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Sunday night at Coachella Festival Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre brought Tupac Shakur back from the dead to perform live with them onstage as a hologram.  Holy Smokes.  He appears on stage and greats the audience with “Yeah, you know what the fuck this is … What up Dre? … What up Snoop? … What the fuck is up Coachella.”  The Tupac illusion aka “Holopac” was brought to life by James Cameron’s visual production house Digital Domain, and two hologram-imaging companies, AV Concepts and the U.K.-based Musion Systems at a price estimated at more than $200,000.

The holographic performance is spectacular and very eerie, and there are more shows planned.  This is not the first time that holograms have been used in concerts, and these effects are in a way, natural extensions of the laser displays and light shows that have been part of live shows for decades.  Madonna, the Black Eyed Peas and (notably) Gorillaz have all been projected as holograms on stage during the show.  There is a laser light touring show of Pink Floyd featuring “none” of the band members.  If this can be done with Tupac, it brings up very interesting questions about the future of live shows and exactly who or what we will be seeing.

Can you imaging the Rolling Stones 2050 “Skeletons in the Closet” Tour?  The Beatles finally play Shea Stadium in high fidelity?  “Elvis Comes Alive”?  Will nothing be sacred?

I am not sure if this is science fiction or our worst nightmare, or both.  Will live performers really even be needed in the future?  If the wizards at visual production companies can create virtual artists in 3D that can strut on stage, engage the audience, and belt out their latest hits – who exactly will be entertaining us?  If the music industry can strip out the artists and replace them with computer generated formulaic constructs that are programmed to entertain and mesmerize, what will live music become?  Its already happend with the “Chipmunks” and “Gorillaz” and “Hatsume Miku” and “Dethklok”.  “This is just the beginning,” Ed Ulbrich, chief creative officer at Digital Domain told the LA Times,  “Dr. Dre has a massive vision for this.”    Virtual artists are becoming a thing of the present.

Think about it.  Is this really the Future of Music?