Are online music festivals ‘the new normal’?

Doctors and specialists from all over the world have expressed their opinions about the post-COVID world, saying that things will definitely not go back to the way they were before – that we’ll have to embrace a “new normal” if and when the pandemic finally passes. This will affect many aspects of our lives, with the no-contact food delivery and remote work becoming the new norm.

But what about entertainment – especially large-scale live events? Watching a recording of a concert will never match the experience of attending it in person. Not to mention music festivals. Or will it?

Organizers are experimenting with new formats as we speak, exploring a new, digital frontier for their events.

Astronomical

A concert inside a video game? While this certainly sounds like a novelty, it’s not an entirely new concept – artist Suzanne Vega had a famous live event inside Second Life as early as 2006, and Marshmello also had a virtual concert inside Fortnite last February.

Travis Scott’s recent event, in turn, took a different approach. Instead of following the traditional “artist on the stage, surrounded by the audience” recipe, it turned the entire environment into a stage – and it didn’t only attract a huge number of viewers but also laid out a blueprint for future virtual releases. 

Tomorrowland Around the World

OK, the above example has shown that there is potential in free events held in digital environments… but how about paid ones? Well, those can also be a success, as shown by the example of Tomorrowland Around The World

Held on the virtual island of Pāpiliōnem, the event was held over the weekend of July 25-26, the digital-only edition of Tomorrowland attracted over 1 million people, many of whom have experienced the event for the first time ever. The DJs were beamed into this virtual environment from Belgium, Los Angeles, Sao Paolo, and Sydney, mixing in front of green screens.

Tickets for the event cost 12.5 EUR for one day or 20 EUR for both. Those interested in experiencing it can relive it – access the recordings of all full sets – for 12.5 EUR until August 12.

Alone Together

If you think old dogs can’t learn new tricks, you’d better think again. Electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre returned to the stage last month, in the middle of a global pandemic, with a brand new concert experience – in virtual reality.

The artist performed live on a virtual stage through his VR avatar, and the Alone Together event was broadcast live across several platforms (including YouTube) in 2D and 3D. The artist well-known for his grandiose concerts sees VR and AR as “new vectors that can help create a new model of artistic expression”. “Having performed in extraordinary venues, virtual reality will now allow me to play in unimaginable spaces while remaining on a physical stage”, he said, adding that “virtual or augmented realities can be to the performing arts what the advent of cinema was to the theatre, an additional mode of expression made possible by new technologies at a given time”.

Are online and virtual events the new norm? Well, they are – at least for the time being. While they are no match for an actual live event, they are the next best thing in the actual context. And they do offer a brand new perspective on entertainment, not to mention a reach that goes way beyond what live events could ever achieve.