Tupac Shakur's hologram hit Coachella in 2012, and Michael Jackson's moonwalked at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. But we're just on the brink of the hologram revolution, says Peter Martin, CEO of Los Angeles' V.A.L.I.S. studios, who beamed the cartoon Gorillaz onto the 2006 Grammy stage for a live jam with Madonna and created a 2015 bicoastal duet between M.I.A. and Janelle Monáe for a high-end product launch. This year, Ronnie James Dio's hologram will headline a world tour, plus "it's the 25th anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G.'s death," says Martin. "There's definitely a plan to digitally resurrect him."
How has holographic technology progressed lately?
The big evolution is in live. Most of the holograms up to now have been of dead people; the current vernacular is "digital resurrection." But there's a Canadian company, ARHT Media, that did a 2015 event with Tony Robbins, who was in Miami, speaking to an audience in Australia as a hologram, and people paid large amounts of money to see him. This year, they're planning a Stephen Hawking tour.
How could that apply to music?
The biggest holographic screen to date was Michael Jackson, but it was essentially a very expensive one-off, with no monetization. Now, holograms can tour, and that will revolutionize their usage -- the fact that you can play multiple venues simultaneously and charge money for that.
Will fans pay to see a hologram versus the real thing?
In 10 years' time, if the first show your kids see is a hologram, they won't think anything of it. You'll pay a certain amount to see a hologram performance and more to see something live. Would you pay $25 to see a hologram of Calvin Harris? Probably, if you're in a secondary market. We're at ground zero of that now, but every nightclub in the world will have a holographic projector by 2025; you'll have live artists, and you'll beam in 60-year-old Tiësto.
What's next on the horizon?
The holograms we're talking about now aren't holograms yet, really. They're what we call "Pepper's ghost," a 2D magic trick where light bounces off a mirror, creating an illusion. A "hologram" in the dictionary definition is 3D. That's coming in the next two to three years. And then de-aging is a whole other subset. I'd love to see 27-year-old Madonna or 35-year-old David Bowie. Immortalizing those performances holographically makes so much sense. Fleetwood Mac from 1976 doing Rumours? I'd go to that in Vegas.
This article originally appeared in the March 18 issue of Billboard.