PRS Explores immerses itself in virtual and augmented reality debate

Leading music business professionals and senior digital entrepreneurs discuss potential of immersive technology on industry

PRS Explores Virtual Reality

PRS for Music hosted an insightful evening of discussion and debate yesterday (Wednesday 8 November) on augmented and virtual reality and the potential impact these new technologies could have on the music industry. 

Speaking at PRS Explores: Immersive Technology, artist Chagall, former BBC and DCMS digital strategist Will Saunders, COO and co-founder of Blend Media, Chris Helm, PRS for Music’s Head of Online Licensing Nick Edwards and more all took a closer look at the immersive technology landscape, including challenges and opportunities for rightsholders, creators and the wider music industry.

Representing the rights of songwriters and composers in the UK and across the world, PRS for Music continues to be at the forefront of protecting its members intellectual property as technologies develop and evolve; from YouTube, licensed first by PRS for Music in 2007, to MelodyVR, which signed a licensing deal with ICE (covering PRS for Music, GEMA and STIM repertoire) in August of this year. 

This has been a newsworthy year for Immersive Technology as the sector continues to grow. So far, music platform MelodyVR has reportedly seen investment from global star Adele and Channel 4 took a minority stake in Parable VR in March. Clubbing institution Boiler Room also released its first virtual reality stream via Google Daydream. Clearly, the music business is warming up to the potential of these new technologies.

Also speaking were Nicholas Minter-Green, founder and CEO of Parable VR, who provided Samsung Gear VR headsets for attendees to experience immersive content, leading tech journalist Stuart Dredge, and creative rights specialist Ben Green. Ben said: “There’s an argument immersive video is just like any other audio-visual medium: you’ve got rightsholders who are represented within that piece of content. As ever, there’s always a balance between rights the producer wants, in order to distribute the material and make sure it’s on a multitude of platforms and devices, versus the rightsholder who naturally wants to protect their rights – not only their existing rights but any future rights. There is always tension and balance between the existing rightsholder and the producer. Where [the technology is] best used is where they collaborate in tandem, where you get together with a producer and create something new and exciting. Not just a straight performance of a live gig, but doing something incredibly different.”

Nick Edwards noted that PRS for Music “absolutely has to work with the industry as it develops. We are seeing a huge opportunity, although it’s not clear where it’s going to go. There are a few key factors: if something has music in it, we would view it as licensable and would work with the industry to make sure the structure and rights packages that we are able to deliver are robust enough to cover the type of content that is being made available – and that remuneration for our members is at the right level and allows them to get paid when their music is exploited”.

Artist and producer Chagall, whose innovative live performances create sounds and visuals using new technologies such as mi.mu gloves, provided a creative outlook on the potential for augmented and virtual reality. She said: “Whether VR will work depends a lot on whether we make anything good with it. It can be technically amazing, but we need to create things that we actually want to be in or want to be a part of. I think that’s one of the big challenges. I must admit that the first couple of times I tried VR, I didn’t have that ‘wow’ moment. It was more like I’d rather just go to the concert or experience this with other people in the real world. I wasn’t very amazed. But I have since then changed my mind!”

quote

Last night confirmed there are very good reasons behind the buzz around virtual and augmented reality technology. Although there is a shortage of great content right now due to a challenge with funding for longer form content, we can see that it provides many opportunities for creators and it is exciting to consider where the technology will go from here.

Panel moderator, PRS for Music’s Director of Corporate Strategy, Graham Davies
PRS Explores launched last year with the aim of facilitating debate about change in the industry. Previous evenings have covered the relationship between music and videogames, big data, blockchain, and EU copyright reform. Further events are planned for 2018 and will be announced in due course.

About PRS for Music

PRS for Music represents the rights of songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK and around the world. As a membership organisation the company ensures creators are paid whenever their music and songs are played, performed, broadcast or reproduced in public and provides business and community groups with access to 22.2 million songs through its music licences. With over 100 representation agreements in place globally, PRS for Music's network represents over two million music creators.

In 2016, the organisation collected over half a billion pounds (£621.5m) on behalf of its members, making it one of the world’s leading music collective management organisations.