11 Nov 2019

How Holograms are Transforming the Music Industry

Crowd cheering for the stage at a music concert

Remember when Tupac performed with Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre at Coachella in 2012? Yes, we’re talking about *that* Tupac Shakur. And yes, we know he died 15 years before. 

… But there he was. In hologram form. 

Tupac might have been the first, but he’s far from the only deceased star to be given the digital treatment. A Michael Jackson version appeared not long afterwards, and just last year saw a Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly hologram tour of the UK. In China, the late, great Teresa Tang has been singing in arenas again.

An Amy Winehouse hologram tour was also announced, although it’s since been postponed. That one might have been too soon.

How Do These Holograms Work? 

Well, a hologram company first builds a digital likeness of the person, either completely using a computer or by using a close body double as a basis and layering a kind of “digital clothing” over them.

They then need to extract the vocals from the person’s songs and painstakingly match this with digital and laser imaging, as well as CGI techniques.

Finally, a surprisingly old technology is used to put the hologram on stage: an overhead projector reflects the image onto glass placed on the stage floor, reflecting the image in 3D.

What Does This Mean for the Music Industry?

The whole concept of holograms creates a messy legal issue, for a start. It’s very likely that in the future, major stars will need to state in their will if they don’t want to be ‘rebuilt’ after they die.

In some parts of the world (or some states of the US), a person’s family keeps hold of the rights to their image - and no one else can profit off that likeness without their permission. In other places, no such rules exist.

It’s very likely that a ton of lawsuits will be brought as holograms become increasingly popular in the industry.

In the short term, though, it’s possible that some stars could see holograms as a way to generate extra revenue streams while they’re still alive. It’s a way of going on tour without going on tour - and potentially charging a premium for “real” live shows.

Plus, of course, like Snoop Dogg, it could be an excuse to perform “with” their heroes and add an extra wow-factor to their own show.

Wherever the situation goes next, it’s going to be a fascinating time for music industry professionals experimenting with digital likenesses - and as the cost of creating holograms falls and falls, expect to see late starts cropping up on stage with living ones (or in solo shows) more than ever before.