Writer: Jake Donohoe
Editor: Dori Larbig
In the past month, the world has dramatically changed. Economies have ground to a halt as over one third of the world’s population is under some form of shelter in place order. To make matters worse, COVID-19 has seemingly ripped all of the fun out of life, shutting down all large gatherings and events. One highly noticeable victim of this are concerts. Nevertheless, people have not lost their thirst for music and entertainment, so performers are having to get creative.
Artists and DJ’s around the country and the world have turned to the internet to continue performing. These “virtual concerts” typically feature a live performer, with viewers being able to tune in from anywhere to watch and participate. Acts range from independent amateurs in their garages to whole festival lineups. The Ultra Musical Festival, held annually in Miami, took new life as the Ultra Virtual Audio Festival and is just one of the first to make the unfortunately necessary change.
However, this is not the first time the idea of online performances has been tried. In 2012 a company called Mixify attempted to launch an online concert service.
“The idea is that you’re in a virtual venue,” explained David Moricca, CEO, and Founder of Mixify. “The artist can plug in their mixing board and live stream or do pre-recorded mixes as well.”
Mixify never really took off. The platform had a promising start but quickly fell into obscurity. But now a perfect storm has appeared to allow the idea to take off. To start, streaming has matured greatly since 2012. Audiences are much more accustomed to the idea of tuning in on their phone or computer to watch someone. Most of the performers are using the streaming service “Twitch” to bring their shows to fans, and the established infrastructure of Twitch has allowed these virtual concerts to operate smoothly, without having to blaze too much new terrority. COVID-19 and the disruption to life it has brought with it has also made people more desperate for entertainment and levity, making them more likely to take a chance on a steamed performance.
The trend is slowly and surely spreading. Websites like Iheartraves, Billboard, and EDMManiac all have compiled lists of future streams. It has also started to penetrate at the grassroots level. I talked to Joakim Moe, a San Marcos alumni and amateur DJ about his thoughts on online concerts.
“I think they are pretty sweet,” said Moe. “Recently, I’ve just been performing in the mountains for like four or five people. It’s been super rad but I wish I could connect with more homies, so I’ve been considering streaming.” Moe also reminds us to “stay safe and groovy.”
The success of online concerts also shows the changing entertainment landscape. Twitch became famous thanks to video game streamers, but this recent usage by music acts shows the versatility and future promise of the platform. Streams do not have to be limited to simply video games but can be utilized by all forms of media and entertainment, as well as completely new ones. It’s a glimpse into the future of entertainment and connectivity.
COVID-19 has dramatically altered the lives of people all over the world. It’s also pushing us into the future. By moving to online stages, EDM performers are demonstrating the viability of the idea and proving the market exists for online parties. Only time will tell the lasting impacts of this, but I am certain we are only seeing the start of virtual concerts.