As more concerts, festivals and performances have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, artists and musicians are turning to streaming services and social media platforms to continue to play live for fans.
Top artists such as Billie Eilish, Avril Lavigne and BTS are amongst the first to start the live streaming trend and have scheduled livestream concerts for fans this month, with a fee. Specifically, Billie Eilish is scheduled to livestream her “Where Do We Go?” concert on her website on Oct. 24 at 8 p.m. for a $30 admission fee, which includes perks such as access to exclusive merchandise and the concert as video on demand.
The first live stream concert was performed in 2011 for free on a streaming service. Throughout the next few years, livestream concerts would struggle to reach the popularity of in-person concerts- until this year. As circumstances have changed within the year through stay-at-home restrictions, artists have had no other choice but to turn to online streaming services.
Michael Kaminsky, an adjunct professor at USC’s Thornton School of Music who teaches a “Live Music Production and Promotion” course, attends virtual concerts through Fortnite and has grown to prefer them over live concerts. The live steam that changed Kaminsky’s perspective was a Marshmallow performance, which, according to Kaminsky “had over 13 million subscribers who tuned it to watch Marshmallow.”
Though Kaminsky recognizes that the livestream won’t fulfill the exciting thrill that live concerts create, he encourages people to envision virtual concerts as events that take a “live music experience and rethink the setup and rethink the production and rethink the entire approach to it.”
“The experience of a traditional concert is an exclusive model and will never go away,” Kaminsky said, “but we’ve also had that model for decades and decades and decades… I think live and virtual concerts will coexist [with] each other- and it’s going to be very interesting to see which ones will continue to excite the fanbase.”
Nourah Latif, an account director for the entertainment marketing agency Cogent World, said from an entertainment industry perspective, planning and coordinating a live stream concert takes “just as much, even more in some cases, because "you need to ensure everything goes smoothly virtually,” as she cannot physically oversee multiple activations simultaneously happening at the event.
Latif also said that she recognizes that virtual concerts take away the “personal aspects of the event, like being in the office with your team late at night or workin on site,” but nevertheless, she is appreciative of the live streams as they have shown her “the power of communication and being extremely in sync with everyone, and just being there to fix any last minute mishaps.”
Justin Taing, a representative from Brilliant Corners Artist Management, said he felt sad to “see and experience not only the jam packed calendar of tours” that he was looking forward to getting cancelled, but also “the repercussions of the cancelled show- loss of jobs and income for band and crew members.” Taing stressed the idea that it’s not just about “losing the in-person experience,” but it’s also about all the jobs that were lost due to the coronavirus.
Taing also talked about the benefits of live streams, specifically about how, “COVID aside- its given a lot of folks who are not normally able to go to concerts and festivals, maybe due to anxiety or illness for example, the opportunity to watch their favorite artists play in an intimate way.”
Wylker Tavares, a senior at USC, is optimistic about virtual concerts and said although he has never attended a live stream concert, he would be “comfortable with paying for a virtual concert” because he understands that the artists, despite their location and circumstances, are still “performing and giving us their creative and talented output.”
Tavares believes that streaming concerts online is not only beneficial to fans, but to artists as well since “everybody is stuck at home and can’t do anything.” “From the business aspect of it- I think artists who are not thinking about doing it most definitely should," he said.
“I’m all for virtual concerts,” Tavares remarked, as he believes they have brought a sense of togetherness; he shared how his friends have hosted virtual concert watching parties where they all get together and jam out to their screens.