Weekly hologram concert series launches in Dubai
Dubai’s Al Habtoor Theatre is to host a bi-weekly series of hologram concerts of legendary artists accompanied by a live band.
The Dubai Hologram Universe has been launched at the 1,288 capacity venue by hologram production agency New Dimension Productions (NDP) in collaboration with Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment.
The National reports the series will present artists such as Frank Sinatra, as well as the likes of Umm Kulthum and Warda Al Jazairia, in hologram format.
“We are delighted to partner with NDP in launching such an innovative initiative as the Dubai Hologram Universe that will turn the spotlight on legendary music icons through hologram technology,” says Ahmed Alkhaja, chief executive of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment.
“The Dubai Hologram Universe marks the first step to achieving our long-term strategy to position Dubai as the capital of hologram entertainment”
NDP was founded in Amman, Jordan, in 2010, before relocating to the United Arab Emirates.
“The Dubai Hologram Universe marks the first step to achieving our long-term strategy to position Dubai as the capital of hologram entertainment,” says Hasan M Hina, founder and executive producer and director of New Dimension Productions.
The first show, starring the late Egyptian crooner Abdel Halim Hafez, who died in 1977, took place during last month’s Dubai Shopping Festival.
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Hologram USA hits back amid fraud allegations
Hologram USA and its CEO Alki David have announced that they intend to “vigorously fight” allegations of fraud and registration violations made by the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC).
The SEC complaint alleges that Hologram USA presented “false and misleading” information to investors on its website, in relation to its “exclusive” rights to present holographic performances of artists including Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston and Roy Orbison.
The complaint also claims the company misled investors regarding the existence of a Hologram USA theatre network, which was said to include the Landmark Theater in Indianapolis, the Civic Theater in New Orleans, the Saratoga Casino in New York and the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island.
Additionally, the SEC states that Hologram USA drew investors to its website through a TV commercial advertising the sale of unregistered stock.
“Through a nationwide television commercial and internet campaign that hyped Hologram’s purportedly imminent public offering, defendants knowingly or recklessly disseminated materially false and misleading statements to promote these unregistered offerings to prospective investors,” writes the SEC.
“I’m glad they sued and I’m going to countersue”
According to the SEC, David sold US$100,000 worth of unregistered shares between December 2017 and March 2018 ahead of an aborted initial public offering (IPO). The company had sought approval from the SEC to sell the stock but started soliciting buyers and selling unregistered securities to investors – “many of whom were not accredited” – before receiving the go ahead.
In March 2018, the SEC began enquiring about the unregistered offerings and Hologram USA started to refund investors. By April, all but $26,000 had been returned, according to the complaint.
“I’m glad they sued and I’m going to countersue,” says David in response to the complaint, which he terms as “bullshit”.
“I spent $80 million of my own money to build my company and take it public,” continues David. “I hired the best people and did everything by the book, working closely with NASDAQ. Twice, the SEC has targeted me and blocked my efforts to create hundreds of jobs as I advance the hologram industry. And now this. They’ve picked the wrong guy to fish for some settlement with. I’m not going to take it.”
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BASE Hologram reveals Buddy Holly-gram
BASE Hologram has released a first look at its new Buddy Holly hologram, which hits the road alongside the tried-and-tested holographic Roy Orbison this autumn.
The Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly: The Rock’n’Roll Dream tour, announced in March, kicks off in North America in September, with UK and European dates running parallel in October. The joint headlining trek follows a successful solo BASE Orbison show, In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert, which played theatres in North America and arenas in Europe throughout 2018.
A statement from the Brian Becker-led company, announcing the Holly-gram, reads: “In 1957, Buddy Holly had just had success with his hit song ‘That’ll Be the Day’, and soon his fans would be treated to his next hit, ‘Peggy Sue’. That’s the version of Buddy Holly that we at BASE Hologram chose to feature on the Rock’n’Roll Dream tour, which fans across the globe can buy tickets to starting this week. This was when Buddy was in his prime, where he was on top of the charts and charming audiences across the country with his catchy tracks and trademark ‘geek chic’ look.
“In fact, one of the things that really makes this particular hologram tour stand out is that a new generation of fans will finally get to see what Buddy Holly really looked like. What people may not have realised is most of the colour shots of him had been retouched over the years and the video is in grainy black and white. What you are going to see here is true Buddy at his finest and exactly how he would have looked if you saw him on tour.
“What you are going to see here is true Buddy at his finest”
“As we’ve always said, our productions are meant to be a tribute to these musical legends and to do that we have to be authentic. The main goal in these types of shows is to preserve the legacy of one-of-a-kind musicians and, using their actual master recordings, give fans the chance to see them perform, many for the first time. That’s the promise we make the families and the estates, as well as the public. We are honoured to have been entrusted us with this privilege and we look forward to sharing this project with you in the fall.
“What we are showing today is just a small sample of the full show, which will also feature a live band, backup singers, dancers and cinematic special effects that is choreographed and fully produced by the best in the industry. […] Our hope is that audiences will feel like they are being drawn into an experience where fantasy becomes reality, the magic of which never fades away.”
Tickets for the UK dates, promoted by Kennedy Street Enterprises, are on sale now, priced starting from £45.
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BASE Hologram announces Orbison, Holly world tour
BASE Hologram, the holographic division of BASE Entertainment, has announced a world tour featuring music icons Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly.
Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly: The Rock ’N’ Roll Dream Tour will see the holographic versions of Orbison and Holly perform together concurrently in Europe and North America.
The tour follows on from the success of BASE Hologram’s In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert. Eric Schaeffer, the director of the solo Orbison hologram tour, returns to direct the rock and roll duo.
“Both Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly set the stage for what was to come down the road in the music industry,” says Brian Becker, chairman and chief executive of BASE Hologram, who told IQ recently he sees holographic technology as a “whole new sector in live entertainment.”
“These two men were forward-thinkers who understood what new forms of technology could do for their craft. They defined the genre of rock and roll and influenced everyone from Elvis to the Beatles,” comments Becker.
“Now to be able to recapture that magic on a grand scale and let their fans see them together will be something truly special,” adds the BASE Hologram chief executive.
The duo will be accompanied by a live band and back-up singers, using BASE’s holographic technology and remastered audio.
“These two men were forward-thinkers who understood what new forms of technology could do for their craft, they defined the genre of rock and roll”
“Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly shared many similarities in both their musical and personal lives,” says BASE Hologram chief executive of production Marty Tudor. “It is only fitting to continue pushing the envelope in this type of way.”
Roy Orbison junior, the music icon’s son and president of Roy Orbison Music, echoes the sentiment saying, “how beyond cool and special that these two great friends now get to tour the world together.”
The tour will pull from Orbison and Holly’s combined 16 platinum records, 19 gold records, and almost two dozen top 40 hits. The pair have ten Grammy awards between them.
BASE Hologram is also responsible for the Callas in Concert tour featuring opera singer Maria Callas, who died in 1977. A scheduled Amy Winehouse hologram tour has been postponed following “unique challenges and sensitivities”.
Rival outfit Eyellusion has produced a holographic tour of Ronnie James Dio across Europe. The company is now working on The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa tour, in conjunction with Zappa’s son Ahmet Zappa, which kicks off in the United states in April.
Tickets for the UK dates of Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly: The Rock ’N’ Roll Dream Tour go on sale on Friday 29 March. Tickets start from £45 and are available to buy on Ticketline or directly through venues. Fans can purchase tickets and find out more information about the tour here.
‘I’m finishing what he started’: Ahmet Zappa on bringing Frank’s vision to life
Ahmet Zappa, son of Frank and co-trustee of the Zappa Family Trust (ZFT), has said the upcoming Bizarre World of Frank Zappa tour is a fulfilment of his “visionary” father’s dream to appear on stage as a hologram.
“If Frank was alive, he’d have been really into this technology, and I think he’d have used it himself,” says Zappa Jnr, speaking to IQ ahead of his appearance at ILMC alongside Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion, the production company behind the Frank Zappa hologram.
“The conversation started way before I met Jeff and we started working in earnest to do a show, when I was a young kid: Frank was a futurologist, and he would talk about having a hologram that could play shows around the world while he was at home working – a kind of world tour in a day…”
The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa – which promises guest appearances by long-time Zappa collaborators, as well as unseen footage and “circumstances, objects, places and subject matter” from the late singer’s music brought to life on stage – kicks off in the US on 19 April, at the 1,800-capacity Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, playing shows along the eastern seaboard before heading to Europe in May. The first European date is at the Playhouse (3,059-cap.) in Edinburgh, with shows in London, Manchester, Ostend and Amsterdam also planned.
Fans caught their first glimpse of the hologram, which follows Eyellusion’s recreation of metal icon Ronnie James Dio, last month, when ZFT released a video showing ‘Frank’ decrying the censorship (to remove a penguin’s buttocks, no less) of the tour artwork:
“The video we put out,” says Zappa, also EVP of business development for Eyellusion, is “really crazy. There’s no other way to describe it – I’m looking at my dad.”
On the choice to model the hologram on Apostrophe-era Frank Zappa, Pezzuti says Eyellusion’s philosophy is to recreate deceased performers based on how they are remembered by most fans. “We try to honour that – what we imagine to be the legacy, and how people immortalise them in their minds,” he explains.
With the show’s production, Zappa continues, “I don’t want to say we’re reinventing the wheel – but we kind of are. The live experience has been the same for a long time, and the fact we’re adding an artist who’s not physically present changes the dynamic. What’s cool about this is coming up with creative solutions to keep the audience engaged for a 90-minute show.”
“We’ve put so much love and energy into this”
“With Zappa we’re making it funny, with Dio it was very metal, and Glenn Gould will be very different again,” adds Pezzuti. (Dates for Eyellusion’s Glenn Gould tour will be announced later this year.)
Visuals are based on Frank’s lyrical content – the infamous bare-bottomed penguin is a nod to ‘Penguin in Bondage’, from Roxy & Elsewhere – as well as Zappa’s own memories of his father, he explains: “We’re visualising elements of the songs, and a lot of the conversations I’ve had with father have influenced how this show looks… it’s drawing on [Frank Zappa] touchpoints throughout history.”
“We’ve put so much love and energy into this,” says Zappa. “My father was an early adopter – of state-of-the-art recording equipment, digital, all kinds of technology” (“Machines don’t get loaded, drunk or evicted,” as Frank noted in 1989’s the Real Frank Zappa Book) – “and I feel, as his son, I’m completing something he started and didn’t get a chance to finish. That was a big part of my motivation here.”
He adds: “When you have this content we’ve made with his vocals, his guitars, his live band… Frank has passed, but this is the closest anyone’s ever going to get to see a Frank Zappa show.”
Eyellusion holograms sign with APA’s Steve Martin
Music hologram production company Eyellusion has signed with Agency for the Performing Arts (APA) for worldwide representation, with APA partner Steve Martin to lead booking for all Eyellusion projects, including the Dio Returns and Bizarre World of Frank Zappa world tours.
Dio Returns wrapped up with a show at the 1,100-cap. Trix in Antwerp in late 2017, which features a hologram of the late Ronnie James Dio backed by his former bandmates, after playing to sell-out crowds across Europe, with a US run planned for next year.
The Bizarre World of Frank Zappa, which promises guest appearances by long-time Zappa collaborators including Steve Vai, Ed Mann and Ian Underwood, will similarly hit the road in early 2019, while a tour featuring jazz legend Glenn Gould is also in the works.
“Steve brings decades of touring and management expertise, and, like us, is an innovator and visionary”
“We are thrilled to have Steve Martin and APA as close partners as we continue to pioneer an entirely new market in touring that results in fans experiencing the shows of their dreams,” adds Jeff Pezzuti, CEO of Eyellusion. “Steve brings decades of touring and management expertise, and, like us, is an innovator and visionary who lives to open new doors and reimagine what is possible in this business.
“We are proud to welcome Steve to the expanding Eyellusion family and can’t wait to move forward with his knowledge, passion and creativity in our corner.”
“Ahmet [Zappa] and Jeff [Pezzuti] have a distinctively different take on the visual aspects of producing these shows that I find very exciting,” adds Martin (pictured), who formerly represented Dio. “Plus, I always wanted to be Frank Zappa’s agent, and I get to work with Ronnie and Wendy Dio again!”
Exhibitions vet David Parr joins BASE Hologram
David Parr has been appointed executive vice-president of location-based productions global sales at BASE Hologram, where he will be responsible for selling the company’s content for residencies in museums, retail centres and various other ‘destination’ events.
A touring exhibitions industry veteran, Parr (pictured) was most recently executive producer for X3 Productions, where he oversaw sales, marketing and touring for Star Wars Identities.
BASE Hologram, which launched January this year, is the holographic division of BASE Entertainment, led by ex-SFX/Clear Channel Entertainment CEO Brian Becker. It recently announced the addition of a holographic Amy Winehouse to its stable of touring shows, which also includes Roy Orbison and Maria Callas.
Becker told IQ earlier this week that, while the original concept for BASE Hologram was “straightforward: to put shows on tour”, the company “now think[s] we can go much further with this, with residencies, on Broadway and the West End, and in museums”.
Prior to joining X3, Parr was senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Premier Exhibitions, managing sales and marketing for shows including Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, Pompeii: The Exhibition, Saturday Night Live: The Exhibition and Bodies Revealed.
“David has made a great impact in the marketing world, and we know he will be a valued addition to the team,” says Tim Ward, president of BASE Hologram. “As we grow as a company and bring on new projects into this innovative space, his experience will be incredibly valuable to helping continue to develop new projects that no one else is doing.”
Brian Becker: Holograms will ‘grow the business for everyone’
The dawn of holographic technology is an historic “inflection point” for the live entertainment business, as significant as the emergence of the major multinational promoters, according to Brian Becker, the former CEO of Live Nation forerunner Clear Channel Entertainment.
The growth of the diversified Live Nation model ushered in a new paradigm for the music industry, says Becker, now leading BASE Hologram, the company behind holograms of deceased stars such as Roy Orbison and Amy Winehouse. “Clear Channel, SFX, Live Nation… all those companies focused on organic and innovative growth, and a new way of doing business. That’s what [BASE Hologram] is doing, though obviously on a smaller scale.”
An entertainment industry veteran with more than 35 years’ experience producing live events, Becker was previously CEO and president of US mega-promoter PACE Entertainment – then the world’s biggest live entertainment business – before assuming an executive role at SFX Entertainment, which acquired PACE in 1998. In 2000, in a deal worth US$4.4bn, SFX merged with Clear Channel, and Becker became chairman and CEO of the newly created Clear Channel Entertainment.
He left Clear Channel in 2005, when its live entertainment division was spun off as Live Nation, and formed theatre producer BASE Entertainment the following year. In January this year, the company launched a holographic division, BASE Hologram, and recently announced it would add a holographic Amy Winehouse to its stable of touring shows, which also includes Roy Orbison and Maria Callas.
BASE’s Orbison show, In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert, and the Callas tour, Callas in Concert, are currently playing to packed theatres in North America. Meanwhile, a Ronnie James Dio hologram tour of Europe (produced by rival outfit Eyellusion) wrapped up with a show at the 1,100-cap. Trix in Antwerp in late 2017. “As the Dio Returns shows went on and word spread […] the crowds kept growing,” said Eyellusion CEO Jeff Pezzuti at the time.
A far cry, then, from the mixed reaction that greeted earlier experiments in the space, such as 2Pac’s brief appearance at Coachella 2012 and Michael Jackson’s moonwalk at 2014’s Billboard Music Awards. (“Creepy” was Pitchfork’s verdict on the latter.)
Becker tells IQ the philosophy behind BASE Hologram – three years in the making – is to take technologies prevalent in other sectors, chiefly cinema, and “externalise them” in a live format, allowing them “to be enjoyed in a communal environment”.
“We’ve already gone two steps beyond what we thought could be done”
“If you look at holographic tech, and mixed and augmented reality, all those things are, at the end of the day, cinematic techniques,” he explains. “We realised that if we can combine holographics with live performers, and on top of that add cinematic effects, then we’ve already gone two steps beyond what we thought could be done [in a live environment].”
While the original concept for BASE Hologram was “straightforward: to put shows on tour”, Becker continues, “we now think we can go much further with this, with residencies, on Broadway and the West End, in museums…”
While In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert has been a huge success, reporting on the rise of the holograms still tends to fall back on their perceived strangeness (although Vulture notes the Orbison shows are “disappointingly, not as creepy as you’d think”), indicating a degree of consumer (or at least journalistic) unease about the process and ethics of bringing dead stars back to life.
“First of all, we’re not bringing people back to life,” Becker explains. “We’re making a theatrical, immersive concert experience, bringing music and images to this stage. This has been done in many different ways for years: in Broadway shows, movies, documentaries…
“The second think I’d say is, the overwhelming majority of people that who go to these shows are in awe and really enjoy what they’re seeing. Initially, people are ooh-ing and aah-ing – and by the third song they’re applauding. If you go and see a ‘real’ artist and clap, you’re thanking them, encouraging them… In this case they’re speaking to speaking to the hologram, which means their belief has been suspended and they’re able just enjoy the experience.
“It’s not for everyone, but it’s like if you hate horror films – don’t go and see a horror movie. Vote with your wallet.”
Is there also an argument, IQ wonders, that growth in popularity of holograms could take marketshare away from the already struggling (living) grassroots artists – after all, why take a chance on a new band when you could go and see Freddie Mercury play ‘live’ at a local club?
“Holograms provide access to extraordinary content that isn’t otherwise available”
“No – just the opposite,” Becker emphasises. “This is a conversation we’ve been having in different forms for the past 30 years. It’s a myopic point of view to think that when new technology comes along it’s going to hurt something. In almost every case [historically] that technology found a way to expand the business; there’s a few years when people have to adjust, but ultimately it expands the universe for everyone.
“TV didn’t kill the film business, home video didn’t kill TV. When streaming came along people said music was finished, but music is bigger now than it’s ever been – there are new music companies flourishing and new artists emerging like never before.
“There are always naysayers, but you’ve got to take a step back and look at the broader picture.”
Alongside the other companies in the space (Becker says several of his BASE partners know Eyellusion and “think very highly of them”), BASE Hologram is doing something “unique and new,” comments Becker, “and we hope we’re going to really accelerate the creation of a whole new sector in live entertainment.”
Becker says over the course of his career he’s “recognised certain inflection points” that changed the face of the entertainment business: Consolidation in the theatrical market is one, he explains; the growth of motorsports is another (PACE pioneered staging motorsports events in indoor stadia). “No one bats 100%,” he concludes, “but we think this [holograms] is one of those opportunities that has all the components needed to be a successful new industry sector.
“It’s incredibly creative, and it provides access to extraordinary content that isn’t otherwise available. That’s what we’re bringing to the table.”
Amy Winehouse to be reborn as hologram
Brian Becker-led live music hologram company BASE Hologram has announced a world tour with a holographic Amy Winehouse, adding to the ranks of the deceased stars who are taking to the stage once more.
The tour, which begins in autumn 2019, will see a Winehouse hologram backed by a live band and singers, and raise money for the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which works to counter drug and alcohol abuse among young people.
It joins current BASE Hologram touring shows In Dreams: Roy Orbison – The Hologram Concert, which began in Oakland, California, earlier this month, and Callas in Concert, which features a hologram of Maria Callas, who died in 1977.
Rival hologram company Eyellusion, meanwhile, has seen success with its Ronnie James Dio hologram tour, with a Frank Zappa show also in the works.
“To see her perform again is something special that really can’t be put into words”
BASE Hologram founder and CEO Brian Becker – formerly CEO of Clear Channel Entertainment, which became Live Nation – comments: “Earlier this year we launched BASE Hologram with tours featuring two music icons who redefined the live concert theatrical experience in truly unique ways, and we look forward to continuing new creative and emotional opportunities with Amy Winehouse.
“Amy was a powerhouse in every sense of the word. She played by her own rules, pioneered her own sense of style of music and because of that we know she is the perfect person to headline this type of project.”
“This is a dream for us,” adds Winehouse’s father, Mitch. “To see her perform again is something special that really can’t be put into words. “Our daughter’s music touched the lives of millions of people and it means everything that her legacy will continue in this innovative and groundbreaking way.”
Full details, including tour dates, will be announced in the coming months.
No touring plans as Abba announce new music
A spokesperson for Abba has said there are no plans for the Swedish superstars to go back on the road – in person, at least – following this morning’s surprise announcement of new music.
Digital likenesses of the four-piece, who originally split in 1982, are set to tour as hologram ‘Abbatars’ in 2019 or 2020. In a statement, Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid ‘Frida’ Lyngstad – collectively one of the most successful acts in the history of popular music – said today “the decision to go ahead with the exciting Abba avatar tour project had an unexpected consequence. We all four felt that, after some 35 years, it could be fun to join forces again and go into the recording studio.”
The two new songs – one of which is titled ‘I Still Have Faith in You’ – will be performed by Abba’s “digital selves” in an NBC/BBC television special, set to be broadcast in December.
The band last performed together in person in June 2016 at a one-off private event in Stockholm.
Speaking to IQ, Abba spokeswoman Görel Hanser says there “no touring plans whatsoever”, with the Abbatar tour providing an opportunity for fans to “remember Abba as they were”.
Another source close to the band echoes Hanser in saying, “it’s a shame, but they absolutely won’t tour again”.
“It’s a chance for peopel to remember Abba as they were”
The Abbatar project was revealed in Brussels earlier this month, with Ulvaeus promising the TV special will be a “global television moment” to rival the Eurovision Song Contest.
The project, a partnership with Universal Music Group and former Spice Girls manager Simon Fuller, is being billed as “a groundbreaking venture that will utilise the very latest in digital and virtual-reality technology” that “enable a new generation of fans to see, hear and feel Abba in a way previously unimagined”.
The band will appear as they looked in 1979, as “we thought we looked good that year”, says Ulvaeus. He describes the effect as “simply mind-boggling […] You’ll hear the voices of Abba coming out of the mouths of the Abbatars.”
Abba have sold more than 400 million albums but – in contrast to many of their contemporaries – have resisted offers to reform. Aside from the private party in 2016, the band have not performed live since 1986.
Their final full concert tour was 1979–1980’s Abba: The Tour, which visited arenas in North America, Europe and Asia. According to Billboard, total gross from five typical shows in North America – Pacific Coliseum (13,499 tickets) in Vancouver, Concord Pavilion (8,096) in California, Milwaukee Auditorium (6,120), Boston Music Hall (4,200) and Maple Leaf Gardens (16,400) in Toronto – was US$441,482, from 48,315 total tickets sold.
For comparison, 2017’s top tour, U2’s Joshua Tree 2017, grossed an average of $8.32m – per show.