“It will be as if you’re in a space rocket and zooming around the arena, and seeing everything in 3D,” Queen’s Brian May told Music Ally in May 2016, about a virtual-reality of the band’s recent gig in Barcelona.
Just over a year later, the project is ready for release. Called ‘VR The Champions’ (oh yes!) it will be released through Universal Music Group’s VRTGO platform today as a 360-degree 3D performance.
Well, performances: the experience includes three songs: Radio Gaga, We Will Rock You and We Are The Champions, shot at the May 2016 concert in Barcelona.
VR The Champions is also one of the first paid virtual-reality experiences to be launched on VRTGO, which Universal launched as an app in October 2016.
Fans will need to pay $9.99 (£9.99 in the UK and €10.99 in Europe) for the full experience, although a free 30-second trailer has been published online today.
Universal says VR The Champions will work on a range of VR headsets, including Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, Gear VR and HTC Vive, as well as May’s own OWL VR kit, which he launched last year.
“This is the fulfilment of a dream. Through this unique virtual reality creation, fans around the world will for the first time be able to experience the excitement and energy of a Queen show in their own homes,” said May in a statement today. “Many of you have seen VR, but not VR like this!”
May is an enthusiast about VR, as he explained to us last year.
“Ultimately virtual reality will change the world, because you’ll be able to build exactly the reality you want. I think people eventually won’t want to come out. It’s a very real possibility: there’s a great science-fiction story that I read years ago with that premise,” he said then.
“Yes, there will be people who never go out of their rooms, but at the same time it [VR] will be a way of educating people in a way they haven’t been educated before. You could experience being an animal being hunted for example. All sorts of applications putting people in a situation they would never have been in.”
“I think it will bring a lot of good. And yeah, I’m sure it will bring some darkness too. We have to deal with the darkness though.”
At the time, May was unimpressed by Google’s demonstration of a VR version of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, which had been produced without the input of the band’s surviving members or archival team.
However, they later worked with Google on an improved version of that experience, which was released as a standalone app in September 2016.
Will VR The Champions be a commercial success? $9.99 for a three-song performance, even with the zippy camerawork, seems quite high, given the lack of evidence so far on how much music fans are willing to pay for these kinds of experiences.
More positively, this release will provide some of that evidence: if labels and artists don’t try to charge for VR experiences, they’ll never know whether fans are willing to stump up. We’ll be keen to see how this one performs.
Universal Music’s CTO Ty Roberts talked to Music Ally in December about the label group’s desire to experiment with VR.
“There’s a great opportunity in VR because there’s no established VR platform. There are 50 different companies making different things to show off with VR, and we can be one of those. The format isn’t fixed yet, which is our opportunity to experiment,” he said.
“You see VRTGO as an application now, but really it’s an API. You could take that and put it inside another application, and these things will play back in a unique way, and provide more of a complete experience for which our artists have delivered the components.”