Imagine being able to immerse yourself as Beyoncé’s back-up dancer in her next visual album, shred an epic solo with The Black Keys or go on a literal virtual trip for whatever deranged idea The Gorillaz produce next. Those bucket list items could soon become reality, or, virtual reality rather. That’s because the future of music videos is looking to virtual reality to lead them into the modern, technologic age. Already, rap duo Run the Jewels have premiered a virtual reality music video and platform, but a show-stopping VR experience at the Tribeca Film Festival really showcased how transformative virtual reality could prove for music videos.
Leading the charge behind virtual reality music videos is Tyler Hurd, creator of “Old Friend,” the VR music video experience that won rave reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival and highlighted just how VR technology can be applied to revamp and transcend the traditional music video model. Backed by the VR studio Wevr, which is attempting to position itself as the YouTube of virtual reality content, “Old Friend” is a computer-animated virtual music experience. Set to Future Islands’ song of the same name, “Old Friend” stars you, the viewer, as you traverse your way through a vibrant virtual world, interacting with the virtual environment around you.
“Yes, music videos exist, but this is a whole new category of music interactivity,” said Anthony Batt, co-founder of Wevr, about Hurd’s creation. “So when we saw Tyler’s piece, we just thought, ‘It is a whole new space. Just a whole new thing.’ And I think VR needs that. For it to be more popular, I think it needs to be more fun.” And that’s exactly what “Old Friends” is: a VR experience designed to cater to the viewer, with mass appeal and no demand of those who immerse themselves into the experience (except to hopefully have fun, that is).
The “Old Friends” VR music video turns you into an avatar character inside its virtual world, allowing you to traverse this world and interact with the inhabitants of this virtual environment. By dancing to the music, you can actually see your avatar’s arms sway and move to the beat as you do, making it feel like you are actually a part of the music video. Rather than visually consuming the video like we do with most others, “Old Friend” places you inside of the video, completely upending the medium by making it wholly interactive. No longer are you beholden to just sitting down in front of computer screen to watch a video on Vevo – with experiences like “Old Friend,” you can dance and party inside of a music video; hell, you can become a music video.
With a splashy debut at the Tribeca Film Festival, Hurd and Wevr are plotting out next steps for the “Old Friend” VR music video, particularly because it was such a resounding hit with festivalgoers. Wevr has plans to commercially release the music video via Transport, their very own content platform that’s similar to Netflix, while Hurd is already hard at work on his next VR music video. If Hurd’s experiences can capture the attention of mainstream artists and musicians, we could soon be living out our rock star dreams in music video form. For now, this Beyhive member will simply sit back, sip some #Lemonade, practice choreography and dream of a day when bashing in cars with a baseball bat alongside Queen Bey is a reality, virtual or otherwise.
Featured photo: Duke Dumont, I Got U