The Music Festival VR Experience

The Music Festival VR Experience
By Emma Epperly

Coachella, the wildly popular music festival held annually in Indigo, California, is one of the first music festivals to experiment with virtual reality as a part of their festival experience.

Photo: Chrysalis

They tried VR for the first time in 2014. Coachella performances were recorded in 360 by vantage.tv. While this is not exactly virtual reality, it was the festival’s first step in that direction. In 2016 Coachella launched a virtual reality app. The app allowed “unprecedented access to behind-the-scenes VR content surrounding the Coachella experience” according to the Coachella website. Festival participants who bought their tickets in March that year received a VR headset that they could use with the app. The app is accessible for use before, during and after the festival, which is held annually in April. This VR experience was supposed to be used to create a more immersive experience for festival attendees who could help create content for the app.

In 2017, Coachella continued its VR efforts. Coachella welcome boxes were created with CameralQ and vantage.tv. They included augmented reality features that could be seen through Coachella’s previously developed app. This was just a taste of what was to come at the actual festival.

Coachella and its partners created Chrysalis, a dome where viewers could see a variety of VR shows including alien landings, geometric shapes flying through space, and giant caterpillars. The show was eight minutes long and projected on to the ceiling of the 60-foot tall dome. With the help of Obscura Digital, a San Francisco based visual arts company, the show was a new attraction at the festival.

The Coachella 2017 VR app can still be used today to view festival highlights. When I stumbled upon the app after the festival had ended, I was excited to try the app and see what I had missed. While I couldn’t attend Coachella myself, I did take advantage of the daily livestreams on YouTube of the various stages. I enjoyed hearing performers live and seeing all the stops pulled out for the famous Coachella stage.

virtual reality day saturday november 18 2017

I expected the VR app to encompass a lot of what I had missed by just viewing the event on YouTube.

The VR portion of the app has 9 sections:

  • The Antarctic by HP
  • Yuma Tent
  • Rose Garden Chef
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Open the Gates
  • Festival Foods
  • Do Lab Experience
  • Sahara Experience
  • Coachella Art

The AR portion of the app is for use at Coachella itself. Some of the app sections allow you to be inside a concert venue and watch what’s going on around you. Other sections of the app like Festival Foods and Rose Garden Chef have someone who narrates what’s going on around you explaining what area you’re in, the food available, what to expect in the area and so on. Sections like Ferris Wheel allow you to ride the Ferris Wheel with other Coachella patrons.

Overall I was disappointed with the app. It didn’t add much to my experience of Coachella from afar. In a way, it made me feel like I didn’t miss out on much because the concerts that you could see were not very crowded and the artists were DJs rather than headliners. I understand having limited content on the app so patrons continue to purchase tickets; however I did expect a little bit more. The sections of the app that had a guide were interesting, but didn’t benefit from being in VR, I almost would have rather watched the same content, but as a regular promotional or informational video.

When you do go play around with the app, it’s easy to see how it would be a fun thing to use while you’re actually at Coachella, especially the AR portion of the app. It would be nice to see inside other venues that you might not be able to make it to and to enhance your experience with AR graphics. Overall, the app’s value depends on how you plan to use it. If you’re at Coachella or want to use the app for research, then it can be enjoyable. If you want to feel like you’re actually experiencing Coachella, I would suggest you head to YouTube.

Coachella is the only major music festival to use VR to this extent. Lollapalooza collaborated with Samsung in 2016 to create VR experiences in Grant Park where the festival is held in Chicago. Attendees could watch performances on VR headsets in a lounge. Due to the fact that Samsung sponsored the VR experience, only owners of Galaxy phones could partake in the VR activities. I was unable to find any information on the festival’s virtual reality plans for the 2017 festival, which will take place this August. Other major live festivals have yet to delve into the VR experience. TheWaveVR is a music app that launched this April that is taking music experiences completely virtual. The app is an immersive concert and game hybrid that allows users to listen and view a music festivalesque performance with new shows weekly.

Coachella is one example of how VR and AR are making their way into events as another part of a multimedia experience.