As a lifelong and deeply passionate music fan, I have been enveloped in music and art since my earliest memories. Combing through Rolling Stone from cover to cover was a sacred practice, while going to concerts and nabbing the latest concert T-shirts or special edition albums was a deliberate and carefully thought-out endeavor. To this day, when I listen to the music from that time, I am transported back to those experiences and the self-discovery I had alongside the excitement of exploring new music. That connection to the senses and calling back to the visual, audio and even scent of the experience has been unmatched to any other aspect of my life and still thrills me to this day.

The potential of the smartphone

Augmented reality (AR) has the power to transform a concert poster into an immersive, interactive experience, adding dynamic digital overlays that range from games to animations and beyond. Smartphones are now virtual extensions of ourselves, and adding on a digital component to the beloved tactile memorabilia of yesteryear hits a sweet spot for the retro meets modern vibe that is dominating pop culture. As digital flipped the music business on its head and forced record labels to rethink how they market and package music, bringing back a dynamic fan experience is more vital now than ever.

With the resurgence of vinyl records, bands and labels have a renewed opportunity to breathe new life into an exclusive fan experience with immersive media technology. AR brings back the unparalleled discovery experience that comes along with exclusive release packaging to create unique art experiences and give back to passionate fans. Adding unique digital elements to these new vinyl releases can help artists connect more closely with their fans and open revenue streams that have largely been squashed with digital music and streaming.

I’ve been a long-time fan of Umphrey’s McGee, so when I had the opportunity to work with them to bring in an AR component to their fan experience, I signed on immediately. We created an “Augmelted Reality” poster that reflects the band’s artful aesthetic with AR technology digitally bringing vibrant colors and kaleidoscopic artwork to life through a mobile app, sparking psychedelic-induced level visuals atop the poster. Not only did fans get excited about this, but it quickly sparked a merch frenzy, with posters selling out and landing on eBay for inflated figures.

As a huge fan myself, my dream project would be a Pink Floyd rerelease of “Dark Side of the Moon” on vinyl with a VR component that allows fans to experience the album in a 360-degree animated world. With these kinds of immersive experiences, fans can tap into all of their senses to fully take in the music. By using technology and apps that are readily available on their smartphones, taking a music experience to a new level is accessible. When the Napster era forced downsizing and spread the fear of full industry collapse, we’ve lost that magic of the tangible fan experience and the thrill of searching for a new sound, band and innovative ways of enjoying music.

What the future holds

AR concert posters and AR packaging experiences, as was included in the release of Michael Jackson’s SCREAM, are merely a taste of what immersive media can bring to the fan experience. The kinds of experiences that artists and labels can craft can also be easily tailored to any audience, ranging from game-like experiences, to holograms of artists performing, to being a psychedelic portal to a music video. There is also an opportunity to add an educational element with AR, creating experiences that show fans how to perform a track or even dive into the backstory of writing a song.

When asking for fans to part with their dollars on a new music release, it’s essential that a full exclusive package is created. Just as Bob Marley launched his “Rastaman Vibrations” vinyl with a canvas/burlap texture and The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s” release included unique cut-outs in the packaging, artists can now offer fans a heightened experience with AR and VR elements that fully engage the senses and bring a digital edge to the world of music discovery and fandom.

Being at the forefront of innovation and pushing the boundaries with something fresh and unique is essential for any music marketing campaign and helps propel the launch of new music with a heightened level of intrigue. But more than anything, immersive media allows artists to harness the power of digital to connect with their fans in exciting and dynamic ways that make lifetime fans out of new listeners and create memories that will follow an album for a fan’s lifetime.

Pete Herzog comes from a traditional art background and leverages both left and right sides of his brain on new media projects as Flight School’s creative executive producer.