Moburst

5G Festival culminates in live, hybrid showcase event

David Murphy

A world-first performance underpinned by 5G technology has taken place involving artists located at three UK music venues: Metropolis Studios, the O2 Blueroom at The O2 and Brighton Dome. The festival was held to celebrate the climax of the 5G Festival project.

Over the last two years, nine organisations have worked collectively with digital technology innovation centre Digital Catapult to explore the untapped potential of 5G for the live music industry and provide a blueprint for how technology could play a key role in the future of the sector. They include Audiotonix, Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival, LiveFrom, Mativision, Metropolis Studios, Sonosphere, Virgin Media O2, and Warner Music Group, as part of the wider £200m Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds & Trials Programme.

Taking place simultaneously across the three venues, more than 20 musicians performed together in a concert showcasing the technical achievements made during the project, and demonstrating the potential role advanced digital technologies could play in the festival of the future.

Headliners included double-platinum album selling singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner and Brighton-based Alt Folk band, Memorial, both playing in Brighton Dome’s Concert Hall to an in-person audience. Rising stars, BRIT Award nominee and voice of the 2021 John Lewis Christmas Ad, Lola Young, and Natalie Lindi, part of the MOBO Unsung Class of 2021, performed live in the O2 Blueroom at The O2. They were joined by seamless backing vocals, drums and keyboard from Brighton Dome, and guitar and percussion live from Metropolis Studios in West London. London-based rock duo Pearl Harts did a stand-alone performance at Metropolis Studios, which was live streamed to the other venues as part of the hybrid festival experience.

5G Festival is an R&D trial that enables the power of 5G and other technologies to communicate the “live-ness” of an experience wherever audiences or musicians are. Since early 2020, the partners behind 5G Festival have experimented with understanding how collaborations and performances across multiple venues in different geographical locations can transform the work of artists and producers around the world, combined with innovative and memorable live experience for audiences in-venue and at home.

The 5G Festival showcase featured demonstrations of the technical milestones that have been achieved during the course of the project, in particular solving the issue of latency (delay) between artists collaborating remotely with each other from different locations – as currently, it is not possible for artists to perform together, remotely, over an ordinary network.

The organisers said that the showcase also provided the clearest demonstration yet of the potential future use cases for 5G in the music and live arts sector, as well as the commercial benefits of using 5G as part of a range of connectivity solutions for this type of event, and how other advanced technologies like virtual and augmented reality, can be seamlessly combined to produce novel experiences for performers and audiences alike.

“5G Festival has shown us the tangible impact  of technology on our experience of live music, both how we could make it and consume it remotely,” said Digital Catapult CEO, Jeremy Silver. “This project has been about elevating and enhancing live music for all involved. None of us wants to replace the authenticity of the real-life experience, but if we've learned one thing in the last two years, it's that remote can be meaningful too! 5G really has enabled real-time remote jamming between musicians for the first time. When combined with augmented reality, this has opened up super exciting potential for reducing our carbon footprint and making global music collaborations work."

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez added: "We are seeing a total reinvention of the live gig experience through the power of 5G and I'm proud the government has helped raise the curtain on these distance-defying performances. The 5G Festival is part of our £200 million scheme to explore new ways this mobile technology can drive growth in our creative industries and wider economy."

Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme, 5G Festival is part of efforts across the music sector to create innovative platforms for musicians and artists to write, rehearse and perform music despite geographical barriers, and deliver new ways for audiences to watch and participate with live performances in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.