A few of the big takeaways for those who missed the panel: holograms aren't a passing fad, the technology is remarkable and Mark Stroman will take expensive hotel toilet paper home with him. 


Photo: Barry Brecheisen

Wendy Dio

The exuberantly titled panel had the potential of being a walking advertisement for the oncoming experiment that features a holographic Ronnie James Dio performing with his former rock band. Instead, it may have been one of the more entertaining and interesting panels of any conference.

Let's face it: we're talking about some incredible technology that will be arriving at venues in increasing scope over the next five years.

The term hologram, as Scott Ross was quick to point out, is misused here. A hologram is an actual 3D entity. When a “holographic” Tupac or Hatsune Miku takes the stage, that image is 2D but looks 3D. As was noted in previous Pollstar articles, the technology is more than a century old, is originally called “Pepper's Ghost,” and anybody who's gone through the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland has witnessed this trickery over and over again.

It's an image projected onto a piece of mylar from beneath the stage. That's it. But it looks pretty cool. Make that amazing.

The panel stressed that the oldness of this trick ends with that paltry description. When the Dio hologram was introduced at the Wacken Open Air festival in Germany, people wept.

This isn't an old video of Dio being projected onto a screen; it's a re-creation generated similar to how Peter Cushing's character Grand Moff Tarkin was generated for the “Rogue One” Star Wars movie.  As for the Star Wars technology, Ross knows plenty of that: he is a veteran of the early days of Industrial Light & Magic, then a partner with James Cameron, and has a shelf of Academy Awards for his special effects mastery including for all that wizardry in the movie “The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.”

As Ronnie's longtime manager and life partner Wendy Dio noted, the performance doesn't need to be static: A show could include costume changes.

Even the production can be added digitally, reducing 10 trucks of equipment to one. “At first I was apprehensive about it” Wendy said when Eyellusion approached her with this idea.

“But then I thought it was something the fans would embrace and it would give them a chance to see him again, and for those who never saw him a chance to see him.”

She said she struggled for a while with what Ronnie would want but, ultimately, he loved his fans and has given them extravagant stage shows for decades. He embraced technology and would have loved this idea but, most of all, he wanted to give back to the fans no matter the cost.

This hologram isn't so much about raking in cash as it is about investing money into a fan experience. Moderator Jeff Pezzuti of Eyellusion stepped away from the traditional panel protocol of lining everyone up on a table and introducing them.

He instead brought them up in increasing numbers, first by doing a one-on-one interview with Wendy, then with Ross and then producing the one-man-show of Mark Stroman, who made his entrance with a video advert for KISS while tossing merchandise to the crowd. Stroman, the marketing guru for McGhee Entertainment, has a career that stretches back to the launch of “The Simpsons” and “The X Files,” and was there to give a resounding endorsement of this technology.

McGhee Entertainment isn't involved with the project but is “studying opportunities in the space,” as it were.

For that matter, as far as the panelists' relationships to the project, Andrew Goodfriend and TKO have an obvious connection as an agency, Mark Pinkus of Rhino was there to talk about how many legacy acts could or will have holographic futures, and Todd Singerman of Singerman Entertainment is part of the Eyellusion team, working with artist relations. 

As for toilet paper, Stroman had made an entertaining aside of how great it was to be on tour with KISS for eight weeks and being put up in nice hotel rooms where even the toilet paper was expensive, which of course the panel latched on to. It was part of a larger point: KISS toured tertiary markets like Flint, Mich., and Rochester, N.Y., selling out arenas because there were people in these markets who were experiencing KISS for the very first time.

In other words, there is a definite market for a hologram or anything else that provides fans with a similar experience. “A good show is a good show,” Singerman said. To that effect, the audience wasn't completely introduced to this hologram concept. Manager Bill Siddons is working with the Andy Kaufman estate to reintroduce the comedian in a hologram.

Scott Scovill of Moo TV, meanwhile, has worked with bringing Elvis back to the stage and got a synthetic Carrie Underwood to perform with Brad Paisley on tour.

Although the technology was not as advanced or even holographic in nature, Scovill said people wept at seeing Elvis and, as for the Paisley tour, “I couldn't tell you how many angry emails we got from radio stations hearing that Carrie had come through the city without telling them.”