Anyone who can tell you they can see the future of the media and entertainment business doesn't know what they're talking about. Sure, there are things we all see coming…
The end of “Game of Thrones”
But what we cannot determine with any certainty is what impact all this technological change will have on our industry, our platforms, and our brands. I've learned this in spades from my conversations with auto execs over the past decade. They are always very thoughtful and articulate about the change that is all around us. Their companies are conducting massive amounts of research, while investing billions in new technology. But when you ask them what the landscape will look like in five years, they remind you that no one was able to predict today's reality back in 2014. And of course, they're right.
That's how the Classic Rock concert scenario is looking at this moment at time, too. We're at something of a crossroads. Mick Jagger's heart surgery has scuttled the Stones' “No Filter” tour. And then their replacement band – Fleetwood Mac – took a powder due to Steve Nicks coming down with the flu.
A new Yahoo News story by Maggy Donaldson suggests these recent “sick notes” from rock stars are just the tip of the medical iceberg. She refers to maladies affecting Ozzy Osbourne, Peter Frampton, Pete Townshend and others that point to trouble in the Rock community's ability to sustain itself on the concert tour circuit.
She then moves to the “Hip-Hop supplanting Rock argument,” but perhaps misses the point when she suggests these concert tour problems may signal the end of the road for the Rock genre's most iconic bands. That's because many concert promoters and fans are finding alternative ways to remember their favorite artists and groups, in sickness and in health.
Tribute bands have gained in popularity over the years. Over the weekend in Detroit,“Brit Floyd” played to a near-sold out crowd at Detroit's Music Hall. I watched concert-goers stream into the venue on Saturday, looking very pleased despite not seeing Roger Waters and David Gilmour on that stage.
In fact, the lasting appeal of symphony orchestra performances over the centuries are reminders that music penned by now-dead composers like Handel, Brahms, and Mahler get “extra lives” through the performance of tribute bands – a.k.a. symphony orchestras.
And there are biopics like the award-winning “Bohemian Rhapsody” which essentially brought Freddie Mercury back to life last year on the silver screen. As we've discussed in this blog, that hit movie is already inspiring producers all over the world to scheme and dream about the next major motion picture release based on a dead rock star or extinct band.
But now technology may play a role in keeping Rock alive, so to speak. Last year, we wrote a blog post about Roy Orbison's hologram appearing here in Detroit at the Fox Theater. And now it turns out this tribute to “Mr. Pretty Woman” was not a one-off.
In this year's Techsurvey, we put the idea of a hologram concert to the test, asking our 50,000+ sample about the likelihood of attending a concert featuring a deceased favorite artist's apparition performing on stage.
And there's more appeal to a hologram concert than we might have thought. More than one-fourth indicate interest in the concept, especially progressively younger fans eager to perhaps enjoy a unique concert experience with a band they would otherwise never be able to see in concert.
While some questioned my sanity – or my research acumen – for including a crazy “what if?” question like this in Techsurvey, I felt vindicated when I read a news story over the weekend in CNN Politics about a new Presidential candidate – Andrew Yang – who will use a hologram of himself to campaign in multiple venues and cities at the same time. That's right – in order to more efficiently present himself to America, Yang will be able to “appear” in multiple markets at the same time, thanks to hologram technology.
But that's not where it ends. One of the most iconically bizarre rockers of all time, Frank Zappa, is getting posthumously into the act. His Frank Zappa hologram tour opens this Friday. Aptly called “The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa,” the tour will start with nine U.S. dates this spring, and then move to Europe.
The band features several former Zappa players, and has been put together by Frank's son, Ahmet, who says this about his dad and the technology:
“As a futurist, and hologram enthusiast, Frank fearlessly broke through boundary after boundary as an artist, and in honoring his indomitable spirit, we're about to do it again, 25 years after his passing.”
Ronnie James Dio is another long-dead artist whose 3D image will be all over America this spring. Proving there's life after Rock star death, Dio's hologram show is produced by the same company putting on the Zappa concerts – Eyellusion.
Not surprisingly, these shows come with some controversy. The website, Classic Rock, featured a story by Dave Everley expressing dismay at the prospects of more of these ghostly rock tributes.
Calling it “digital zombification,” Everley implored “Let the dead stay dead.”
Ultimately, fans will be the “deciders.” If they show up in force for these hologrammic tributes, they will not only continue, but will most likely technically improve and become more elaborate over time. Elvis, Michael Jackson, Prince, Sinatra, and others can't be far away from returning to the stage.
The lesson in all this is that whether these “copycat” events – tribute bands, musical biopics, and holograms in concert – become more popular or are fads that go by the wayside, they are symbols of rabid audiences seeking out new ways to experience long-gone artists and the amazing music they made.
Even the Magic 8 Ball cannot predict where this obsession with dead rock stars will take us next, who will be the next major rock star to leave this earth, and the bizarre ways in which we choose to remember them.
Or for that matter, who will end up sitting on the Iron Throne.
We'll just have to wait and see.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,200 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
Fred was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.