Holographic Concerts May Be Interesting To See, But They Still Feel Wrong [Opinion]

Questions abound about who profits from the show, and whether they're really honoring the legacy of the artists.

A projection of Roy Orbison, who died 30 years ago, performs on stage.
Tabatha Fireman / Getty Images

Questions abound about who profits from the show, and whether they're really honoring the legacy of the artists.

A radio DJ in my listening area recently posited a question to listeners about whether going to see a posthumous concert of a recently deceased rock star is right or wrong.

The host of the program I was listening to was intrigued by a traveling show featuring Roy Orbison, who died of a heart attack in 1988, according to Biography.com. She thought it’d be cool to see the show, but had qualms about doing so.

Because radio demands short breaks between songs, the DJ was only able to give her simple take, that she herself felt wrong about possibly attending such a show. I found myself agreeing with her, but it took me a while to figure out why.

My main concern is that those who profit from such shows are not the artists — or their estates.

Fans are not to blame for wanting to see their favorite stars on-stage again. It’s a testament to how loyal they are to these superstars that they’re willing to pay for a ticket to see them on stage — even though they’re not really there.

Holographic technology isn’t to blame either — it’s pretty remarkable, to be honest, but I question whether it’s morally sound to use this kind of tech in this fashion. At what point do we say that it’s wrong for a deceased artist to be used by companies to make a buck off of one of their old performances?

It raises another question: why have any artist, even living ones, tour at all? Will we some day live in a future where performing acts can be broadcast live across the country, even as they themselves might be sitting comfortably in their living rooms?

We don’t have to ask ourselves that question for much longer: Swedish rock group ABBA plans to perform holographic concerts next year, per reporting from Breakfast Television, even though most of the band’s members are still alive.

These types of performances cheapen, I feel, what should otherwise be an enjoyable experience — though the tickets to see these types of acts aren’t that “cheap” at all to come by. According to ticketmaster, a concert scheduled in New Jersey this week to see Orbison’s holographic likeness has tickets that start at $40 a person, and go as high as $125 for the best seats.

Fans pay a lot of money to see live acts, to pay respects to artists whose crafts they enjoy. These funds go back to the artists themselves — as well as their roadies, stage setup workers, and transportation crew that helps bring them to cities across the nation. And yes, a significant portion goes to music executives, but it’s likely that portion is increased after the other costs (to the crew and to the artist themselves) are taken out.

I could see myself wanting to go to one of these shows if it were the right artist. There are many artists that have passed away who I might have wanted to see perform, but was unable to do so before their departure. But there would always be this caveat of knowing that they weren’t actually there.

Though I might go, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money to see a performance that was ultimately fictitious — and I certainly wouldn’t want the bulk of those funds to go to a company profiting off of the former work of a departed legend.