Virtual reality and artificial intelligence, once limited to video game and programming curiosities, have shed their humble beginnings and are now poised to take over everything from the way we drive to the way we work.

The more than 1,325 VR startups on Angel.co have an average valuation of $5 million. That's more than $6.6 billion in startup VR funds alone, not to mention all the established companies working feverishly to develop their own VR solutions. With the VR market poised to reach $70 billion by 2020 -- up from $6.7 billion in 2016 -- everyone now wants a slice of a pie that's suddenly much bigger than expected.

From IBM's Watson to the Alexa and Google assistants now found in homes around the world, the ascension of AI in popular culture has been no secret. Enterprise AI is projected to be a $30 billion industry by 2025.

For these two technologies, the stakes continue to rise. Despite meteoric growth, one industry has been curiously left out of most VR/AI discussions: music.

Until now, that is.

The Sights and Sounds of Being There

Maybe you heard a couple of Sony-produced songs last year: "Daddy's Car" and "Mr. Shadow." If you liked those tunes, you might be surprised to learn that both compositions were created using artificial intelligence, with lyrics and editing applied by humans after computers concocted the melodies.

As this example illustrates, even musical composition -- once thought to be a uniquely human task, something robots could never touch -- is already on the verge of its own AI revolution.

Ever watched a video of a concert? Sure, it's nice, but it's not quite like being there yourself. Maybe that's why artists like Coldplay and Paul McCartney have started to partner with VR companies to broadcast their concerts in ways that make fans feel like they're not just in the front row, but right there on the stage. In your living room one moment, standing next to a rock star the next -- a VR dream come true.

Why AI and VR Companies Should Focus on Music

Despite the obvious opportunities, few VR companies are taking aim at music. Here are three reasons why it makes good sense for them to reach out to the music industry right now:

1. Limited Competition Means Expanded Creative Opportunities

AI startups have a greenfield opportunity with the music industry in several areas. Currently, there are not enough VR and AI companies in the creative space to meet the growing demand for enhanced and customized content.

Record labels can tap their vaults and offer new context to stems or whole songs from their existing catalogs to enable greater user interaction and create new music. Artists, for their part, could leverage AI to create new music fusions across multiple musical genres, perhaps even allowing fans to contribute to the creative process (a new form of artist-to-fan interactivity).

Finally, fans want more VR concerts and up-close experiences with artists. While the capability exists, the technology doesn't yet. Who's going to answer that call?

2. New Revenue Streams Are Enabled

VR startups can participate in revenue streams that are poised to become raging rivers by allowing fans who can't attend due to geographical or financial limitations to enjoy immersive virtual concerts or festivals. The same goes for theme parks, theatre shows, and sporting events (in terms of virtual tickets) -- the opportunities are endless, and the venue is global.

What's more, people with certain disabilities or limited finances may never be able to make it in person to a music concert. While they may not experience the energy of being surrounded by other fans, having access to live music would be a major (and very welcome) breakthrough for many people.

A concert that's sold out in London might sell tens of thousands of tickets for the live event. As VR technology becomes more common, how many more virtual tickets could an artist sell?

3. Increased Engagement Leads to Faster Adoption

Fans are ready to embrace new technologies to get closer to their favorite artists and acts.

Savvy content creators building cutting-edge experiences will generate demand for VR tech solutions, further boosting the industry and providing opportunities for branded content and established creators. For example, last year's Coachella music festival offered a VR app for fans to see performances and artist interviews and get the feeling of being there.

This isn't just passive entertainment, either. Want to be a pop star on a world stage? Virtual reality can make that happen. Want to interact with other fans in a virtual world? VR can bring people together in previously impossible ways.

Many VR and AI companies focusing on the tech and business sectors have failed to recognize the opportunities in the creative space. If you're developing these technologies, the music industry holds huge potential for VR/AI revenues and advancement.

Published on: Apr 2, 2017