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Immersive digital shows in a covid-19 era.

*note: I am not a gamer.

Despite countless Instagram Live videos, there is a huge problem within the music industry. Apart from a rolling stream of comments, the performance is one way, musicians have limited resources at their disposal but most of all, there is little to no income being generated for the artist.

This raises the question, what is required for audiences to pay for a replicate concert experience? Two way- interaction, uniqueness, quality of performance, a sense of community, or more? It’s fair to say, with economic conditions uncertain for the future, audiences are not paying for content unless it offers something different.

Recently, there has been a series of live performances embedded within computer games, which have gone some way to replicate some of these elements:

Marshmello – Fortnite (Feb 2020)

Back in February 2020, Marshmello performed within the Fortnite game, at the same time as Maroon 5’s Superbowl half time show. At a time before lockdown, this was seen as a novel and innovative way to engage with a huge audience. 11 million have watched back the performance, featuring Marshmello on a virtual stage with full festival style architecture. Little did we know that this platform would be seriously considered in the coming months.

Travis Scott – Fortnight (April 2020)

Streamed on Thursday the 23rd April, players moved around a pyrotechnic themed arena under a skyscraper sized avatar of Travis Scott. The event was full of awe, with the pre-recorded performance matched with a changing environment synonymous with tempo. The event was watched by more than 12 million, aided by Travis’ popularity, the event allowed for multiple fans, sometimes groups of friends, to engage together in this event. However, the event was limited in its engagement, essentially watching a pre-recorded hologram.

100 Gecs – Minecraft (April 2020)

On Friday the 24th April, 100 gecs hosted ‘Square Garden’ a festival within Minecraft featuring performances such as Charli XCX and Kero Kero Bonito. The band created a whole festival world matching their unique style, featuring a virtual bar, stage and separate hang out rooms. The experience was strongly engaging, fans explored the world with hidden content and 100 gecs references. The performances encouraged crowd participation, asking users to jump in sync and replicating mosh pits; a factor not felt in other formats.

What differs further with this approach, is that the musicians were live within the game, with some audience members getting a ‘screenshot’ with their idols. Furthermore, 100 gecs have created merchandise linked to the event, creating further funding for Feeding America. Although, the concept of offering merchandise is a great idea, they can be produced to exact quantities on pre-order and allow for a reminder of this unique time.

Player with 100 Gec’s Dylan Brady

Whilst all of these formats offer different approaches, the event by 100 gecs can be seen to replicate more the experience of a concert and paves the way for the future of the new normal.

Generating Income

The format being trialed does go some way to establishing a stream of income for bands. Immersive spaces created, similar to festivals, offer a unique experience that I can see audiences paying to be a part of. With bands releasing exclusive music via these channels, this could warrant their worth even further.

The problem would still be access, I for one, am not a gamer, and a platform that can accessed by the general public to offer a similar experience does not exist.

What might the future look like?

As the pandemic develops and rules on social isolation begin to ease, the biggest opportunity is in new live performance content. There are talks around having a limited circle of close contacts within social distancing. If bands can get to a venue or performance space, and record a live-streamed concert, with full acoustics. Potentially playing exclusive set-lists or albums in their entirety. I feel fans would truly pay for this, to a similar degree of a concert ticket, and this may be the answer before venues open again.

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