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.”
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.
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.