Rob Thomas and VNTANA to Offer First-Ever Hologram Karaoke on Summer Tour

(Courtesy VNTANA)

Rob Thomas' hologram virtually getting down with a fan.

The Grammy-winning singer and tech start-up are debuting a backstage interactive hologram experience.

Rob Thomas wants to sing karaoke with you -- he just won't necessarily be there while it's happening. Thanks to a partnership with VNTANA, a "social augmented reality company," the Matchbox 20 frontman is offering fans for the first time ever an opportunity to sing karaoke with his hologram as part of a VIP package on his upcoming solo summer tour with the Counting Crows.

"The hologram looks fantastic and it comes out so realistic," Thomas tells Billboard. "When you do it you get an email which will let you watch it on your phone or computer which will literally look like the two of us are standing there actually singing together."

 When the booth senses a nearby user, a miniature Rob (not entirely unlike the famed Mike Teavee from Willy Wonka and Chocolate Factory who is shrunken down to fit into the TV) beckons users over.

"Hey, what's up, come here," a hologram Thomas says. "Well it's not me, it's a hologram of me. You cold be part of the first VIP holograms experience, because selfies, photos and videos---that's all so five minutes ago. Come to the future with me, come sing with me."

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Singing karaoke with the three-time Grammy winner begins by texting your email address to a number which automatically returns an access code for the hologram booth. Within seconds fans can see their own hologram next to the singer's hologram and can select from three of Thomas' songs:  his new single, "Pieces" (from his third solo album The Great Unknown), "One Shot" or "This is How a Heart Breaks."

VNTANA, an L.A. based hologram start-up, launched nearly four years ago and has worked with a number of artists, including Nicky Romero, Paul Oakenfold and Manufactured Superstars as well brands like Intel, Pepsi and Microsoft. The company's connection to the music business stems in part from one of its earliest investors: Paradigm Talent Agency led by Lawrence Antoine.

When asked how their technology differs from the posthumous hologram phenomenon best known by the the-late Tupac Shakur's 2012's Coachella appearance with Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre, VNTANA CEO Ashley Crowder, 30, hones in on the active engagement. "That was digital resurrection," she says, "we focus on the living. Putting it simply, we've created the first interactive software that you can see yourself live interacting with the hologram and that sets us apart. We built our hardware because there was nothing on the market that was affordable or scalable."

For his part Thomas credits his forward thinking on the new technology to Nick Lippman from his management company Lippman Entertainment.  "We've tried over the years to always be on the cusp of something brand new whenever we release a new record or go on tour," he says. "We were the first to incorporate the live USB wrist bands at every show so that you could walk away with a wrist band that had  the entire show you just saw on it."

VNTANA envisions its interactive technology as a new revenue model for the music business and as a way for brands to get their message out to consumers.  "The big focus in the music business is finding new revenue streams for artists and great sponsorship opportunities," says Crowder. "If you want to sponsor a tour and provide the hologram karaoke for your fans, every video that gets posted can have a logo and hashtag and on the backend we can tell you how many fans had the experience, who shared it on social media, what that engagement is and the ROI."

Thomas has already thought of future applications for the hologram technology that could soon bring the interactive application to the front of stage, "The next step that would be cool would be to have my band come up and hologram two or three songs," he says, "and then the fans can sing with me live. "

Rob Thomas' North American summer tour with the Counting Crows kicks off in West Palm Beach, FL on July 22 and wraps in Nashville on Sept. 30. VIP Packages to experience the hollogram karaoke are available here.