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WolfBrown’s new community of practice is designed to support nonprofit arts organizations as they navigate the complex programmatic space of augmented, immersive, and virtual experiences. We hope you find Immersed in the Future rewarding and invite you to join in!

Commercial Exploitation of Art in a Commoditized Market

ISSUE 2 • March 2023

Commercial Exploitation of Art in a Commoditized Market

By Marco E. Bruscoli, Scholar-in-Residence, WolfBrown

The number of new immersive productions coming to market in early 2023 is dizzying. Will nonprofit arts organizations figure a place for themselves in the immersive paradigm? The stakes are growing higher by the day.

Commercial producers are flooding the market with immersive experiences that exploit art and artists that are free from copyright protection. For example, Lighthouse Immersive, the Canadian-American firm with 16 dedicated immersive facilities across North America, is investing in experiences based on the classical music legacy. Last month, the company presented an immersive adaptation of The Nutcracker in 11 American cities. Now, its artistic team is developing a new generation of classical music exhibitions starting with “Mozart Immersive: The Soul of a Genius,” slated to open in Chicago on March 10th.

Mozart Immersive Screenshot

According to the promotional trailer, the new production will feature (as usual) monumental projections of AI digital art, used as visual storytelling about the character of Mozart, along with a musical component developed in partnership with the Latvian Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra and Choir, under the direction of four-time Grammy Award nominee Constantine Orbelian. We suspect that an upgraded audio system will be a major component of the user experience.

The interpolation of classical repertoire into the immersive paradigm surely evokes strong emotions, cries of “foul” and even a sense of loss. In the words of Joe Pine, the father of the experience economy, “Either you create an experience, or you (will) become a commodity.” In light of recent immersive treatments of legacy art and artists, it seems clear that we’ve entered a new period of “commoditization” of art and artists. Commercial producers like Lighthouse Immersive and Fever are leveraging unprotected “legacy” assets for financial gain by reformatting the user experience to appeal to a broader audience. Many nonprofits, meanwhile, consider these assets as “core repertory” (e.g., the Nutcracker, Messiah, Mozart). 

For performing arts organizations, this presents a dilemma similar to the one experienced by museums, who were caught unprepared for the onslaught of Immersive Van Gogh three years ago. Do we sit quietly in the bubble of “authenticity” while commercial producers run away with demand, or do we enter the immersive marketplace with high quality, highly creative experiences that both educate and expand the marketplace?

Comparisons of the quality of immersive programs with conventionally formatted programs by professional artists are moot. These are different products for different audiences. Immersive experiences will not replace traditional classical music presentations because they offer classical programming in a novel and innovative format that appeals to consumers who are open to classical music but not interested in conventionally formatted concerts in traditional venues. 

According to an insider, Fever is likely to become the leading producer of classical music concerts worldwide. People do not attend Candlelight Concerts because of the artists, and may or may not even care about what music is on the program. They attend for the romantic atmosphere and the overall experience. You don’t have to be knowledgeable about classical music to choose a program. It is bitingly ironic that commercial producers were the ones to figure out how to market classical music to a broader audience, after decades of supposed audience development work by orchestras. Whether orchestras can bring a new level of quality and creativity to immersive experiences based on classical music remains to be seen.

The integration of sensory elements into performing arts programs has a long and storied history, but recent advancements have opened up new creative possibilities. Take, for instance, pianist Lara Melda, winner of the BBC Young Musician 2010, who is set to perform a program of Erik Satie’s music within the Van Gogh immersive exhibit in London.

Meanwhile, Jordi Sellas, a Barcelona-based producer CEO of the organization IDEAL, presents his latest creation, the “Dalí Cybernetic” exhibit, featuring a live immersive concert called “Dalí – The Thinking Machine.” This concert, which takes place on selected dates, features a pianist equipped with an EEG headset that transforms their brain activity into a real-time visual display, adding a new level of interactivity to the performance.

These two examples illustrate a growing trend of digital cultural centers as venues for concerts, allowing for new levels of creative exploration of music and art.

Graphic border from WolfBrown branded image

WolfBrown Presents: Making Sense of the Landscape of Immersive Experiences

We are delighted to have recently hosted the first edition of the seminar Making Sense of the Landscape of Immersive Experiences. For those who missed the first session, we will be hosting another one on May 22- 23, 2023. It is important for arts administrators to keep themselves informed and up-to-date on the latest developments in immersive experiences.

This seminar provides a unique opportunity to enhance your knowledge in the field and network with other professionals. Pre-registration is available for those interested in attending.

Projects We're Following

Highlights of immersive experiences that caught our eye

Mozart Immersive Experience website

Mythos Mozart

Mythos Mozart is an immersive classical music experience created by Medialon, a production company specializing in cultural and multimedia events. Staged in Vienna, the experience transports visitors into the world of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart through a 60-minute journey through five rooms, each utilizing immersive technologies to create a multi-sensory experience. Visitors are transported into Mozart’s world, exploring the events and people that shaped his life and musical legacy, including a sacred room illuminated by 1,500 LED candles creating a mystical atmosphere and the sounds of Mozart’s Requiem echoing from dozens of speakers. The installation combines technology and classical music to offer a unique and memorable experience.

Color of Sound website

Color of Sound

The “Color of Sound” exhibition, held at the Sun Valley Art Museum in Ketchum, Idaho from January 13th to March 18th 2023, explores the intersection of art and synesthesia. The show features works by synesthetic artists and those who aim to evoke synesthetic experiences in viewers. The diverse range of artworks include paintings, sculptures, and films, along with an immersive installation. The exhibition invites visitors to experience the connection between art and synesthesia and to explore the unique perspectives of the artists.

Pantone Immersive Experience website

Pantone Experience

The Pantone 2023 Color of the Year Exhibition, presented by the Pantone Color Institute, is an immersive experience that allows visitors to engage with the chosen color of the year in a multisensory way. Visitors can explore the color through interactive installations that demonstrate the color’s influence and its integration into everyday life. They can experience the color through sensory experiences, such as light, sound, and texture, giving them a comprehensive understanding of its significance and impact.

Ukraine Immersive Experience Website

Ukraine: A Year of Resilience, a Culture of Resistance

The Grand Palais Immersif in Paris just hosted the exhibition “Ukraine: A Year of Resilience, a Culture of Resistance” on February 20th, 2023, in partnership with the Embassy of Ukraine in France and the Embassy of Canada in France. The exhibition featured masterpieces by Ukrainian artists Taras Shevchenko and Mariia Prymachenko, as well as photojournalistic footage from the war in Ukraine. The immersive exhibit plunged visitors into the daily reality of the war and its effect on Ukrainian citizens through photos, videos, and interviews with everyday Ukrainians.

Screenshot of Hong Kong Philharmonic

Metaverse: Sandbox

In May 2023, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra will premiere its Metaverse Symphony in Sandbox’s virtual world. The symphony, composed by Elliott Leung, will be the world’s first-ever symphonic virtual concert. The Philharmonic partnered with Artifact Labs, a Web3 company, to bring the metaverse initiative to a younger generation that may be less likely to attend live concerts. This collaboration will bring a “fully immersive” classical music concert live in both the concert hall and the Sandbox metaverse. The virtual concert will allow users to hear four movements of the symphony, move around in the virtual environment, interact with others, and purchase merchandise.

A deep dive into the latest coverage of immersive art performance


Image: Julien Tromeur

New installations, technology, film-based experiences, and video products

Science Shows Humans Have Massive Capacity for Sustained Attention and Storytelling Unlocks It: This Forbes article discusses recent research findings which show that humans have a large capacity for sustained attention, and that storytelling is a key factor in unlocking this potential.

Augmented Reality Taking Center Stage in Brand Marketing: This opinion piece from The Drum argues that augmented reality (AR) technology is becoming increasingly important in brand marketing, allowing companies to create immersive experiences for consumers.

HM Store Debuts Hologram Display: This news article from Retail Customer Experience covers the debut of a new hologram display in an H&M store, showcasing the retailer’s commitment to using cutting-edge technology to enhance the shopping experience for customers.

Blooloop screenshot

Retailtainment and Roblox

Area15 Expansion Brings Retailtainment to Las Vegas: This article from Blooloop reports on the expansion of the Area15 retailtainment center in Las Vegas, which is set to bring a new level of interactive experiences and activities to visitors.

The NFL and rapper Saweetie teamed up with Intuit to bring the first-ever Super Bowl concert to Roblox. The virtual event brought fans closer to the action and allowed them to experience the excitement of the biggest game in American sports from the comfort of their own homes.

Immersive Tech Spotlight

Innovative developments in immersive technology

Screenshot of Olympic microphones

Olympic5.1.4 Immersive Audio

The Olympic Immersive Audio project represents a significant advancement in the field of immersive audio and showcases the potential for further innovation in this area. This new format audio 5.1.4 boasts improved sound quality and a greater number of channels than traditional audio setups.

Screenshot of Panasonic Projectors

Panasonic 1-Chip DLP Projectors

Panasonic has introduced a new generation of 1-chip DLP projectors that promises to enhance the immersive production experience. With this technology, Panasonic aims to raise the bar in the projection world, bringing better image quality, lower maintenance needs and an improved user experience. This news highlights the continued evolution of projector technology, as companies strive to offer more advanced and versatile solutions for a variety of applications.

Screenshot of Samsung, Google, Qualcomm presentation

New Mixed Reality Platform

Samsung, Google, and Qualcomm are collaborating on a new mixed reality platform. The platform will combine virtual reality and augmented reality to provide users with a more immersive experience. The partnership hopes to push the limits of technology and bring new possibilities to the world of mixed reality. The release date and features of the platform have not been disclosed.