How Virtual Concerts Have Made A Comeback During COVID
The impact of COVID has pushed artists like Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny, and K-Pop group, BTS, to utilize new creative formats to connect and engage with fans.
March 11th, 2021, officially marked one year since COVID-19 was declared a world-wide pandemic. It’s been a full year of uncertainty, and just as the entertainment industry has begun to think it’s getting back on its feet, the rug slips from out under—take the Golden Globe Awards pandemic viewership for example. There’s been plenty of hardships within the past year, however, some sectors within the entertainment industry have been able to advance and adapt, making the necessary changes to stay afloat and provide for fans and consumers.
When the pandemic hit in early spring of 2020, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for the music industry. At the peak of concert season, dozens of tours were gearing up to start (some had even started), but everything soon came to a halt. According to Rolling Stone, the cancellation of the 2020 concert season resulted in a loss of “$9.7 billion in ticket sales alone…with another $30 billion lost in sponsorships, concessions, merchandise, and other ancillary factors.” To save the live music industry (and themselves) from plummeting further, artists began brainstorming creative ways to still perform and connect with their fans. Virtual concerts became the new “live music” outlet.
The Korean pop group, BTS, was one of the first to test the virtual concert approach after the pandemic hit. The boy band dug deep into the creative realm to produce an engaging and immersive show for its fans. The massive success of the 100-minute long YouTube livestream provided a promising outlook into the future of virtual concerts—that is, if they’re thoughtfully produced and marketed well. The K-Pop group’s global fan base broke the virtual attendance record on the livestream. Big Hit Metrics reported that the show reached a peak of 756,000 concurrent viewers in 107 countries and territories, the equivalent of 15 shows at a 50,000 seat arena.
Live Nation, one of the leading live entertainment companies saw a major decline in its revenue soon after the pandemic hit. According to Music Business WorldWide, the company saw a 95% decrease in revenue from 2019 to 2020. While in-person shows were cancelled, some Live Nation shows still went on—in creative, socially-distanced ways. Following the success of BTS’ virtual concert, the company decided to also tap into the virtual market. Live Nation was one of the first live entertainment companies in the US to partner with artists to produce virtual concerts. The company’s first two virtual shows rolled out in August of 2020 with Lil Uzi Vert headlining the first show, followed by Megan Thee Stallion headlining the second.
The beloved Latin trap artist, Bad Bunny, also jumped on the virtual trend in the fall of 2020. Rather than performing in a traditional setting for his virtual show, he took to the streets of New York City. The show (which was live streamed on his youtube channel), was broadcasted from the top of a flatbed truck—matching the theme of his Ultimo Tour Del Mundo album cover. The bus drove through various boroughs as Bad Bunny performed a two hour show for viewers at home, in their cars and on the sidewalks.
Justin Bieber is another artist that has kept himself busy during the pandemic with not just one, but two, virtual concerts. His first concert had been a New Years special, partnered with T-mobile. The show was quite literally a full length concert, and fans who didn’t have the T-Mobile carrier had to pay $20 USD to receive the livestream link. His second virtual show was an at-home concert—a small, but intimate experience. On Valentine’s Day, Bieber partnered with the popular video app TikTok for the app’s first ever full-length livestream concert. He took fans into the Drew House, the San Fernando valley home where all of his Drew House merchandise content is created, and performed his 2014 R&B album Journals for the first time. Millions of users tuned into Bieber’s TikTok concert, breaking the record for the most-watched single-artist livestream on the app.
Virtual concerts have not only helped the live music industry stay afloat, but they’ve also helped artists and fans connect in a way that hasn’t been done before. For many fans, these live stream shows have been the closest they’ve ever been to experiencing a live concert from their favorite artists. While virtual concerts aren’t a brand new phenomenon, they’ve re-entered the music industry in creative and re-imaged forms. With digital platforms providing various hosting outlets for virtual concerts, artists have been able to explore new markets to create the most engaging and interactive experiences for their fans.
While industry experts are still unsure of when in-person concerts will resume, it’s safe to say that there are strong factors pointing to virtual concerts becoming a staple within the music industry, even in the post COVID world.