Artist Spotlight: Virtual Artists

This month the spotlight is not shining on a specific person but a category of artists. This blog is all about the rise of the Virtual Artist. When I think about my favourite artist, an actual person comes to mind, but tech advances are starting to change that. Audio & Visual technology has equipped music artists' imagination to present their music in a way we could never have imagined half a century ago. Ever heard of the Gorillaz? How about Alvin and the Chipmunks? They are both virtual bands.

What is a virtual artist/band, anyway?

A virtual artist/band is a person or group of people who create music and are visually represented by a fictional character(s) (e.g. Alvin, Simon and Theodore of the Chipmunks).

The rise of virtual artists started in the late '50s, although the classification came later. After the Chipmunks' success (powered by Ross Bagdasarian's voice), several other artists tried their hand at being a virtual artist without much success. In the late '80s, Japan saw the rise of Virtual Idols and these artists achieved serious acclaim in Asia. It was not until the early 2000's that virtual artists became known globally. Technological advances in communications, animation, and gaming contributed to these artists' success.

Some of the biggest video games today have a virtual artist representing the music associated with the game. For example, there is the K-pop group K/DA from League of Legends. There is a lot of freedom found in being a virtual artist/band. Take the Gorillaz; for example; many artists have contributed to the music this group has produced. The beauty of being represented by a fictional character? Band members can come and go, with the public being none-the-wiser, because the cartoon figure(s) does not change.

Have you ever considered creating a virtual band with your music students? Many schools have a physical band or choir, but how many have virtual bands? Today's technology adds new meaning to the school band. Imagine a STEAM-based competition where your music students have to create a new virtual school band.

Don't want to run a competition? Turn this idea into a class project, and stretch it across the semester or perhaps it can work best as a co-curricular activity. Once you have the virtual artist created (the school mascot perhaps), as new students come in, you can challenge them with projects to create new music for the schools or the music department's virtual artist. This idea already has my imagination running wild!

It is a wonder that someones favourite artist can be an animated character. What will the world think of next? Do you have a favourite virtual artist? I vote for Alvin, Simone and Theodore! You can't go wrong with The Chipmunks.

Thinking about incorporating the virtual artist project into your curriculum? Let us know how you would do it.