Virtual reality is changing how we listen to music

We listen to music all the time from our work commutes to the gym every task or detour in our day can have its own soundtrack. Now tech startups are putting music back on center stage, giving us access to everything from concerts to surround sound. Hari Sreenivasan discusses trends in business and technology in the music industry with Brian Hecht, our resident serial entrepreneur.

TRANSCRIPT

We listen to music all the time.

From our work commutes to the gym, every task or detour in our day can have its own soundtrack.

Now, tech start-ups are putting music back on center stage, giving us access to everything from concerts to surround sound.

Here to discuss trends in business and technology in the music industry is Brian Hecht, our resident serial entrepreneur and adviser to many digital teams, including our own.

So, you know, it seems that there's been a massive shift in the landscape.

Uh, there's always a concern from artists, 'How am I gonna get paid by this Spotify and, uh, you know, Google Play.

These guys are the ones... ITunes are the ones that are making all the money.'

There's still innovation happening in this space.

Yeah, that's right.

I mean, everything has been focused on how we get our music.

Are we gonna stream it from Spotify, buy it from iTunes?

And it's kind of a zero-sum game.

I mean, there's only so much money that's gonna be spent.

So for the music economy and the experience to expand, you have to come up with new ways to approach it.

And people are turning to how we experience that music because we have every song ever written at our fingertips.

What comes next?

Right. We're talking a couple of different start-ups.

The first one you wanted to talk about is Jukely.

What's that?

Yeah, well, the best way to experience live music is to go see live music.

And going to a concert is really a big pain.

You have to find the tickets.

They're expensive, logistics and things like that.

So Jukely makes it super simple.

For one subscription, you get to see a different concert every night of the week, every night of the year.

Uh, and it works like an app, almost like a dating app.

You swipe through.

And there are 24 concerts every night in 16 different cities.

And there's no search.

So you can't go in and look for Rihanna or Beyoncé. It's there to expose you to new and emerging bands or acts that you wouldn't otherwise have known about.

These are real-time concerts that are happening somewhere?

These are real.

And they're same day.

So if you want to see something tonight, go on the app.

It's included in the price.

And you just pick what you want.

Wow.

So I pay an annual or monthly fee?

It's a monthly fee.

And, uh, they will give you a little bit of guidance.

They'll give you what genre it is.

So they'll give you a #BritPop.

So I may scan for those things.

And, uh, then hit -- hit the hashtag and see other acts like that.

Okay. Hooke Audio?

Yeah, Hooke Audio is super interesting.

So, you know, stereo sound has been around for decades.

And you listen back to a mono recording from the Beatles, you can totally tell the difference.

Yeah.

Hooke Audio is... It looks and feels just like a regular set of wireless headphones.

And you can listen to music to it.

But what's special is that it captures sound in what they call binaural mode.

And it basically gives you a 360, uh, you know, vision or sound of whatever you're recording.

So even on your iPhone, if you are recording using these instead of the little microphone, you get to really hear everything that's going on around you.

You know, they have a sample on their website of Mardi Gras.

And you can stand there.

And there's a brass band walking down Bourbon Street.

And you can hear it as it passes.

And you can hear the people shouting and singing and clapping on this side around you.

So it's not just left and right.

It's really all around you.

So, really, it's almost like dual microphones in the earphones.

It's exactly like that.

And because of the technology, it can triangulate and give you, you know, really discrete positioning.

So you hear where the sound is coming from.

Okay.

Speaking of positioning, the next one is Jaunt.

Now, I've seen these on a concert stage.

But I didn't know they were in the audio and the music business.

Yeah. They... It is used for a lot of things.

And it is particularly well suited for audio.

They are a start-up in that they were started in 2013.

But they've raised $100 million, including from companies like Disney.

And they are the gold standard in what they call cinematic virtual reality.

So they have a proprietary combination of hardware, software, algorithms.

And it produces an immersive experience that you really have to, you know, experience to believe.

I tried... One of their experiences on their app in Paul McCartney.

They do 'Live and Let Die' in concert, which is the bomb theme.

It has the sort of slow beginning and then the explosive middle section.

Yeah.

And it is breathtaking.

You can see the fireworks.

Paul McCartney fades in and out at the piano.

You turn around and see the audience with their lighters.

Um, it's really unlike any other VR experience that you're gonna find.

And when you watch that, compared to like the little cardboard players you get or Pokémon Go, you look at that, and you're like, 'Wow, this is the future potential of virtual reality.'

So this is what looks like a flying saucer sitting on a tripod at a concert stage.

It's not just recording video.

It's also recording full 360 sound.

That's right.

It's really -- it really is like you're there.

And it's professional grade, unlike Hooke Audio, which is really there for you to use with your iPhone and your -- and your little headphones.

This is industrial-grade virtual reality.

How long until 360 sound becomes what we are familiar with?

Right now, you know, as we went from mono to stereo, where's the leap from stereo to 360?

Right.

Well, a lot of it is just cultural adoption, right?

The thing about Hooke Audio, for example, is it's really just a set of headphones that you can wear on your commute.

And then you can begin to capture things.

So it's not like you have to find a special device.

Even the Jaunt, you can use it with one of those little cardboard things that you might get in the newspaper to sample a kind of, uh, you know, VR reporting of some sort.

Yeah.

So it's really about making the technology and the devices accessible because they really do require something else.

You can't just, uh, you can't just turn on your, uh, shower radio and get a VR experience if you wanted to.

Brian Hecht, thanks for joining us.

Thank you.