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  • Sophie Saidmehr

Virtual Concerts and COVID-19

Are they good for the world of music?

With COVID-19 still looming over the music industry, artists are forced to get creative in order to make a living. The BBC reports that musicians have lost nearly two-thirds of their income in 2020, and will continue to struggle if live music doesn’t resume in late 2021. And with the way the current music industry is structured - musicians making nearly all of their income from live performances - COVID has been a catastrophic blow.

It’s not all bad though. The pandemic has paved the way for new forms of “live performances” that will continue throughout the digital age. Virtual concerts, streamed either through major concert promoters like Live Nation, or small virtual piano bars are becoming all the rage. With our world becoming increasingly more and more digital, we all expected that virtual concerts were bound to become the norm eventually - the pandemic just sped this process up exponentially.

Artists like Doja Cat, Daniel Cesar, and Miley Cyrus have spearheaded the virtual concert movement - with thousands of fans tuning in and buying tickets for their performances. Music industry media outlets like Billboard and SongKick are keeping audiences updated with all of the virtual concerts and live streams happening in the weeks and months to come.

Here's an updated list on all the virtual concerts you should be checking out

Artists aren’t the only ones making use of this virtual experience - platforms like Twitch (a popular gaming site for streamers) is also implementing a virtual concert feature for their users while they game. Right in the beginning of the pandemic, Travis Scott held a virtual concert through the extremely popular game Fortnite.

Even Oculus, a virtual reality company, is capitalizing on the trend. Oculus is now offering it’s users to pay for a “front row experience” at their favorite artist’s virtual concert. Concerts are filmed with HD cameras and users are able to get a 180 degree view of the stage - pretty crazy. With festival season coming up, Oculus is partnering with TIDAL to deliver six concerts in venues, featuring a 45 minute set and a specially curated playlist on the streaming platform prior to the show. Artists include The Roots, Charli XCX, SOFI TUKKER, and plenty more. It’s no Coachella, but these tech companies are ensuring that fans get their live music fix in whatever form possible.

Technology Replacing Live Concerts?

While these new technological innovations are useful and do make the best out of a pretty bad situation, a live experience cannot be replaced. There is something truly unique about going to a concert: waiting on line, getting your ticket scanned, going to the bar during the opening acts, pushing through loud and rowdy crowds to get the best view possible… Oculus can’t replicate the heightened sensory experience that comes with going to a live show. This causes one to speculate, and maybe even worry, that the live music experience might be fundamentally altered from the pandemic.

There is some comfort in knowing that the major labels will most likely resume their artists’ live shows as soon as possible, as concerts and tours make over half of an artists’ revenue. This isn’t to say that once the pandemic is over that things will go completely back to normal. People are becoming way more comfortable staying at home and enjoying their entertainment via TV or internet. What is more is that tech companies like Oculus will probably capitalize on the fact that people’s attitudes towards crowds and being in public in general have drastically changed, thereby increasing the demand for more at-home virtual experiences. Imagine putting on a VR set to watch a concert being live streamed thousands of miles away, with hundreds of audience members' faces - or their avatars - staring blankly into the virtual void. Sounding dystopian yet? COVID-19’s effect on the music industry definitely makes everything feel like a Black Mirror episode.

It Not All Bad Though.

It’s not all bad though - new and exciting forms of entertainment are slowly but surely becoming the new norm. Who’s to say virtual and live concerts can’t coexist in one happy music ecosystem. Virtual concerts may also be a great way for up and coming artists to get their name out there without the economic strain of a live show. Audience members who are older, disabled, or just downright agoraphobic can enjoy their favorite artists from the comfort of their bedrooms. Our reliance on technology and the internet during these times has permeated into all aspects of lives - there’s no denying that. Music and technology are merging now more than ever before, and while it is frustrating not being able to see our favorite artists in the flesh, this could be a great opportunity to embrace a new kind of entertainment for the time being - for artists and audience members alike.

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