Virtual reality is having an impact on almost all facets of entertainment, whether it’s music, video games, or television. That was fully exemplified at the New York Media Festival last week, where there were multiple panels discussing how VR could enhance different the different entertainment industries.

Industry leaders talked about what VR needs to succeed, and whether the technology might supplant live experiences. Key themes arose throughout the panels, and it’s clear that good content is the key to mass adoption. And instead of sticking to old techniques used in 2D games or television, content creators need to find ways to make the best use of VR as its own medium.


Virtual reality experienced both through expensive high-end headsets or using mobile devices through viewers like the Samsung Gear VR or Google Cardboard, is giving audiences a whole new way to engage with their favorite artists. Afdhel Aziz, director of Absolut Labs, spoke about working with the music artist deadmau5 to create a virtual reality video game to promote both the musician and the vodka brand in a way that goes beyond tour integration.

A separate panel discussed the use of VR for music entertainment, there was some concern about how a writer described the technology as “the Napster for live music,” where audiences would be able to download concerts and other live events instead of paying to attend them. Additionally, VR lets audiences relive events as often as they like, whenever they want. However, the concept was largely dismissed by speakers such as Facundo Diaz, CEO of VRTIFY—a startup that combines VR with music events to create a unique kind of social network.

Diaz explained that it wouldn’t be an “or” situation, it would be an “and” one. Fans will be attracted to the communal aspect and excitement of attending a live concert, while those that can’t attend can still get a front row seat experience in VR. Instead of being an impediment, the panel seemed to view VR as a big opportunity for live events, including giving viewers an inside look at places like the backstage area and the tour bus. Also, considering how every venue has a limited capacity, which can be overcome with the use of virtual reality.

It seems one of the biggest challenges for virtual reality right now is content. Some felt that users had a difficult time discovering VR experiences. Brad Spahr, VP for product development and global digital business at Sony Music Entertainment, felt that finding content wasn’t a problem. Digital storefronts and channels such as Steam (for the HTC Vive) and the Oculus Store do an excellent job of presenting content to users. “I think the biggest worry that I have is that there’s too much bad content,” Spahr said. “There are some lazy ways to do VR, which a lot of people do, but that’s not going to help anyone grow this market.”

Although platforms such as YouTube were marked with low-quality content when it first started and its content creators were experimenting, Spahr stated that users didn’t have to commit to the platform by wearing an oftentimes expensive HMD (head mounted display) to engage in the experience.

When [a]listdaily asked Spahr if VR was caught in a catch-22, in that quality VR experiences require a lot of money, but every media platform needs to experiment with low cost (and possibly low quality) experiences to grow, he replied: “I think building great experiences is what’s important. The sacrifice that you’re asking the customer to make is to put an HMD on. I can have bad content on my phone and throw it off to get back to what I’m doing, or bad content on TV, I can just change the channel. But bad content for VR—you just asked me to put an HMD on and make a big sacrifice—and the investment it takes to get all of the equipment. So if the content I’m experiencing after making that investment is poor, it’s not going to make me want to continue to do it. There are quality bars people should be hitting on VR.”

Spahr stated that platforms such as PlayStation work to curate all of its content. “You’re going to have bad content, just like any other medium, but I think we need to find a good way to guide people to the premium experiences that make them feel like they’re getting the value of VR.”

Video Games

Perhaps one of the most obvious uses of virtual reality technology is in playing video games, which is why it is at the forefront of pioneering the technology. Brad Spahr also noted that Sony Music was looking to video game experiences as a guide when developing its VR content, and the Absolut deadmau5 promotion is a prime example of how the technology can be put to use.

Chris Donahue, senior director of alliances at AMD, also stated that content is the key to driving users from the 2D experience to virtual reality. “Content is the thing that really makes things happen. It makes things appear, and makes them live, vibrant and profitable,” said Donahue. Although the medium still has some challenges to overcome, Donahue is confident in the technology.

“There’s always the chicken or egg issue with platforms, where you have to get an install base before people are interested in developing content for it,” Donahue said, elaborating on the matter. “Fortunately, there are a lot of crazy people who are willing to go and experiment and try new things.” Donahue also stated that VR is at the start of a typical technology adoption curve, but the amount of excitement, focus and attention being paid to VR and AR is significant enough to grow the platform.


With television, there is still the issue of discerning the difference between good and bad VR. Rich Flier, managing director of business development at the visual effects studio Digital Doman described good VR was quite simply, “it’s something that you want to buy or keep on playing.” He went on to express that “there isn’t that killer app. There isn’t that Pokémon GO right now for the VR space.”

Jeff Marsilio, NBA VP for global media, disagreed and felt that the VR documentary detailing the 2016 NBA “was among the first complete VR experiences in the video space.” However, the challenge that the platform faces is having its users overcome the sense of newness and discern good content from bad.

“Good is something that’s worth watching,” Flier said. He cited works created by Chris Milk, with experiences that are like short form documentaries. A lot of filmmakers are entering the VR space and experimenting with it to create content.

When it comes to overcoming the hurdle of putting on a headset to experience VR, some panelists were confident that that the technology will evolve. The key is in giving audiences a compelling reason to put on the headset and convincing them that it’s a more immersive form of entertainment. Again, virtual reality could be a major benefit to live events, since a large majority of fans never attend a live game. With VR, audiences can get a courtside seat.

However, Marsilio echoed an earlier sentiment by stating that VR isn’t a perfect analog to attending the game. “The hardware is not nearly as clear as the real world, and you also can’t smell the popcorn and see your friends.” But he stated that taking what good about television— specifically contextual cues such as replays, scores, shot clocks and all the elements that go into a game broadcast—and combine them with VR in a new way, you may end up with the best of both worlds.