Grace Meyer | Image: billboard.com
The electricity of the crowd ignites as the headliners take the stage. “Are we ready?” they ask, and cheers and screams respond. The opening beats of the opening song hit eardrums, people begin to sway and move their bodies to the music. The heat of bodies all around us. The excited screams and calls of the audience excite us. Together, ourselves and hundreds of other bodies come to experience a concert that is unique to each stage. Every night is different but still brings unlikely friends together with the common thread of the person or people taking the stage. That is until the music died. Or has it?
Coronavirus, or COVID-19, is quickly sweeping the globe bringing everyday activities and life as we know it to a halt. With stay at home orders and the postponing of events such as Coachella and some concerts looking until Summer 2021, artists are encouraged to think creatively to help their fans and listeners through this hard time. One big push that most artists are making is going live on social media to give people an at-home concert right from their living room.
Social media’s important now is that it brings people together. Think of how Facebook helps you connect with that one person that you knew from high school years later, and suddenly you can catch up with them as if nothing happened. When celebrities and companies jumped onto social media, the public is now able to get to know them more personally. Learning more about your favorite artist is exciting because you feel like you know them more intimately, and it is a way for celebrities to gain and grow a wider audience through a more technologically advanced word of mouth.
Another way that it brings people together is in times of trouble, like a pandemic for example. During times when everyone has to remain safe and at home, social media is there to keep us connected with coworkers, family, and the outside world. This is where artists have to think out of the box and close to home to continue that connection with their fans. Thanks to social media and its live-streaming features, more artists are taking to these ways to reconnect with fans and even give more intimate “concerts” for their viewers.
Because of how these concerts might be the norm for a while, I looked into how such events are changing the way musicians are keeping the hope alive for both their band and their fans.
From the EDM stage to the internet, groups of DJs found their new “stage” on Twitch.tv. With the hopes to bring the intoxicating excitement from the festival grounds into bedrooms across the globe, SLANDER brought back the magic for a night on April 10. During the stream, viewer Amber was drawn into the concert by the distinctive way that the concert was played. Largely displayed on the screen is footage from Electronic Daisy Carnival (EDC) 2018 and appearing periodically in the bottom corners of the screen were the DJs themselves hyping up their viewers and creating a VIP experience for everyone involved. “It was such a fun experience,” she recalls, “at some points during the concert, [the DJs] would talk about how they made the mix and show us demos. It felt personal and intimate.” That intimate feeling intertwining with the party-feel of a DJ set was what made this a moment Amber happy looks back on. “It’s festival season and a show like this was kind of necessary.” For those 90 minutes, the DJs and their many viewers – including Amber – found a spark of joy in their overly mundane days in quarantine, making a concert like this was a great way to “keep hope alive for the future of music.”
Another Twitch concert was broadcasted on April 18 titled WAVELENGTHS+. During the 8-hour broadcast, several different DJs took to their rooms of choice to play for the 60 viewers. Each DJ’s set was unique to itself while keeping the overall feeling of a house show. Deciding to view the live stream in support of a DJ familiar to him, Steven tuned in and was presently surprised by the show overall. “Although not an avid EDM listener, I appreciated the visuals and the experience of hosting it on Twitch.” Steven ended up staying for the entire 8-hours and was “impressed by the visuals” that DJs utilized. From camera effects and lens choices to decorating their tables with lights and objects, the 10 DJs were able to stand out from one another and give each set a fresh feel each time a new set would start. In the end, Steven looked at his time at the “festival” to be something unique in its case, “It’s similar to a physical concert, but I think the experience is ultimately different. A live show gives you no time to stop dancing and singing, as with this I had the opportunity to literally pause and come back if I am so pleased. People in chat were still drinking, inspiring others to dance, etc. This was what I more or less meant by the same energy and enthusiasm. It was enjoyable.”
Looking at artists starting to create and broadcast such concerts, we really must turn to the topic of monetization and how such artists are creating revenue in such times of struggle. In both Amber and Steven’s case, the groups that performed were not charging money, rather than advocating for viewers to donate to COVID relief funds if they were able to. Keeping this and the fact that “artists around the globe are feeling a loss in income (source)” in mind, how are these musicians making money? The answer depends on the artist. Most artists are continuing to sell their merchandise and promote their website in times like these. Another good point is that when you use a medium like Twitch to broadcast your shows, you gain monetization for each viewer and any possible donation that you are given. Also, subscription services are available for a monthly purchase, as well as the ability to run ads as a midroll. The possibilities for monetization are more or less endless, you just need a bit of creativity to make it possible.
With such creativity being seen amidst so much uncertainty, we have social media and companies like Twitch, Twitter, and Facebook to thank. With the ability for artists to go live and perform even when everyone is to remain in their houses, the intimate connection that we are given to our favorite artists and musicians is something that is next level when it comes to how fast technology is advancing. If it weren’t for social media, quarantine might have been a little more distant, but thanks to services like Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, and the like, time away from others is less a little livelier. Soon, we will all return to the concert venues, with rising body heat and the piercing sound of cheers and screams as those who we saw once on our computer screen return to the stage.