What will the music business look like in 10-20 years if and or when holographic performances become the norm...the usual –that they are so expected, they do not prompt reflexive “awe” in nearly the same grandiose fashion as at present?
Michael Jackson’s hologram at the Billboard Music Awards might not have been the first holographic/CGI performance, (Tupac at Coachella, Celine Dion and Elvis on American Idol, to name a couple.) however, that is all the more reason this type of show begs to be addressed. Clearly, we have the internalized knowledge and computerized technology to generate these posthumous digital images and voiceovers, so, it is easy to say the chances are high this route could become a more common trend, leading to the somewhat jaded, “been there, done that,” attitude alluded to before.
Almost as an addendum to this possible future, the crucial question that needs asking is:
Do these holograms have the potential to dilute the finality of life, and the accompanying level of appreciation the remaining living gain and take with a death, once an artist passes –especially if the artist at hand is a young person or experienced an abrupt / unnecessary death? (e.g. Amy Winehouse, Cory Monteith, Kurt Cobain)
Not to mention, how might artist contracts/expectations change if holograms become commonplace? Those artists who do not yet have a massive archive or piles of unreleased material because of brief career or age…could contracts start to be written to say artists have to develop a “shadow catalog” alongside creating new, acceptable-for-release material so that, should they unexpectedly die, people who represent them will still be able to “provide the artist’s musical gift to the world” (or as some might say, shamelessly make more money at the expense of the deceased) long after passing?
It’s one thing if over the course of a career, an artist has naturally built up an archive of “lost” songs because not everything can make the cut to the studio album. That is the way of things. Conversely, beyond feeling somewhat exploitative, if artists were suddenly prompted to put conscious, isolated effort into generating a hidden archive, what would those songs even sound like? The reasons why and the times when we approach manuscript paper to write a song, from the very first moment…those elements each shape how a song will turn out and of what the whole body of work will be comprised.
Granted, plenty of songwriters are “told” to compose their songs on demand and for specified purposes –heck, that’s the business of being a paid songwriter. Still, that’s just it: it’s the business. Not every song a person writes is going to be coming from, or headed to, that place of “designated usage.” If a person writes a beautifully exposed and unexpected tune that happens to resonate well as a radio single, then it can be used as such. However, if a songwriter comes at the manuscript with the mindset of “this song is for client X who needs a radio single,” chances are the eventual composition won’t be something soul defining that is speaking from the depths of that artist’s emotional self. The emotional depth is not necessarily, always, a two way door.
All of this is quite hypothetical for the time being but, there is absolutely potential for the normal way of things to spin out in each of the kinds of directions painted here.
Would you want any of this for music as we know it? Would you want the public to adopt the attitude that it doesn’t matter if a musician is careening down a path of self-destructive behaviors because should they happen to die, “Well, we can just hologram them back for a sold out stadium gig in about five years post death…” Does anyone see the somewhat sickening callousness to that mentality?
Ultimately, is it fair? Is it fair to a musician’s legacy and to the uniqueness that makes them who they are as a living, breathing person, capable of spontaneous things at any given time, good or bad? Those moment to moment revelations in the heat of a performance will never be seen at any concert once a person dies; choreographed hologram or not.