CMA Awards 2018

Virtual Reality: How Avenged Sevenfold, Deadmau5 & More Are Using New Technology

Lester Cohen/Getty Images for Capitol Music Group
Johnny Christ, Synyster Gates, M. Shadows and Zacky Vengeance of Avenged Sevenfold perform during Avenged Sevenfold Groundbreaking Global VR Event Live at Iconic Capitol Records Building Band Surprise-Released New Album The Stage Immediately Following on Oct. 27, 2016 in Hollywood, Calif. 

Surprise album rollouts may be the new normal, but Avenged Sevenfold upped the ante: On Oct. 27, the metal band unveiled its new album, The Stage, with a concert streamed in 360-degree virtual reality from the roof of Los Angeles' Capitol Records Building.

Available to fans via Facebook and Universal Music Group's new VRTGO platform, the per­formance marked the industry's most ambitious dive into VR yet -- and yielded a top five Billboard 200 debut.

"It's all about pushing the envelope in any way necessary," says guitarist Zacky Vengeance. UMG's Deborah Hyacinth adds, "The time and market was right" for the stunt. Costs vary (from $50,000 to millions, depending on the project, says a tech source), but artists are embracing VR in growing numbers.

Absolut Deadmau5 Video Game

This summer, the DJ collaborated with Absolut Labs on an interactive game in which users could control his digital avatar. Saxton says the future of VR is in artists creating their own virtual world -- "a game-ified experience you can walk through."

The Weeknd's 'The Hills' Remix Video

The "Starboy" singer teamed with director Nabil in 2015 for an interactive video that allowed viewers to follow him out of a concert and explore his surrounding world. "I'm into taking people on journeys and places they haven't been," says Nabil.


Electric Daisy Carnival 2016's VR Lounge

 

At June's Las Vegas dance fest, VRLIVE allowed attendees to live-stream one of three stages and be instantly transported onstage. "People were freaking out," says Saxton. "One girl was crying and said, 'Oh my God, I'm standing next to Tiesto!' "

EMA's 'I Wanna Destroy' VR Art Museum Installation

Last February, the experimental noise rocker EMA (Erika Anderson) performed at MoMA PS1 in New York for a nearly-five hour “Improvisational VR” experience. The musician sat on a couch in the center of a dome, surrounded by plants and empty beer cans, playing music and reciting narration as fans strapped on Oculus VR headsets to experience a 3D simulation of the environment. As the audience members moved, psychedelic imagery was projected on the walls and ceilings of the venue. “It was almost like a low-budget noise band version of VR,” the musician says. “I love doing that stuff.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 26 issue of Billboard.