Online concerts replace live music shows during pandemic

Music artists find a new solution of virtual shows to support themselves

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MIchelle Nguyen

K-pop giant BTS is one of many bands that has benefitted from virtual concerts.

By Michelle Nguyen, California High School - CA

With the popularity of online streaming, many artists find it hard to keep afloat as physical and downloadable sales plummet.

Before Miss Corona took over the charts, musicians resorted to touring as a major source of revenue. But with concerts out of the question, artists scrambled to prevent any more losses from the abrupt cancellations.

At the beginning of quarantine in March, fans saw a boost of online performances on social media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. These performances were usually free and were accepting donations from willing fans to raise funds to aid the fight against the coronavirus.

While these shows were free to watch, the idea of monetizing them was still a possibility worth considering especially with the unforeseeable future up ahead. So many artists, such as Post Malone, Lady Gaga, Metallica, and many more, began going live to indulge their fans, to keep themselves relevant, and testing out possible future engagement numbers.

“Different bands are impacted differently,” AP US Government teacher Brandon Andrews said. “[For] smaller venue artists, their entire lifeline is dependent on those concert tickets.”

Concerts and other forms of live entertainment are major sources of revenue for plenty of people from the entertainers to the crew members, hence the lack of jobs due to COVID-19 is concerning.

“If there is a way for artists to monetize [online performances], I’m sure we will see that happening,” Gena Greher, a professor at University of Massachusetts Lowell’s music department said during an interview with CNBC. “Any opportunity to reach a larger audience is something I’m sure any artist might consider.”

In April, South Korean K-Pop group BTS hosted an online event named BANG BANG CON, airing previous concerts. The event spanned the course of two days and was in total 24 hours long. Within that time period, BTS got 50.59 million views from more than 160 countries. This free event was soon followed up by BANG BANG CON: THE LIVE, which was a paid event this time. Taking place on June 13, it officially became the most live-streamed concert with more than 765,000 official views, according to Guinness records.

Imagine if they counted illegal streams as well. The numbers would be off the charts.

The whole event was extremely profitable with the lack of typical transportation, plus large venue, and security expenses. Merchandise is also an essential way for musical artists to make a profit as well, and this event sold more than 746,000 official pieces of merchandise. Despite the tickets being only around $30, the event celebrating the boys’ seventh anniversary raked in nearly $20 million in a single night from ticket sales alone.

Bay Area heavy metal band Metallica took another approach with live shows on Aug. 29 when a live performance was streamed at dozens of drive-in movie theaters nationwide. Admission was around $115 per car with with no more than people a vehicle, and fans had to follow social distancing protocols during the show. The production company in charge of this event, Encore Live, had hosted two previous events for Garth Brooks and Blake Shelton, but Metallica’s show experienced the most success.

Another famous group that took the drive-in approach was The Chainsmokers, but that experience took a turn for the worse. With ticket packages starting at $850 and VIP packages at $25,000, an estimated 2,000 people attended the June 25 event that was soon met with much backlash and ridicule after fans were seen out of their cars, clearly not social distancing.

While the experience of being at a concert in person could never be replaced, the music industry now has more options than ever before. Many fans are just excited to see their favorite artists performing, whether live or digitally.

Twice, another Korean pop group, hosted on Aug. 9 a 90-minute live concert called Beyond LIVE – TWICE: World in A Day. Fans from more than 126 countries poured in and to replicate the feeling of a world tour, the girl group had set projections inspired by cities around the world. The event was a joint project between two powerhouses of the Korean entertainment industry, SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment with tech giant Naver, to grow Naver’s Beyond Live that will continue to specialize on virtual concerts.

“The possibility of more Twice concerts?” senior Syden Harisaz asked. “I feel super optimistic that they will and I’m super excited.”

Seeing how travelling and accessibility to shows during a worldwide pandemic is a major issue for fans, live-streams makes it easier for them to enjoy them from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

“Personally, I don’t think artists will continue to hold online events for the most part because I think they enjoy in-person concerts more as well,” senior Jessica Chan said. “However, I think that it will be an option in case something happens and the artists cannot make it in person, I could see them holding some kind of online event.”

Venues also are limited by their seating capacity, so offering live stream options essentially makes this problem non-existent. With the benefit of the lack of seat capacity, digital concerts also offer the benefit of cheaper tickets. Since the costs of transportation and staff employment are eliminated, it means tickets can be more affordable for fans.

“They’ll probably have online events since it’s easier and more convenient to reach fans both domestically and internationally,” junior Carol Chen said.

Chan has been to four concerts in person and said the atmosphere of a live show is something irreplaceable and the main point of the experience. While digital substitutes did help with the lack of live concerts this year, virtual shows can never replace that feeling of going onto the venue and sharing the experience with thousands of fellow fans.

The cheers and screams deafening fans’ ears just adds to the energy so much more than laying in bed and watching one while covered in blankets ever could

Perhaps, it will remain an option for music lovers who can’t go to these events because of personal reasons, or those who cannot afford plane tickets, hotels, and other traveling expenses when it comes to concert going.

It’s also an option that’s somewhat open for smaller bands, like Cal High’s teacher band Partial Credit. Will the students get a virtual live performance from the local talent?

“That’s a great question. Believe it or not, I thought of it,” Andrews said. “I’d like to. It depends on what this year looks like. If we’re not able to go back to school anytime soon, especially the end, I’d like to do a livestream at the end.”

This story was originally published on The Californian on September 30, 2020.