt’s “Paul McCartney: My Valentine,” placing the viewer in his studio as he writes a song and shoots its music video. $799

The Trailblazer
OCULUS RIFT
It’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook’s Oculus has great design, super-advanced tech and now comes with handheld “touch” controllers (but, like Vive, requires a pricey VR-compatible PC). $598

The Solid Splurge
Sony PlayStation VR
The most affordable non-smartphone headset has great motion control — helpful with immersive apps like Harmonix Music VR, which lets you experience tunes in fantastical worlds. $399

The Crowd Pleaser
Samsung Gear VR
The most popular headset (more than 4.5 million sold in 2016), it’s comfy and simple to use (just insert a Samsung phone), with a touchpad for easy app access. $79

The Entry Point
Google cardboard
Buy the build-your-own-viewer kit; download Google’s Cardboard VR apps; insert a smartphone and voila — an instant, if basic, VR experience. $15

This article originally appeared in the March 18 issue of Billboard. 

VR audio startup Dysonics closes Series A led by Intel Capital

Source: TechCrunch

If you had the chance to watch the second episode of the new season of Black Mirror, you won’t take much convincing when people tell you how important realistic 3D audio is to immersing you in a virtual reality/mixed reality experience.

Dysonics is a startup in the VR audio space looking to build the hardware and software workflows that give VR content creators high-fidelity solutions to bringing top-notch audio into their content.

Today, the company closed a Series A investment led by Intel Capital with participation from Rawah Partners.The investment was shared as part of a broader Intel Capital announcement disclosing $38 million in new investments across 12 frontier tech companies including Dysonics. The amount of funding for this specific investment not disclosed. The company had previously raised a $750k seed round in 2012 from Rawah to get the company up and running.

Dysonics has a few products out right now, including a head-tracking system called RondoMotion, aimed at bringing head-tracked 360 audio to regular headphones and RondoMic, a high-fidelity all-in-one microphone array capture system.

Right now, the company is working with LA-based Radiant Images to handle rentals of the RondoMic. The RondoMic is definitely a product geared towards professional use. First off, the thing is the size of a watermelon and has a carbon fiber shell so it’s pretty apparent that this device means serious business. The RondoMic utilizes eight custom Telefunken M60 FET microphones (the high-end mics retail for about $600 a pop). Dysonics CTO Bob Dalton estimates the RondoMic could likely sell for something above $10,000, but specified that the company largely intends to focus on rentals with this particular version.

As Dysonics grows, Dalton tells me it’s looking to looking to grow its market potential outside of solely focusing on high-end professional users and embrace the high-end consumer markets with devices that come in different shapes and sizes but still produce compelling high-quality 360 audio capture.

Virtual reality audio is a bit of a wild space at the moment. Despite major presences from established audio giants like Sennheiser and Dolby, there really haven’t been too many standards established.

With the high-end high-fidelity hardware the company is making, it would be easy to frame Dysonics as hardware company, but Dalton is weary with that classification. The real growth potential for the company is with its end-to-end VR audio solution. Rondo360 is an application and set of plug-ins that works across digital audio workstations to process binaural audio and make handling 360 audio much more seamless. The system is agnostic to your channel configurations or hardware, meaning it plays nice with most people’s go-to setups.

“The world of VR audio is pretty fragmented at the moment,” Dalton told me. “The market is kind of open to new solutions that can solve a lot of these problems in terms of the overall fidelity, the realism of the experience, the distribution of the content and the performance on the playback side.”

The Best of the Best at VRLA Summer Expo

Dysonics’ Rondo360

Source: The Huffington Post | Jesse Damiani

Engineers, sound guys, musicians, audiophiles and everyone in-between: rejoice! Here’s a soup-to-nuts solution for VR and 360° audio. It’s called Rondo360, and it’s an entire workflow system from capture to creation to playback.

It starts with their 360° microphone: the RondoMic. This thing captures spherical audio via 8 microphones, which allows you to recreate sound as it exists in a spatial environment: three-dimensionally. Best of all, this is the world’s first 360° mic you can use for live broadcast. That’s VR audio. Live.

To test it out, Dysonics put me into a 360° video of live comedy. I kept hearing laughter to my right, unnervingly close to my ear. I initially assumed the person standing next to me at the conference didn’t have the world’s most extraordinary powers of volume modulation…until I looked to my right in the headset, which is when I realized the laughs were coming from the guy next to me in the experience. It’s what I was hearing through the headphones. The sound was that realistic.

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After you’ve captured amazing 3D audio — or equally, while you’re capturing it — you want to be able to mix and edit. Dysonics’ mixing tool was built to work seamlessly with all major digital audio workstations, and the layout will feel intuitive to anyone familiar with sound-editing software, but the component that really shines is the positioning feature, which allows users to place discrete sounds anywhere in a 360° space, group them in whatever configuration, and test the results in real time.

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In order to fully appreciate the capability to record live and tweak your mix, you need a fluid way to hear what’s coming through. That’s where the RondoMotionwireless sensor comes in. By attaching this small positioning sensor to your headphones, you get real-time 360° motion-tracked playback. When you change your position, the sound changes with you, communicating the full dimensionality of the sound environment you’ve created.

2016 is the watershed year for VR audio. Sound is how our brains internalize space; if the dream of VR is immersion and presence, audio must be treated as integral in facilitating accurately spatialized environments — and the industry is catching on. With Rondo360, Dysonics has revolutionized audio for immersive media. This is future-forward VR sound at its absolute finest. Keep an ear out for these guys. They’ve got some exciting announcements in the works.

Music Industry’s New Revenue Stream: Videogame-App Makers

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Record labels and publishers strike deals with SongLily, a licensing platform

Source: Wall Street Journal | Hannah Karp

The music industry has identified a rare constituency willing to pay handsomely for music in the digital age: videogame-app makers.

In recent months, major record companies and publishers have struck agreements with a startup called SongLily, a music-licensing platform aimed at videogame and mobile-app builders. There are about 19 million of these software developers world-wide, according to Evans Data’s 2016 Global Developer Population and Demographic Study.

The deals allow SongLily to offer some of the labels’ well-known songs to game and app developers for an annual flat fee, currently about $1,440 per major-label song, for up to 100,000 app downloads or unique registered players.

That is a bargain to some app developers, since recognizable music can be a big draw but has typically been difficult and more expensive for smaller players to access.

But the price is also attractive for the music industry at more than 10 times what the average subscriber pays per year to streaming services such as Spotify AB and Apple Inc.’s Apple Music, companies it is counting on for growth.

The music business, which has shed 60% of its global value since 2000 and has flatlined for the past few years, is in need of new revenue streams. While paid streaming services are growing fast, generating about $2 billion of the industry’s total $15 billion in revenue last year, free sites such as Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube—which pay far less per user—are also ballooning, while sales of both CDs and digital albums and songs continue to decline.

But the music industry historically hasn’t made licensing easy. Part of the licensing problem stems from the fact that many songs have several owners. One big record company may own the master recording while a separate music publisher (or publishers) may own the underlying composition. It can take years for would-be users to seek permission from each entity.

Access Industries’ Warner Music Group has explored building its own platform to license the subset of songs for which it owns both the recording and publishing rights, but now believes it may be more cost effective to let third-party services such as SongLily do the legwork, a person familiar with the matter said.

While big videogame companies have the bandwidth to navigate the process, sometimes shelling out millions in advance fees and royalties for famous songs by acts like Led Zeppelin and Kanye West, smaller developers often buy custom background music or little-known tunes by independent artists at a fraction of the cost and hassle. Games still generate much less licensing revenue for the major labels than film, commercials and TV.

“The label will want to review their app and ask for their cut of the proceeds,” SongLily’s website says. “For developers planning to create a free app, this cost can be a deal breaker.”

Plenty of general-purpose music-licensing startups have launched in recent years, with varying success and limited amounts of major-label material. Seven-year-old Epidemic Sound caters to YouTube creators among others, while Getty Music also offers a range of stock music for a flat fee, though it is now also selling its music through SongLily’s platform.

Several years ago, record labels and publishers tried to build a platform where wedding videographers and DJs could easily license music for wedding videos, though that plan has since fallen by the wayside.

But few have targeted these stores to gaming and app developers. Mobile gaming generated $37 billion in revenue last year, up 21% from 2014, according to gaming research firm NewZoo.

Mark Ettle, a 46-year-old game developer for Cobra Mobile, said he typically spends between $20,000 and $200,000 to create a single game. He recently paid SongLily $1,440 to license “Ace of Spades” by English metal band Motörhead for a trailer for a game called “iBomber 3.”

Hit music can lure gamers and keep them playing longer. “You might hardly notice it,” said Mr. Ettle. But “when it’s not there it’s like a big sore thumb.”

Co-founded by Les Borsai—a music and tech consultant who also manages country singer Wynona Judd, SongLily is still building its catalog but sells production music that ranges from $360 to $960 per track per year. Original Disney gaming music costs $240 per track, indie tracks start at $120 and sound effects cost $12 a pop. Of the fees, SongLily takes a 20% cut while the publisher and label split the rest evenly.

Larry Marcus, managing director at Walden Venture Capital and an early investor in Pandora Media Inc., said he made a personal investment in SongLily because until now app makers trying to use well-known music have “thrown up their hands.”

“There’s a reason you hear a lot of bad music on games,” Mr. Marcus said.

Songlily Blossoms For Videogames

The start-up music-licensing platform SongLily is targeting videogame and mobile-app builders, offering major-label recordings for an annual flat fee that works out to about $1,440 per major-label song. The Wall Street Journal profiles the company and how it is targeting an arena that could generate more income than streaming for artists.

Music and tech consultant Les Borsai, who also manages Wynona Judd, co-founded the company, which also sells production music for between $360 and $960 per track per year. On recordings, SongLily takes a 20% cut while the publisher and label split the rest evenly. Larry Marcus, managing director at Walden Venture Capital who invested early in Pandora, is among SongLily’s investors.

The Journal cited only one end user: Mark Ettle,  who paid $1,440 to license “Ace of Spades” by Motörhead for a Cobra Mobile game’s trailer.

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Zynga

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Dysonics