How virtual concerts are keeping the music industry alive
So-called “quarantine concerts” are taking over the music industry as world tours and concerts are cancelled and venues remain closed.
From Live Aid in 1985 to One Love Manchester in 2017, when the world needs to band together in support of something far greater than us all, celebrities tend to do their part by hosting benefit concerts that are staged as a means to assist various philanthropic efforts. But because moshing it out in a packed area is on hold until further notice, virtual concerts are the next best thing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and international advocacy group Global Citizen in collaboration with Lady Gaga have announced plans for One World: Together At Home, a virtual concert on April 18th. Billie Eilish, Lizzo, John Legend, Andrea Bocelli and others will be taking part so viewers can look forward to taking a front row seat at these live performances - but from the comfort of their couch, of course.
In a statement, Global Citizen said, "It’s a historic, first-of-its kind global broadcast event to celebrate the heroic efforts of community health workers, and to support the World Health Organization in the global fight to end Covid-19. Viewers around the world can take action by visiting www.globalcitizen.org/togetherathome to call on corporations, governments, and philanthropists to fund critical global Covid-19 response efforts, including support for frontline healthcare workers."
These quarantine concerts are hitting the mainstream realm of social media too. Instagram Live, a popular feature on the app that’s been available since 2016 has been re-purposed as a means for performers to get creative with how they interact with fans. What was once used merely as means to host Q&A sessions and promote various brand endorsements has now been used to uplift the public's spirits and cheer up fans who bought tickets to tours or meet and greets that are now cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Among them are Coldplay’s Chris Martin who performed a few of the band’s greatest hits and Swae Lee of rap duo Rae Sremmurd who had almost 250 000 people join him for a one man show. Anyone is free to join in on the fun with the comments section open to all.
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Virtual social media concerts are beneficial to the artist too. With other more common means of promotion now unavailable, such as press tours, performers are using these virtual interactions to stay relevant in the public eye. Although many are postponing album releases, pushing back launch dates until August, Dua Lipa decided to go ahead with her release mid-lockdown. In order to boost sales, she accompanied the debut of her new music from the album Future Nostalgia by playing and accompanying each song with commentary live on YouTube. Stripped down and more casual, these virtual concerts expose the public to more honest versions of their favourite stars which has proved to be a hit thus far.
Is the coronavirus pandemic responsible for virtual concerts?
The reality is that long before the coronavirus pandemic hit and physical distancing became mandatory, virtual concerts were already a huge deal. According to The Asian Entrepreneur, the idea of a concert in virtual reality (VR) emerged from South Korean record labels such as SM Entertainment and YG Entertainment that introduced V-concerts as early as 1998 — to mixed reviews.
Initially these concerts mainly involved projecting life-sized images of famous pop groups onto a stage with a live audience in attendance. Since then, virtual concerts have also come to include concerts held in virtual worlds instead of physical locations. The first major band to perform live in a virtual world was Duran Duran, who performed in Second Life in 2006. Since then, things have snowballed and virtual concerts can be enjoyed on many different mediums ranging from phone screens to VR headsets.