KISS avatars herald weird new digital age for music industry

If your favourite artist is getting too old to tour, here’s some good news — soon, they could start sending a digital proxy to perform for them. 

What happened: For the finale of its farewell tour in New York, rock band KISS closed out the show with a performance by 3-D digital avatars of themselves.

  • It’s the first of what could become a regular gig, with the band reportedly in talks to send their digital renderings out on tour.

  • The 3-D avatars — which appear as younger versions of the band members with some new features, like a fire-breathing Gene Simmons donning dragon wings — were created by the band in collaboration with George Lucas’ visual effects company. 

Catch up: Swedish pop band ABBA launched a similar digital avatar show last year with a residency in London, England. The show — featuring 3-D renderings of the band in its youth performing their old hits — has sold more than 1.9 million tickets and brings in US$2 million a week. 

Why it matters: As the world begins to embrace everything from AI-generated John Lennon vocals to digital avatars of ageing rockstars, we could start seeing a lot more musicians turn to technology like this to either extend or supplement their careers. 

  • The CEO of Pophouse Entertainment, the company that co-founded ABBA’s virtual show, says that with the technology, a musician’s avatar could perform multiple concerts in different countries on the same night — creating unprecedented earning potential for artists. 

Zoom out: Celebs of all sorts are increasingly looking for ways to capitalize on — and protect — their image in an era where it’s becoming easy for anyone in the world to recreate someone’s likeness and voice.

What’s next: While the virtual KISS tour is still two to three years away, the band’s avatars could reportedly start being used sooner in other mediums like video games and the metaverse, a strategy we’ve already seen acts like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Travis Scott embrace.—LA