The Sphere and the AV Industry
On July 4, The Sphere lit up on the Vegas Strip for the first time, and the buzz about it went viral. I doubt there is a single person in the AV/IT industry who has not seen or heard about the Sphere, but even if you have it is worth taking a few minutes and searching YouTube for videos of the experience (and I also included one below). It is simply mesmerizing. Even as an AV professional who has seen lots of cool things, I am still amazed by this. I have read as much as I can about the technology, and I believe that this publication will be doing more stories — or likely several — on the design and technology behind the Sphere. That is not why I am writing. I am writing about the experience that this new venue offers, and the potential it offers to the entire AV industry.
Apple Music has a video out with the band U2 about the Sphere, as they will be opening the venue later this year with a series of concerts. Watch the video linked above because it explains about this experience. In it, Bono discusses how just about every other venue the band has played was designed for something else, usually sports, or as a multi-use venue. This space was designed for arts and music, and the “other” things (boxing, MMA, etc.) will fit into it. The inside of the venue can sit 18,000 people and with beamforming arrays and other technologies, the company says that every person will essentially have their own speaker. There is also a digital screen inside the venue that mimics the one on the outside. The screens are so high resolution that proper graphic design can make the shape of the sphere disappear from your eyes.
The building cost a whopping $2.2 billion to complete. When I started thinking about this blog, one of the questions I was considering was how can a venue possibly see a return on that type of investment. After reading more about it, it became very clear to me. This is not just another venue; this is an experience. There are some venues that people may want to attend simply to say they were there. Think Fenway Park, Wrigley Field or Wimbledon. However, the Sphere is different because I can not think of another venue that I would want to visit because it’s part of the actual event experience. The Sphere makes me want to travel to Vegas to see it and to see a concert inside of it. Viewing the building from the outside is an experience all its own. Being inside and seeing your favorite band in concert has to be out of this world. Lots of people wait around for a band to come to them locally, with the Sphere, people will look to travel to whatever band or artist they want to see.
I am also incredibly excited to see what this will do for the AV world in general. For years, there has been discussion about how to get people involved in the industry; how do we create a pipeline? With this venue, the path becomes clearer. Think of every person, from the youngest kid on the Strip to the college students, to people attending conferences for other industries who will look at this building or attend an event. They will leave having had an experience that is in large part due to AV and IT! They will leave wanting to work at a place like that. Heck, so do most of us #AVtweeps! From the management of the venue to the AV and IT support and programming, to the creative department designing shows — this building provides a huge attraction for people to enter ProAV. It is a concrete example of what we do that creates a “wow” experience like no other.
The Sphere is truly one of those once-every-decade or couple-of-decades projects that changes the direction of an industry. This building will change expectations, certainly, of every show and residency on the Strip. However, it will also change expectations for shows around the world. We will simply start to expect more and better from our concerts and shows. I, for one, am already starting to work into my budget for a trip to InfoComm 2024, if for no other reason than to see this building. I will keep my fingers crossed that there also happens to be a great band in residency when I am there.