PEEX’s COO David Johnson, a former NASA engineer, talks Elton John, holograms and augmenting sound.

Working history…

I worked on the Curiosity Rover project, which has been operating on Mars since 2012 and is the template for the upcoming Mars 2020 rover. I was also involved with semi-conductors manufacturing at Intel and The Raytheon Company before transitioning to the broader tech industry as a management consultant with PwC.  Before moving to London, I advised various companies in emerging technologies, restructuring and transformations, and strategy. At PEEX I continue to have a great opportunity to implement new technology with a fantastic team.

Going Live

Live music is becoming increasingly immersive and technology is being embraced to enable this. Examples range from the wearable Coldplay Xylobands to holograms, but it’s also about extending the experience of a show using technology before and after. This has been done with apps and augmented reality, or with selfies and so forth. There’s also a lot of localisation of live shows, and the music industry is in a unique spot with a lot of stakeholders.

Real-time interaction

PEEX recognises the importance of improving the live experience between the artist and the fan, so we built a high-quality sound product that augments the artist’s sound, and works anywhere in the venue, transmitting signals that make it sound like you’re plugged into the sound desk. On top of that, we give fans the ability to interact with the show in real-time via our app. You can hear more guitar, percussion. Live events are meant to be experienced with real people, and real interactions, so we augment the live experience with clarity and interactivity.

On Elton John

(PEEX partner) Elton John is extremely tech-forward and passionate about how he brings his music to his fans, and we share that goal at PEEX. We’ve assembled a phenomenal team of technologists and live music professionals to deliver a revolutionary way to expand live music. Elton is the tip of a long sphere of many future artists. Right now we have a long list we’re working with. It’s not only artists, but artist managers and venues.

Sound ideas

For any technology, you need to increase the size of the pie and make it advantageous for everyone and bring new revenue streams for artists and promoters. Navigating the live music industry is complex, and technology is about how to stand out. At Coachella, for example, when you’re at the back of the crowd it sounds bad, and the same happens at many venues, and it’s very distracting. You’ve paid a lot for your ticket.

Data points

Data is vital to our future and it provides value and experience. Through rental we have a one to one relationship with the user, which allows us to, for example, run a contest and give five users backstage passes, or a signed guitar. We can individualise experiences, and run other projects like creating VIP areas.

Deconstructing live

Ultimately, an industry needs to be economically viable. Traditionally at a live show, a venue makes money from renting space and selling beer. An artist makes money for showing up and merchandise, but the money doesn’t always trickle down. We need to bring in more revenue and spread it out.

VR, or nah?

The jury is till out on VR. It makes a lot of sense in video games, but not as a replacement to live experience. We’ll have to see. I think augmentation is much more powerful. The turnaround test is key – if you leave your house and forget it do you turn back? Then there’s the toothbrush test – is it something you use every day?