On Wednesday, Payne, a former member of the global sensation One Direction, will hit the stage solo for a concert that his fans from places across the globe can attend live via virtual reality.
It’s a first for MelodyVR, a company that launched in May, but Payne is excited to throw his weight behind the emerging concept.
“It just gives you a much more up-close-and-personal experience, and I just thought that would marry quite well to my world,” Payne tells CNN. “Obviously, there’s a lot of places around the world that I haven’t been to before and haven’t seen … so it’s the second best thing to the real experience.”
According to an app called “been,” which tracks a person’s global travel, Payne says he still has a long way to go.
Payne points to countries where he’s spent limited or no time, like Russia and India, as places that could be reached thanks to such technology. MelodyVR is currently available in the USA, the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium.
MelodyVR has in the past worked with artists like 2 Chainz, Post Malone, and Macklemore to bring their concert experiences to people at home who own an Oculus Go or Samsung Gear VR headset. Those, however, have never taken place live.
Tickets to Wednesday’s concert — billed as a secret show taking place in London — were provided free of charge. Access via MelodyVR will also be free, but Anthony Matchett, CEO and creator of MelodyVR, says they anticipate charging for shows in 2019.
Currently, access to a Post Malone show via MelodyVR costs $9.99, according to Matchett. Costs of other live VR shows are expected to be at a similar price point, relative to the cost of buying a ticket to attend a show in person, he says.
For Payne, an exploration of the space where VR and music meet is just another step in his independent journey as a musician. When asked if it is easier to try out-of-the-box ideas as a solo artist because there’s only one opinion to juggle, he doesn’t hesitate.
“Yeah, definitely, I think so, especially when it’s your kind of thing,” he said. “This is something I was quite interested in for a while.”
He adds that since he hasn’t had a chance to do a solo tour yet, exploring VR “is a chance for me to try out a bit of things that I might do on a tour or different things.”
Payne has no concerns that VR will replace the in-person concert experience, but he sees it as a good option for those who live in areas where artists don’t travel as often or people with physical limitations.
“Concerts are an experience themselves,” he said. “When we used to (perform) our 1D gigs, it was all about giving people those experiences that you just want to remember forever. I don’t think you can ever really take that away.”
Supplementing that experience is also part of the mission, Payne said.
Those who attend in-person but want to re-experience it from different vantage points will have the opportunity to do so.
VR technology allows those tuning in to view various angles of the same event via so-called Jump Spots.
“If I do fall over, at least you can watch it from ten different angles, which is quite a lot of fun,” Payne jokes.
To that point, Payne acknowledges that utilizing the new technology comes with some added pressure, but says, “I’m quite excited about it, really.”
“I just think for me more than anything, just having fans I’ve never managed to see before, and them getting as close as they can is a really, really great thing for me,” he said. “I think that’s the main thing that pushed me toward (this).”
Payne’s show starts Wednesday at 3 p.m. ET. Fans in markets where MelodyVR is not available will be able to view the first performance from his set via Facebook Live.