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Real Estate Wants Real Estate In Your Living Room

In an effort to cheer up the forlorn concertgoer, this indie rock band is “qurantouring” via augmented-reality video — offering a potential blueprint for canceled shows

Jake Michaels*

As music fans continue to shelter in place, indie rock band Real Estate has decided the show must go on — just a little differently.

Real Estate was originally supposed to tour venues through April and May in support of their newest album, The Main Thing, which dropped via record label Domino on April 13th. Thanks to COVID-19, that quickly changed and the group was forced to focus on rescheduling some of those dates. The band members then thought a tech alternative would be a nice way to spread some joy during trying times, launching a “Quarantour” on Monday. By using augmented-reality video through an interactive web app, a three-dimensional stage can be placed anywhere: at the foot of a bed, on a balcony, on a dresser, wherever.

To start the virtual show, iPhone and Android users need only head to realestatequarantour.com on their mobile device. (iPhones must use Safari in iOS 11 or later.)

There doesn’t appear to be any form of monetization directly worked into the Quarantour, but maybe that’s not the point. Craig Allen — CCO of CALLEN, the Austin-based creative agency behind the experience — noted that the on-demand nature allows Real Estate’s “tour” to stand out amongst all the livestream opportunities that artists have begun to offer up. “Instead of having a set time when everyone must join a live stream, what if we could make this an on demand experience people could use whenever/wherever the feeling strikes? That’s what augmented reality affords us,” he said in a statement.

The “tour” is still a rather limited experience over all, and the “attendee” loses out on the live feeling because of how obviously pre-recorded the set is. But Real Estate may be onto something here: If fans were able to request a song from a few options, a choose-your-own-adventure kind of interactivity might make it more engaging. And it might be even more interactive to have just the musicians and their instruments present — without the limitations of that boxy, theater-ready setup — which would turn a fan’s closet into a makeshift stage itself. Currently, the graphics aren’t advanced enough to make participating more desirable than watching a YouTube video. But the sentiment feels promising.

It’s not hard to imagine “quarantours” on a larger scale, one day. Will Susie in Indiana be able to place a life-sized, cross-legged John Mayer on her sofa for a nighttime serenade? Music-tech apps that offer virtual concerts pepper the landscape right now — but it’s a question of how enjoyable they can actually make the experience.