Country music goes high tech with 360 videos for its ‘CMA Fest’ broadcast

On Wednesday night ABC will be airing the CMA Music Festival, Nashville’s paean to the boot-scootin’, honky-tonkin’, hoedown throw-down music that the Grand Ole Opry helped build.

As part of the celebrations, some of country music’s rising and established stars are going to be streaming in 360 video on YouTube — airing select songs from their performance as if you were there. 

As far as modern country goes, the songs are great (it’s modern country, so I don’t ask for much).

The Cole Swindell song “Flatliner” (featuring Dierks Bentley) wouldn’t have been missed on a middling Poison album (because every record has its thorn) and Brett Eldredge’s “Somethin’ I’m Good At” is good at being inoffensive country pop (as an old Southerner, I like my country music gnarled and ancient like Willie Nelson or Hank Williams).

The 360 video features only work on YouTube in the desktop or mobile version, so don’t expect to be able to see it in the embedded videos below.

At best, watching the videos in 360 gives you a sense of the scope and scale of a live performance in a way that somewhat approaches the euphoria an artist must feel in looking out into a crowd of thousands. At worst, with poor direction, a viewer can end up spending a lot of time staring at the armpits of a sea of upraised arms.

Luckily, in both videos directors spend most of their time on the wide shots.

Still, 360 video suffers from the simple fact that it’s not as immersive as virtual reality, and the distance between the two is a gulf that’s too far to bridge (even in VR, live events lack the… vitality… of an actual live event). It may be the next best thing to the next best thing to being there, but if a fan can, it’s probably still better to go there.

Obligatory stuff here: The ABC event airs from 8-11 on ABC on Wednesday the 16th. It’s going to be hosted by Thomas Rhett and Kelsea Ballerini and will feature 28 performances from a who’s who of country music’s hottest stars.

Filmed earlier this summer during CMA Music Festival, the event features Dierks Bentley, Garth Brooks, Brothers Osborne, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town.