As virtual reality companies hunt for ways to spread their tech, they may find an unexpected audience for wide-scale adoption: Swifties.
The unprecedented popularity of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has inspired fans to spend thousands on tickets, while its cinematic debut broke box office records. Now, some experts in the virtual reality (VR) space are hopeful it will also inspire her fans – “Swifties” – to adopt the immersive technology platform.
Along with stadiums and cinemas across the globe, The Eras Tour is also streaming on Amazon’s Prime Video app. Soon after its release fans discovered that, like much of Prime Video’s content library, they could stream the film in their own private virtual theatres through Prime Video’s VR app on a Meta Quest.
On TikTok and other social media platforms, videos of Swifties singing along while wearing the headsets have gone viral. This has led some industry insiders to suggest the cinematic experience of the top grossing tour in music history could also catalyse the mass adoption they’ve been clawing for.
Technological limitations have fed into this slow uptake, but prohibitively high costs have also been a major factor. It wasn’t until 2016 when the Facebook-acquired Oculus Rift became the first commercially-viable VR product, hitting store shelves at $600 (£470). Prices have since come down: the mixed-reality headset Meta Quest 3, released in October 2023, is priced at $499 (£391); its predecessor, the Meta Quest 2, is widely available at $249 (£198). (Other VR headsets are still extremely expensive: Apple’s Vision Pro, launching February, begins at $3,499 (£2,741).)
Typically, the cost of attending a concert is a fraction of a new piece of hardware, but the Eras Tour has flipped that equation on its head. With resale tickets averaging more than $3,800 (£2,977) each, VR-industry insiders say there’s reason to believe Swift’s unprecedented popularity could finally provide an answer to the barriers of both content and cost.
“Taylor Swift is a killer app for virtual reality,” says VR expert and unabashed Swiftie Tom Emrich, who was ecstatic to see his two passions collide on social media over the holidays. “It was a big signal to me, and really reaffirmed that powerful IP is a necessary ingredient to attract folks to a brand-new device category.”
Illinberger, however, argues that concerts are better suited to the medium. That’s because, unlike a live sporting event, they can be edited and touched up with CGI after filming to enhance the viewer experience. Plus, sporting events are filled with stops and starts, during which time fans often chat with each other, use other devices, eat and drink or use the toilet, none of which is convenient with a headset on.