The music industry has certainly gone through its trials and tribulations over the past 15 years. Today, thanks to streaming and concert revenues, it is finally starting to get its head above water once again. The challenge for the industry is how to continue this upward trend going forwards.

Once slow to adopt new technologies, the music industry is now arguably at, or close to the forefront. Experimentation within the Virtual Reality space has been going on for some time, and in some cases had some very positive benefits for both fans and artists. I’ll cover this in more detail in the future. It’s the opportunities afforded by Augmented Reality that I’m going to focus on in this post.

The versatility of Augmented Reality has so many applications for the music world.

The two go hand in hand. Just as the nature of AR is all about interaction between real and virtual worlds, music is about the balance of real experiences, such as being at a show, with intangible emotional connections. With this in mind let’s take a look at just a few of the applications afforded by AR.

The obvious starting point is the live performance experience. Stage shows can be taken to another level by adding new dimensions. Notation, lyrics emanating from the band’s backline, along with fun illustrations and annotations of song inspirations and trivia can really change the game. Tying this to social media feeds represents an opportunity such as reviewing or rating individual song performances on the spot. This could also tie in nicely with existing music apps such as the concert wiki, Setlist FM (

The theatrical element of a performance can be radically increased by involving AR-generated characters mentioned in songs or literally by illustrating a track’s story. For anyone who likes a little metal, imagine Iron Maiden’s mascot Eddie coming alive in all his different guises and appearing onstage during many of the band’s classics. (For those of you who don’t know what I’m referring to, just check out a Maiden sleeve on Spotify and you’ll see what I mean!).

Bundling a download with a concert ticket has been extremely successful for the industry. It’s a simple marketing process for a label and for the ticket company it helps to justify what are often seen as unreasonable fees. Bundling of an exclusive AR app can take this to the next level.

The resurgence of vinyl presents a great AR opportunity. Download cards are often included in the vinyl package. They can now also offer AR apps giving access to the making of the album triggered by sleeve art.

Then there’s the educational opportunity of being able to learn how to play a song through an AR experience. To date this has been largely geared towards guitar, but we’ll see this extended into other categories such as drum charts, for instance.

Tour promotion can include an AR component through every element of the marketing mix, whether digital or offline. In today’s world of expensive tickets, fans have to make a choice between attending shows. Creative AR teasers can help to sway their decisions.

The highly visual and participative nature of EDM (electronic dance music) festivals is about a collective experience. AR overlays via smart phones can take this to the next level. Imagine a school of giant whales emerging right in front of the DJ during a crescendo.

Rock festivals have the opportunity to use AR as an event guide. Coachella for instance presents hundreds of acts across numerous stages. A running order in AR, triggered at different locations at the event or via the stages themselves, can really help the fan to navigated. It can also assist festival logistics and enable security personnel to anticipate the size and timing of crowd movements between different areas. Or even guide a somewhat inebriated fan back to his or her tent at the end of a long hot day.

And for an aspiring musician or tech in the audience, imagine standing behind the mixing or lighting desks and experimenting with faders to learn about effects, settings and setting the atmosphere. Details of a guitar player’s rig can be communicated. To a guitar player in the audience, having access to how an artist uses effects pedals at different points in a set can be very attractive. It also broadens the potential for AR taking it into the music instrument industry.

Finally, like it or not, third party sponsorship is now an integral part of the music industry and a huge driver of revenue. The potential afforded by AR is enormous. A seamless and somewhat non-intrusive interaction between artist and sponsor has huge benefits for both parties. This topic is huge and requires a dedicated post in the near future.

And all of this is just for starters. In conclusion, AR and music are perfect bedfellows. The possibilities are endless and only limited by the imagination.

Dave Alder