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UK reports progress on first-ever 5G festival

The world’s first-ever 5G-powered festival is on track to take place early next year in the UK, following another successful round of trials.

Led by 5G specialist Digital Catapult and funded by the department for digital, culture, media & sport (DCMS), the 5G Festival will combine elements of live, in-person performance, remote collaboration and augmented reality.

The most recent trials utilised a group of experienced session musicians called The Remotes (‘the most data divided band in the UK’) to test how much audio latency (delay) can be tolerated for a group of performers to be able to play together remotely.

The vocalist, bass player, lead guitarist and keyboard player were set up to play in either the Concert Hall or the Founders Room in the Brighton Dome whilst 60 miles away at Metropolis Studios in London a drummer and another vocalist were located.

With musical direction from Kojo Samuel (Stormzy, Jess Glynne and Dave), the group performed using augmented reality (AR) glasses, livestreaming through a 5G network-ready 360° content distribution platform and an innovative immersive audio mixing interface.

“We were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do”

Though the band couldn’t perform together physically – or take cues from each other – in real life, the individual performers were able to collaborate using technology to recreate the same kind of rehearsal/performance as a band performing together on one stage.

For the audience, the technology will create a more ’emotionally connected experience’ in-venue and through AR, virtual reality and 360° video will enable streaming into their own homes on their preferred viewing device, or from one venue to another.

The next trials will introduce a third venue for testing the spatial hybrid elements, culminating in a live public event due to take place in March 2022.

“These trials were a major success with the network performing as expected and we were able to start pushing the boundaries of what 5G and immersive technology is able to do,” says Dritan Kaleshi, director of 5G Technology at Digital Catapult.

“It was actually quite an emotional experience for all involved – for the first time in such a long while, we’re hearing and seeing live music being performed, from an incredible band across two iconic venues. It feels real now. This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force, and the effort which has been poured into this project is now starting to bear fruit.”

“This collaboration of organisations is a creative and technical tour de force”

The 5G Festival is part of the wider £200 million 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme (5GTT) funded by DCMS, that will produce a 5G powered, virtual, live immersive collaboration platform for artists.

It is hoped that the 5G Festival will help create a more sustainable live music industry and help to future-proof business models for venues and festivals adversely affected by global risks (such as coronavirus and climate change).

Digital Catapult is spearheading the project along with Warner Music Group, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, Telefonica, London’s Metropolis Studios and Sonosphere (immersive audio and live streaming).

Audiotonix (audio mixing consoles and AoIP networking), Mativision (5G, 360° immersive live streaming and distribution platform), LiveFrom (blockchain ticketing) and Wired Sussex (Brighton 5G testbed partner) are also involved.


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Why deeper engagement is crucial for the industry

When The Osbournes premiered on MTV in 2002, it changed broadcast entertainment forever.

Suddenly, audiences were let into a celebrity’s world like never before. This access, along with the advent of social media and artist-controlled channels, propelled by the launch of a new generation of mobile devices, accelerated our connection to talent further still. And the barriers between fan and artist became erased in a way that was never imagined.

As we dive into a new decade, it’s worth taking a moment to consider where we are heading – and how technology will continue to enhance this relationship.

New technologies have always presented new opportunities for the industry, and 2020 will deliver fresh impetus for virtual-reality (VR) adoption. For artists, this will provide the opportunity to create new ways to engage with and deepen their relationship with fans, as the technology crosses into the mainstream.

For the first time, thanks to 5G, we’ll be able to watch high-quality immersive entertainment experiences in VR on the move via our mobile devices. We’ll have the ability to play an interactive game, watch the NBA live or stream a concert in real time – while we choose our viewing position on stage. The ability to stream premium content on your mobile device with no latency will accelerate the shift away from traditional linear viewing.

But it’s not just via the smartphone that access to VR is growing; new hardware such as the Oculus Quest is proving hugely successful, with a three-month waiting list helping to drive headset sales up by 31% in 2019. With music experiences such as Beat Saber selling over a million copies, we’re now seeing true audience adoption and engagement.

Once, a meet and greet for a few minutes after a show was all that was available to music fans

Experiences are everything
Virtual reality can open doors into places and experiences we never dreamed possible – be that viewing from the unattainable front-row seats at a Broadway show or being in the Star Wars universe. For music, VR can bridge the gap, transporting us to live events and places we never thought possible.

Where once a meet and greet for a few minutes after a show was all that was available to music fans, that has now changed exponentially – and experientially. In virtual reality we can stand in our idol’s shoes, and it’s a powerful moment. All the barriers that might have stopped music lovers from seeing their heroes live (particularly real for young people) – cost, age restrictions, sold-out events, distance and access issues – are swept away. And the artist and label benefits through a new revenue stream and enhanced engagement with fans.

Millennial audiences are embracing such experiences, driven by FOMO and the ability to share; 78% of them would rather open their wallets for an experience over material possessions.

Deeper connection
At MelodyVR, we are using the immersive power of VR to generate a genuine feeling of presence and emotional connection to create meaningful relationships between fans and artists. We’re opening the gates to major events and building exciting new original content strands that place fans at the centre of the artist’s world, be in the studio, backstage at the show or on stage with them.

We are brought some of these sentiments to our inaugural Open/R Music Discovery Month in January. While introducing some of the best new talent onto the platform, we’re positioning the fan in the scene with the artist, part of the entourage, providing a previously unattainable connection. Fans can get inside the heads of the artists they admire, experiencing their stories through a new more personal lens, taking the journey with them. It’s the sound of the future, presented in the medium of the future.

With VR, the possibilities are endless and restrictions are few

Freedom of expression
With VR, the possibilities are endless and restrictions are few. For artists, this means more space to express themselves freely, without dilution or misrepresentation. This can only mean the opportunity for more genuine understanding and connection between music lover and music maker.

The trick will be in how we work with artists to express their creative visions, work with them to create global event moments and support their careers in totally new visual ways. For the music industry, this represents a real opportunity and the next level of engagement with fans, building on the social platforms that already exist.

Audiences don’t just want deep engagement with the talent they love – they demand it. This is about technology allowing fans to live and breathe music in a way that’s never been possible.


Iain Funnell is SVP of creative, content and editorial, at MelodyVR. MelodyVR will present as part of the New Technology: Pitch it to win it session at ILMC next month.

Report: 5G to bring £2.3bn to live industry by 2030

Research from mobile operator O2 has shown that 5G, or super high-speed mobile internet, could be set to boost the live entertainment industry by as much as £2.3 billion in the next ten years.

In the wake of the launch of O2’s 5G mobile internet in October 2019, and the concomitant partnership with music-focused virtual reality platform MelodyVR, the company commissioned consultancy Ovum to conduct the 5th Generation Entertainment report.

Up to 100 times faster than 4G internet and with the capacity for 1 million users per square kilometre (as opposed to 4,000 with 4G), the rollout of 5G presents many opportunities for the live industry, as will be discussed in detail at the 5G workshop at the International Live Music Conference in March.

The report findings show how 5G will improve fan experience and engagement through the enhancement of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), live streaming and smart ticketing.

Fans unable to attend a show will be able to purchase a high-quality livestream and watch in VR or AR. Viewers will also be able to personalise the experience, opting to focus on specific elements of a live event, enabling brands to target advertising. O2 is also looking into the possibility of broadcasting live through high-definition cameras on British television network ITV.

Pre-show opportunities include AR-assisted shopping that allows fans to virtually try on merchandise and order for collection at the show. Similar advance ordering systems can also apply to food and drink purchases, with real-time analytics allowing fans to find the quietest bar, easily navigate around venues and meet up with friends.

“5G will revolutionise live entertainment”

Event organisers may also capitalise on the superfast network to send personalised highlight reels directly to fans’ devices after the show.

“Through our sponsorships with England Rugby, The O2 Arena and 20 iconic O2 Academy venues, we aim to engage fans with relevant, useful and exciting experiences before, during and after a live event,” comments O2’s head of sponsorship Gareth Griffiths, who will present ILMC’s 5G workshop along with AEG Europe’s David Jones, O2/Telefónica UK’s Brendan O’Reilly and production manager Chris Vaughan on 5 March.

“The low-latency and superfast connectivity of 5G, underpinned by fan insights, bold branding and customer benefits, enables us to tailor these experiences to the diverse audiences we see at our venues in real-time.

“Whether for an England Rugby fan at Twickenham, a Kano fan at O2 Victoria Warehouse Manchester or an Elton John fan at The O2, 5G will revolutionise live entertainment.”

David Jones, senior vice president of IT at AEG, owner of the O2 Arena, adds that 5G is set to particularly enhance the use of augmented reality and virtual reality technology.

“The O2 is at the forefront of O2’s 5G rollout in the UK, and I’m eager to see how the creative people who produce the hundreds of events each year at The O2 will embrace 5G and the technologies it enables, and use it to deliver fun and engaging experiences for fans,” says Jones.


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5G enables Bastille AR livestream

High-speed mobile internet allowed fans across the UK to livestream a surprise Bastille concert in augmented reality, in EE’s latest demonstration of its 5G technology.

The band, who are currently on tour in the UK and Ireland, performed at Birmingham New Street train station on Thursday (28 November).

Fans in Liverpool Lime Street station and Edinburgh’s Shore Street station also viewed the show, using Samsung 5G devices and Nreal’s mixed reality glasses for a full AR experience.

The show forms part of a new EE advert, due to be aired from January 2020. EE was the first provider to make its 5G network available to UK customers in May last year, followed by Vodafone in June, Three in August and, most recently, O2 in October.

“With 5G, our customers can enjoy immersive experiences no matter where they are, even during their commute and in the busiest places,” comments Pete Jeavons, marketing communications director at BT and EE.

“This AR performance from Bastille in three cities simultaneously, is a great demonstration of what’s now possible for our customers with 5G”

“We’re saying goodbye to the days of refreshing our screens while waiting to get out of the station into a less congested area. This extraordinary AR performance from Bastille in three cities simultaneously, is a great demonstration of what’s now possible for our customers with 5G.”

In its annual entertainment and media outlook report, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) pegged the widespread availability of 5G as a “trend to keep an eye on”. Access to 5G, said a technology expert at the firm, is likely to increase the use of concert live streams and virtual reality (VR) concert, as well as prompting “better use of AI (artificial intelligence)”.

Speaking in IQ’s European Arena Yearbook 2019, Gil Murphy, head of event technology at Stockholm’s Ericsson Globe stated that 5G connectivity is “the next technological leap” for arenas, noting that “great connectivity […] is one of the basic components of the live experience.”

The AEG-backed MTS Live Arena in Moscow, due to open next year, will be among those to provide 5G to its customers.


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MelodyVR expands user reach with O2 deal

Music virtual reality (VR) company MelodyVR has announced an exclusive UK partnership with mobile operator O2, the title sponsor of the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena in London.

The partnership was unveiled today (Thursday 17 October) as O2 launches its 5G mobile internet. Through the collaboration, users of the mobile network’s ‘5th generation of music’ custom plan will receive 12 months free access to the MelodyVR platform, as well as an Oculus Go VR headset.

The deal with O2, one of the largest mobile networks in the country, with a customer base of 25 million, is part of MelodyVR’s goal to “significantly increase” its audience, according to a press statement.

“O2’s 5th Generation network has the power to enable an entirely new suite of technological advances and experiences that will revolutionise how we all engage with technology,” says MelodyVR CEO Anthony Matchett.

“We look forward to welcoming even more fans to the MelodyVR platform”

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with O2 to deliver incredible music experiences to their customers and we look forward to welcoming even more fans to the MelodyVR platform.”

O2’s chief marketing officer, Nina Bibby, adds: “Partnering with companies like MelodyVR creates a perfect way for O2 customers to enjoy virtual reality like never before – experiencing legendary gigs from around the world, reliving ones they’ve been to and seeing performances they can’t get to.

“At O2, we’ve always been a customer-led business, with a rich heritage in live music, so the opportunity to create unique experiences like this with MelodyVR, that bring customers closer to the things they love, is fantastic.”

Launched in 2018, MelodyVR has a large portfolio of VR shows from the likes of the Streets, Post Malone, Lewis Capaldi, the Chainsmokers, Kiss, Liam Payne, Jamiroquai and Kelly Clarkson.


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