Since all hell broke loose in early March, live music in the traditional sense has all but vanished. Us concert fanatics can hold on to the memories of jumping around in a small, general admission venue mosh pit covered in beer, sweat, and occasionally the venue’s mysterious floor sludge; but, we all know it’ll be quite some time until that we experience that again. The folks in the music industry realized that very quickly in March as they struggled to assess the best way to keep the live music industry up and running as much as possible. Thus, the era of live streams began.
While new technology and visual capabilities meant that we were certainly heading in the direction of virtual concerts sometime soon, the music industry was truly thrust into the utilization of live streams out of necessity for income. According to an April Pollstar estimation, there would be a 75% decrease in worldwide ticket revenue if concerts don’t return by the end of 2020, which would equate to about $8.9 billion in losses. With a dire need to find a way for artists and their teams to generate income from artists’ performances, or at a bare minimum for artists to remain relevant, live streams have become the new norm.
From sets in an artist’s kitchen to massive digital productions that took months of preparation, live streams have varied in their production. Certainly some of the simpler live streams were beautifully executed and drew in a cohort of fans; for example, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab For Cutie had many solo Facebook streams that featured him in his house with just his guitar, piano, and a mix of popular tracks and deep cuts. Folks like Gibbard were incredibly smart in how quickly they came out with their first live stream, some as early as mid-March.
But while those simpler streams were exciting at first when stay-at-home orders left music-fans craving for any ways to experience music and connection, they quickly became normalized. Even at-home live streams featuring an artist’s most impressive technical musical performance to date could not produce the same excitement as an in-person show. For fans, there was no “getting ready for the show” ritual, or drive to their favorite venue, or waiting in an annoying yet exhilarating line to get to the best spot in front of stage. So as March and April came and went with little sign of a return of live music, how were artists and their teams supposed to ensure that their live streams, even if incapable of producing the same excitement as an in-person show, could at least stand apart from the rest of the live streams as something worth seeing?
The 3 V’s: Visuals and Virtual Venues
When most live streams are being played out of crappy laptop speakers, you’ve got to blow fans away with the visual show itself. To do so, many artists went above and beyond to play shows in unique, wacky, and sometimes downright ridiculous “venues”. Here are some of the most unique visual performances and virtual venues artists have used to bring their music to their fans!
Philadelphia band Courier Club was ready to go on tour to promote their debut EP before all concert dates were abruptly cancelled. The band wasted no time putting together a festival lineup to perform on May 16th on a Minecraft server, cleverly titling it Block by Blockwest. The lineup included Pussy Riot, Sir Sly, Grandson, who is featured playing his set above, and many more big name alternative artists.
100 Gecs played a similar show in Minecraft called Square Garden on April 24th. The group took Minecraft by storm when they brought in English pop star Charli XCX to perform with them. The concert took place inside a tree in Minecraft, pictured above, which is special given 100 Gec’s album art picturing the iconic “Tree of Clues”. The absolute insanity that is 100 Gecs fit perfectly into the pixelated and vibrant setting of the Minecraft show.
At a stadium near the Snow Forts in Club Penguin Rewritten, Soccer Mommy took the stage to perform a 45-minute set from newest album, Color Theory, on April 16th. Despite there being several technical difficulties from the number of fans completely destroying the various Club Penguin servers, the ingenious idea to perform on a platform so integral to the childhoods of a great majority of her young fan base more than made up for them.
Possibly the most talked about live stream of the quarantine months, Travis Scott blew people away with his performance in the video game realm of Fortnite. The entire island became Travis Scott’s virtual stage, as seen in the photo above. With each new track, the visuals in Fortnite changed as Travis Scott rose above the stage. Travis Scott brilliantly played five shows on the Fortnite server between April 23rd and April 25th. His performances will go down in live stream history as some of the most creative out there.
John Legend set himself apart when he performed a virtual concert on June 25th for his new album, Bigger Love, in collaboration with Wave VR, a virtual reality company focused on providing immersive and artistically unique shows in which the artist becomes an avatar on stage. John Legend’s avatar is shown belting a song in the image above. Some other artists who have utilized Wave technology to create a new venue and virtual persona include Lindsey Stirling, The Weeknd, and Galantis. Wave VR may just be the new wave of virtual concerts.