Hologram Tupac could charge as much for live shows as real-life Tupac

Tupac Shakur’s holographic resurrection at this weekend’s Coachella was a real mind-bender. Whether you found it inspiring or tasteless, it’s quickly become a philosophical conundrum with some pretty heavy implications: What would real-life Tupac think of the performance? His mom endorsed it, but who ultimately can speak for the dead?

The question became even more potent when the Wall Street Journal reported that, given the success of the hologram at Coachella, Dr. Dre and Snoop are considering taking Tupac out with them on a full tour.

Watching a hologram perform feels a lot like the real thing. Audiences buying tickets for a Snoop-Dre-Tupac tour would be buying them almost as an equal billing—Tupac’s presence would surely be a draw for ticket sales. Which brings up a whole other question: How should the artist—or the artist’s estate—get paid for the shows?

Billboard spoke with entertainment lawyer Donald Passman, who knows so much about the music business he wrote a book called “All You Need to Know About the Music Business.” According to Passman, the hologram live show presentes an unprecedented issue:

How much would it cost to use Tupac’s likeness for two songs at a Coachella performance? “Boy, I have no idea,” says Passman. “I guess if I represented him I would want a good sized fee for it because it’s an element of the show. And I could go anywhere from what I would charge as a live artist to show up as a guest down to what I would charge to do a lighting design.” But he admits arriving at a fee wouldn’t be easy. “There’s no precedent for it.”

It’s a grey area. It’s actually not even a real hologram—it’s a two dimensional image projected on an invisible screen that the real-life rappers stand behind. For an in-depth look at how it works check out this WSJ article. But the point is, it’s an attraction and a revenue driver.

Illustrating this point, a spoof flyer made the rounds on the internet this week imagining an all-hologram Coachella lineup in the future, headlined by Michael Jackson and The Clash. It’s not that hard to imagine full sets from hologram heroes in the not so distant future. The question of how the headliners will get paid, and how much, is brand new. And it’s is a brand new revenue stream in a business that has seen all its revenue streams decline steadily over the last decade.

At any rate, we can look forward to another performance from Hologram Tupac at this weekend’s Coachella Part 2.