Live music events all over the country are being canceled in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. This deadly strain of coronavirus has now been deemed a pandemic. Washington and Oregon are mandating the cancellation of gatherings with over 250 people, with other states enforcing even stricter shutdowns. After all, social distancing is the best way to combat the spread of the virus.
This is tragic and unprecedented. Many people – including those in the music industry – are unsure of how they’ll make ends meet if no one is gathering in physical locations. Musicians, in particular, rely heavily on revenue earned from live shows, so we’ve been seeing many of these artists take to social media to explain the uncertainty of their situations.
But amidst the cancellations of highly-anticipated festivals, and shows, a trend seems to be emerging where artists are switching their live events onto digital platforms. Every week during this pandemic sees a new plan cropping up promising an exciting online event. Music companies are gradually introducing new live streaming features to tide us over during our self-quarantines and social distancing.
Event discovery app Bandsintown just launched its’ live streaming service, with South African DJ/producer Black Coffee headlining its first virtual concert. Last week, electronic legends Pendelum hosted a virtual version of the canceled RAMPAGE event. Likewise, the Seattle Symphony decided to stream a concert over Facebook and YouTube.
Our beloved EDM scene is by no means the only one taking advantage of the current pandemic. Artists big and small — from all genres — are teaming up with various live streaming services to cater to fans and generate some revenue. Is all of this a temporary solution or does it suggest a deeper change in how we’ll engage with music going forward?
It’s been a long time comin’
The groundwork for virtual events was laid out years ago. Virtual reality headsets in the gaming industry spurred some consumer interest, while companies like Wave VR occasionally throw full-on virtual concerts on their platform. In fact, Wave VR has hosted several EDM artists over the last couple of years, including Rezz, Kill The Noise, Jauz, and Lindsey Stirling. Just last month, Galantis played an official concert in Wave VR as part of their Church of Galantis album tour. Keep an eye on Wave VR as they plan more virtual concerts in the coming weeks.
Additionally, as video games and EDM continue to collide, we’ve seen massive festivals take place fully online. Fire Festival was an event that took place in January 2019 in the game Minecraft. Performing EDM DJs included Lil Texas, Cray, Slumberjack, JVNA, and Luca Lush among several other musicians. Soon after, the globally popular Marshmello “broke the internet” with a record-breaking live performance in the video game Fortnite.
So what’s next?
Over the next few weeks, a growing number of DJs and musicians will take their acts into the virtual world due to the shutdowns taking place all over the world. Artists and event planners alike are already teasing digital concerts and festivals. For example, bass music collective Brownies & Lemonade might have a handful of online events down the pipeline.
ok this online music festival is closer to being a reality
we’ve been taking calls and meetings nonstop for the past 3 days
we actually might have multiple online events in the works with some of the biggest brands/ppl in music, streaming, and entertainment
— Brownies & Lemonade 💜💛 (@TeamBandL) March 18, 2020
Some artists are taking to Twitch, YouTube, and Instagram to live stream events. Up-and-coming artist JVNA recently announced a new festival taking place on Twitch in the coming days. Quix, Luca Lush, and Vincent are among the performers.
miss going to festivals? 🥺 It’s okay! IM HOSTING A 12+ HOUR FESTIVAL STREAM ON TWITCH THIS SUNDAY. ADMISSION FREE FOR ALL. Set times will be announced Saturday 😊 All donations raised in order to help those affected by the COVID – 19 Pandemic 💜 pic.twitter.com/zfUTWuQGKg
— Jana l JVNA (@JVNA) March 19, 2020
Players in Minecraft — the game that hosted the aforementioned Fire Festival — are also planning a tribute to Porter Robinson’s Second Sky festival in late March. More information about the festival — which is called Second Aether — can be found on the festival’s Discord channel.
The future of virtual concerts
Looking forward, what will this mean for the music scene in general even after the Covid-19 pandemic ends? Nothing will ever replace live music. But it does seem like this shift to virtual concerts was going to happen at some point regardless. People who can’t make it to concerts and festivals — either due to finances, distance, or responsibilities — can now take part in these magical events from the comfort of their own homes. And at least for the time being, these events are all free!
There’s still plenty of room for artists and event organizers to innovate with virtual concerts and festivals. What crazy special effects or interactive features will come out of this? Will our society eventually end up like the one depicted in the book and movie Ready Player One, where we can attend events in fully immersive 3D environments?
Online music events are just getting started, and the current Covid-19 pandemic is catalyzing its adoption. Being able to come together through music, even while we’re all self-isolating at home, is a powerful notion.
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