Virtual Concerts: Sign of the Times, or Sign of Things to Come?

Just a thought piece. Food for thought. What have you.

The global pandemic effecting our lives, some more than others, has been ongoing for a while now. As such, some businesses and services that are deemed essential continue on while those workers try to avoid getting sick. But what about non-traditional jobs? Artists, for lack of better terminology. How are people who are depending on going on tour to pay their bills getting by? I’m not talking about millionaire rocks stars here, I’m talking about the person or band who is trying to break big, and is not able to do the stand-up circuit, or can’t play the dive bars anymore? Not only are people in these positions not able to go to their place of employ, but with millions of people stuck at home mostly with reduced income, how can they justify spending money on these sorts of entertainment anymore? These questions won’t be answered with this post, but it did spark an idea regardless. 

I should preface this with the fact that I did not create the idea of a virtual concert, but seeing one promoted on social media the other day, I have since watched the resulting YouTube video for this, and though it wasn’t amazing, it was something that the average joe (which these guys clearly are) could do in order to make some change. Here’s what I’m talking about:

I should note that Psychostick aren’t completely unknown, and have funded albums via Kickstarter, so they aren’t strangers to alternate earning tactics. But I wouldn’t say that these guys are famous. Chances are you’ve never heard of them until now, but I’ve known about them for over a decade. These things happen. Whatever the case, you can see that they have a widget on screen where they are accepting tips, and they had a goal of $1100 to “pay studio rent.” So they basically put on this concert for free, but left it open for people to tip. It’s likely most of the people watching and tipping were already fans of the band, but you can’t rule out other donations either. Whatever the case, they managed to fill that goal long before their “concert” was over. So they took the time to get a live stream and cameras set up, set up their equipment and basically filmed a band practice and made a bunch of money off of it. That’s not to say just anyone could do this nor that everyone would be as successful at making a living at it, but even if it’s just enough to get by it’s something to consider. 

What’s challenging about this is that this is the first time in my life that I can recall seeing virtual concerts. I know that many concerts and live shows are filmed so I’m not stranger to watching a YouTube video of said content, but the idea of participating in a live concert in the same context is sort of weird right? Is this only acceptable because of the fact that people are on quarantine and have nothing better to do? Or do you think there might be something more here? I mean if you can’t be in Santa Monica to watch the LCS live, it’s still okay to watch the live stream and feel like you’re participating in something right? What about BlizzCon Virtual Tickets, or comparable live coverage of conventions from halfway across the world? Some of these things have found acceptance in our daily lives, so why couldn’t a concert be the same? Do you need the sweaty, smelly bodies writhing around you for it to be legit? Why couldn’t I watch a comedy show that’s airing in New Zealand from North America at the same time as people in South Korea? 

I’m honestly for it. I would love to see some of my favorite bands live, but I would take an intimate basement live stream just the same. I’d watch a stand up comic do his set in front of the mirror. If the content is good, it rarely matters how it is experienced. I suppose you could argue that the feeling of the music wouldn’t be the same, and I can attest to that having been in a band before. But I’d argue that many people don’t have the time to go to concerts or see other live entertainment, but would gladly decompress with it on the couch with a much cheaper beer in hand. What do you think?

5 thoughts on “Virtual Concerts: Sign of the Times, or Sign of Things to Come?

  1. If that means I can see my favourite bands without subjecting to the anxiety inducing experience of being in a loud, possibly painful environment with thousands of other people, I’m all for it.

    Coincidently, my favourite Japanese boyband is going on hiatus at the end of the year and I was really bummed I never had the chance to see them live. But then the thought of spending more than a thousand dollars just for one evening of fun, going to the concert, and being in the same space with all those people, it made me nervous. I bought a DVD of one their concerts with my favourite songs, and I’ll put in on, turn up the speaker, and be a screaming fangirl in my living room. Yes, I like that so much better.

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  2. That’s not something I’m even remotely (haha) interested in. I like going to concerts, but the reasons are mostly: going with friends, seeing the band *live and in person*, better sound system than at home, and buying merch (where the money usually goes directly to the band). Also experiencing the sound as mixed by a pro.

    All the other things at a concert I don’t really like or care for and would prefer to buy the band’s albums, which I mostly do anyway. Then I have a physical medium and play it as often as I like. And skip a song I don’t like or don’t feel like listening to.

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  3. This is an exceptionally interesting topic. Thanks for raising it. Clearly the current movement restrictions are creating more examples but virtual concerts have been happening for a while, particularly on social media patforms and inside online games. If you cast your mind back you’ll probably remember this was touted as the future back when the mainstream media were all over Second Life. It didn’t happen then but maybe now its time has come.

    Another aspect of what happens once the restrictions are lifted concerns cinemas. There’s some concern over how well or fast the movie industry will recover but even before this all happened theater chains were beginning to open up to the possibilities of using their space for things other than films. The big cinema chains in the UK regularly show live screened sports events and opera at the cinema (by way of a live link with an opera house) has become surprisingly popular.

    Let’s add in the potential delay in returning to normal international (or regional) air travel and the potential ongoing diffculties in moving from country to country. It’s not hard to imagine a world in which bands and performers find it more practical to livestream concerts to a chain of cinemas rather than fly to another country and spend a couple of weeks on tour. Fans still get to go out and have a “live” experience but the costs for the band (and their carbon footprint) is hugely reduced.

    I think a lot of this would have happened anyway but current events will give it a major kick.

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  4. An important aspect of any new medium or shift within existing ones is how easily and attractively can it be monetised. Concerts by “big bands” have big ticket prices attached to them. Streaming online means a bigger audience, so if the pricing is smart this could be a win, win for everyone. Just remember that capitalism and the free market are not known for being touchy feely, fair or sane.

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  5. Sure, I wouldn’t have a problem with it if the monetization is right/done well, aka not price gouging. It’s more for geographical reasons – there’s nothing like the feeling of something ‘live’ and in person but only a limited number of people can fit into a local amount of space. For everyone else in the globe who still might be interested, why not join in with watching it streamed live?

    I’ve watched the Superbowl live online (RIP my wallet on that one, but surprisingly if you get the subscription closer to the date, it’s about the same or less than trying to locate a local TV broadcaster with a price gourging premium sports channel pricing in my country). I’ve watched Critical Role do their thing to a live audience ‘live’ over Twitch (arguably a kind of concert-style entertainment.)

    Why not virtual music concerts?

    Also, that reminds me of Weatherstock from LOTRO, which is almost an embodied virtual music concert in an MMO space. You could bring your virtual avatar into a virtual place to sit and emote with the gang if you wanted, though lately they’ve been moving to a livestreamed thing more and more to reduce lag, I think. Certainly more convenient for someone who barely plays LOTRO to watch the livestream instead of trying to get the MMO working.

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