Future of Festivals and Concerts
Written by Megan Baranuk // Illustrated by Hannah Mosley
Concerts and festivals have taken a hit due to the pandemic. We explore alternatives to a live experience.
The days of mosh-pitting, crowd surfing and bumping up against sweaty strangers seem to be far behind us. The mere thought of being in an area with barely inches between you and the person to your left or right is enough to make most people squeamish in today’s climate. This leaves most with a longing for the way the world used to be. Nostalgic for festivals, concerts and music events of all types, music junkies have many alternatives to provide them with a quick fix. Exploring what festivals and concerts may look like in the future includes many different possibilities, some being implemented today.
The first alternative to concerts seen during the pandemic was virtual, at-home concerts. These are intimate concerts performed within the artists’ homes, studios or other secluded spaces. Concerts performed in this fashion bring brand-new versions of live entertainment that had never previously been so easily accessible. Though this may seem more personal than an average concert, avid concert goers are quick to point out the similarities to watching a YouTube video or similar footage. This hinders the ability for fans to feel as though this concert is truly unique — something that’s never been experienced in quite this way — as millions have access to these live performances at any point. However, livestreaming on different platforms does have its disadvantages. The electrifying quality of sharing the same space with an artist is completely eliminated, as is the connection with fellow fans. One fix for connection is Instagram Live concerts. Thanks to advances in social media, artists have used the live feature on Instagram to perform concerts for their fans. In the livestreams, fans are able to interact by commenting, though it’s no substitute for face to face interactions. Rex Orange County is one example of an artist who frequently livestreams mini concerts from his home onto Instagram. Viewers can comment and react in real time as Rex Orange County performs their favorite songs. This alternative may provide free viewings of a set of live songs, but it cannot provide the connection experienced in person.
Instagram isn’t the only social site that has been utilized in emulating concerts and festivals. Travis Scott became the first artist to put on a virtual concert through Fortnite during the pandemic, reaching a record of 12.3 million viewers. Bringing together that astronomical amount of people to experience the same event in the same way was almost unheard of before this event. During the days leading up to Travis Scott’s “Astronomical” concert, Fortnite players could see a stage being set up on the island, complete with golden Travis head balloons and structures. During the actual event, the rapper appeared, larger than life, stomping around the island while surrounded by psychedelic effects. Players were able to watch the concert while underwater, flying through the air or traversing the island.
In a similar event, The Weeknd put on a live colorful concert display on TikTok. This event drew over 2 million people to experience a virtual lights and laser show, a virtual version of The Weeknd, and live performances of his latest hits. This was a milestone for not only The Weeknd, but also TikTok. This was the platform’s first augmented-reality live broadcast and gave the world a glimpse into the possibilities of future music events. The immersive virtual locale that The Weeknd performed in was decided by fans who viewed the livestream — at critical points in the concert, the fans were given options to vote on what they wanted to see next, and the algorithm would construct the hallucinogenic dreamscapes accordingly. While virtual streaming leaves no room for the in person experience, it does allow viewers to see their favorite artists in settings never deemed possible before.
Garnering so many fans for a single show seemed impossible, but Travis Scott and The Weeknd’s creative solutions may be paving the way for a more universal festival and concert setting. Currently, virtual settings seem to be the best route taken by artists large and small. The virtual settings have many options yet to be explored, and this gives start-up tech companies (and pre-established companies) a chance to innovate new means of connecting fans and artists, as well as providing brand new ways to explore music. Artists can bring to life any type of set they want — with a cheaper bottom line. The fans also have the possibility to tailor their own experiences, create an avatar and experience virtual concerts in a plethora of ways. These types of virtual experiences also encompass individuals with all types of abilities and restrictions, who may not have been able to experience concerts or festivals prior to the pandemic.
"The world continues to shift and adapt according to new developments each day, and the live music industry continues to change with the world."
The future of physical festivals and concerts remains uncertain, which is concerning for the wellness of the economy. While big-name artists such as Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Jay-Z may be fine for now, smaller artists often depend on money made during shows, merchandise sales and building a fan base. Smaller artists who are left with little to no options in gaining traction and making a profit off of their craft are being severely affected by the pandemic. Not only this, but small artists often have no ties to large corporations or PR opportunities, while Travis Scott and The Weeknd do. For others involved in the live music industry, the shutdown of live shows is a devastating blow. Event planners, festival workers and production crews are left in limbo as the world determines what live music will look like in the future.
The world continues to shift and adapt according to new developments each day, and the live music industry continues to change with the world. Other countries have begun to reintroduce live music festivals, and the United States can only hope to follow as soon as conditions are safe enough to gather en masse. For now, let’s enjoy the new musical experiences that are inclusive for everyone during these times.