We’ve written before about the curious resurrection of deceased pop stars when we analysed the Tupac hologram – a high-tech spectacular which brought the late rapper back to life in shimmering 3D on a Coachella stage. It raised a good number of dissenting voices back then (one comment on our site blasted the whole shebang as ‘completely tasteless … death is one of the most personal, and painful things a person and their family can go through’), so chances are the news that more and more such holograms are to be unveiled is going to be similarly controversial.
The company behind the Tupac hologram has just signed up to create a revived Elvis Presley – or rather make that Elvis Presleys, as they are hoping to recreate The King at various stages of his career, from hip-shaking young gunslinger to burger-munching Vegas lounge lizard. It does seem like a logical starting point for a holographic revolution (Elvis has been commodified to the point of seeming like a product rather than a person anyway) but now it seems that others are getting the same idea – the estates of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Marilyn Monroe have expressed interest in bringing back the dead too.
Aside from the issues that revolve around the ethics of all this – surely to become more and more of a heated talking point in future months – another question now has to be asked: what is the commercial viability of all this? Who will go and see these holographic acts? One can assume we’ll be looking at the more casual demographic – hardcore music fans are the ones who seek out exciting new acts, after all, so chances are they won’t be the ones shelling out to watch such circus acts. Dedicated followers of certain artists are also going to prove an unpredictable bunch – those who worship at the altar of Elvis may well find the presence of his digital ghost to be a slur on their hero.
Which leaves, as we said, the ‘casuals’ – those people who maybe check out one or two gigs a year and whose music collection consists of Grammy winners and Best Ofs. They’ll likely be the ones most willing to embrace the novelty of holographic performers … but purely as that, a novelty.
This really is about the experience rather than the music. Nothing wrong with that … but is this really something that can be relied on to improve the dire straits of a struggling industry, as many are claiming? 3D movies have been something of a boost to the box office, but no-one in their right mind would claim them to be the savior of cinema in these troubled, piracy-laden times. The same goes for these holograms. By all means let’s enjoy them as a fad (if you feel comfortable enough with the notion). But to pinpoint this as an ‘important’ development in an artistic sense would be a big mistake.
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