Written by Lilian Min • Photography by Michael Buckner, Getty Images • December 7, 2016
As live performance continues to be the fastest growing sector in music, artists are always looking for new ways to give fans a thrill. Not just for sci-fi anymore, holograms have emerged as a way for touring artists to get creative and boost production value.
In recent years, forward-thinking performers have utilized holograms in unusual ways: M.I.A and Janelle Monáe held a “joint” concert despite being on different coasts, while Beyoncé danced on stage with multiple versions of herself. Fans are seeing the results of technological innovation and development as hologram concert experiences become more interesting and immersive.
Holograms have been popular for temporarily resurrecting deceased performers including Tupac and Michael Jackson, but these days, hologram performance applications have diversified. For example, animated characters called “Vocaloids” are a collection of anime-stylized stars created by Japanese media company Crypton Future Media. Vocaloids are fueled by fan-created music, and touring holograms like Hatsune Miku allow fans to experience performances from their 2D, screen-bound idols. And let’s not forget that a decade ago, the band Gorillaz (“fronted” by four fictional characters) relied on holograms for its performance with Madonna at the 2006 Grammys. In both cases, holograms provide us the opportunity to experience live versions of our favorite animated artists.
Fun fact: What we commonly consider to be “holograms” are really just simulations. While a true hologram would provide a complete model of something that already exists, Pepper’s Ghost illusions (first popularized in 1862) use glass panels to reflect and, in modern instances, project images, giving us the holographic simulations we enjoy today. Companies like Hologram USA continue a long tradition of honing and refining hologram illusion-based tech for this current entertainment need, and performers adapt their illusions for their own performance purposes.
When the animated TV show Jem first debuted in 1985, the use of holograms in live music was a wild idea from the future. In the decades since, hologram technology has evolved to give us what feels like a way to defy the rules of space and time. For music fans and artists alike, these images are an exciting technological frontier. And this excitement isn’t limited just to the music world, so expect to hear more about holograms soon.