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Put yourself in Deadmau5’s ears


The club is jam-packed with eager fans dancing with their hands up, but before you can join them you have a job to do. You must get Deadmau5, the electronic music producer and performer, safely to the stage. With help from a digital avatar of Deadmau5’s cat, Meowingtons, you have to maneuver over and around sound equipment and security guards as selfie-seeking fans begin to swarm. When you finally deliver him in one piece, you’re awash in the sounds of his latest track, “Saved.” You look up, down, left, right, and you are standing in the middle of a concert. The crowd comes alive, dancing to the pulsing music.

This is what it’s like playing Deadmau5, an interactive virtual reality game. The project, a mix of game-engine graphics and 360-degree video, is a collaboration between Deadmau5 and Absolut Labs, the liquor brand’s idea incubator. The game is to be released Wednesday.

It is one of a number of virtual reality projects in the music industry, which wants to stake its claim in a growing form of entertainment that could become an avenue to additional revenue and a new approach for musicians in connecting with fans.

But until the public fully embraces virtual reality, partnerships with brands like Absolut have become a path to helping finance projects and put headsets in the hands of viewers.

“It was a good way to get our feet wet,” said Deadmau5, aka 35-year-old Niagara Falls, Ont., native Joel Zimmerman, who added that he was already working on a bigger virtual reality project. “This is opening the door to serious stuff.”

An avid gamer, he was actively involved in the demo, even donning a motion-capture suit to record his movements running, jumping and dancing.

Other acts like Duran Duran, U2, the Weeknd and Jack White have produced 360-degree videos.

Virtual reality allows some artists to explore the intersection of art and technology. “Bjork Digital,” an exhibition of video works with virtual reality elements, including footage filmed inside Bjork’s mouth as she sings, will open at Somerset House in London this September. Last year the experimental rocker EMA performed a score to a new virtual reality installation, “I Wanna Destroy,” at MoMA PS1 in New York.

Only a few acts have delivered live concerts in virtual reality, but as the technology gets into the hands of more consumers, expect many more to come. Coldplay recorded a show in virtual reality in 2014, and the startup JauntVR has released several concert clips, including Paul McCartney singing “Live and Let Die.” Absolut Labs streamed a concert by the Canadian electronic act Bob Moses in virtual reality last year.

TORONTO STAR | ENTERTAINMENT