Last month my friend Steven hosted a mixtape exchange at the Kitchen and since I’m constantly reading about virtual reality, my first thought was, has anyone ever made a VR mixtape? The most popular search result for “virtual reality mixtape” is this 42-minute 360 video by a guy named Armchair Jay, which places you in the center of a colorful computer-generated living room in front of a large TV.  Declaring itself the “world’s first virtual reality mixtape,” the video is set to music by a group called Truancy Tru, and after every song, the ceiling and the walls change colors. As one commenter noted on the Kanye West Forum where the mixtape was posted, “who the hell is going to sit there and fiddle with the angle of the video for 45 minutes?” Indeed, it’s rare for a VR experience to be so long. The only 360 video that came close to holding my attention for more than 30 minutes was the two-part NBA Finals video “Follow My Lead” by m ss ng p eces, and let’s just say Armchair Jay is no LeBron James.

Besides this “world’s first” VR Mixtape, there are a few other takes on the concept that are worth mentioning. Boiler Room, which pioneered the live-recording-session-as-party concept, is creating a dedicated VR venue in London.  I’m not sure if this will lead to a live VR mixtape per se, but I imagine sponsors are already lining up to put their logos on a room full of spatial microphones and 360 cameras recording the world’s hippest DJs. I also came across a group in Australia, VRmixtape.com.au, which has created a traveling show of assorted VR content that it’s calling “a Group Virtual Reality Zine.”  But aside from these three examples, I was surprised not to find more VR mixtapes, especially given the popularity of 360 music videos. I took it as a cue to make my own (so it, too, can provoke a few laughs when it becomes absurdly outdated in a couple of years).

VR Mixtape How To:
  • 1. Grab your Google cardboard (or other VR headset) ready, navigate to the Youtube App and open this relaxing 360 video.
  • 2. Play the rest of the mix on Vanishworks’ Soundcloud. If you miss the relaxing house, you can always pick it up the Google cardboard again and jump back into the virtual world at any time.

For my first stab at the elusive VR mixtape, I collected ten songs in the vein of a certain melancholic, ambient electronic music, which has been haunting my Soundcloud feed lately. The songs are cinematic, and they seem to fit in well when I play them in the background while experimenting with VR.  The video accompanying the first song is a architectural visualization (“archviz”) walkthrough of a futuristic house created in Unreal Engine. The idea is that even though the video is loosely paired with the first song, you could casually pick up the Google cardboard and watch the video with any song on the mix.

I didn’t want the virtual experience to be as long as the entire mixtape, but I did borrow what I thought was the most successful element of Armchair Jay’s mixtape: giving the music a relaxing setting. I wanted to create a virtual space where you could imagine yourself listening to these songs and give you the opportunity to create a memory there.  If you ever do hear one of these songs again, I hope you would recall the virtual space just as you might remember a real place where you first heard a song. Perhaps version 2.0 could be a chain letter mixtape, where everyone contributes one song and one 360 video of the place where they first heard said song, then passes the challenge along. Let me know if you want to contribute!