A Transition to a Contactless World: The Case for Online Concerts and Festivals

July 1, 2021 11:51 am || By

            The year 2021 marks more than a year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most apparent transformations from the pandemic is the restriction to large gatherings and travel, as social distancing is vital to limit the spread of the virus. This means that large-scale events, including festivals and concerts, are not recommended to be held for the unforeseeable future. However, event organizers are constantly finding ways to conduct their events with the pandemic restrictions, even without in-person crowds. This can be seen from the rise of online festivals and concerts held during the pandemic, as a solution to adapt to the contactless world.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the gradual elimination of social restrictions have signaled a return to pre-pandemic conditions, with the possibility of holding large-scale events again if it is deemed safe to do so. This raises the question of whether online concerts and festivals will still be relevant even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsided. This article would like to argue that they will still be a viable option for organizers to conduct their events in the future. This will be explained through two arguments: online concerts and festivals still rake revenues despite having no offline audience and the technological advancements that have been developed to support online concerts and festivals.

            COVID-19 restrictions have drastically changed the landscape for offline festivals and concerts. A study by Pollstar showed that worldwide concert ticket sales in 2020 plunged 77% from the previous year, with the overall ticket sales of 13.4 million in comparison to 2019’s 57.7 million. The revenue also plummeted 78% in the Top 100 tours, which obtained $1.2 billion in 2020. The figure is pale compared to the $5.5 billion revenue gained in the top 100 tours of 2019.[1] The study also mentions that live shows that were conducted before March 15 generated 37 million tickets sold and a total worldwide gross of $2.5 billion. After the worldwide COVID-19 restrictions, the plunge was very apparent as the worldwide gross decreased to $37 million, with 988,876 tickets sold.[2] With this in mind, event organizers opted to keep the show going by moving the performances online or through other forms such as drive-in concerts.

The first reason for the viability of online festivals is that it has been proven to be popular and profitable despite the online format. The revenue above decrease in offline concerts prompted many artists and organizers to switch to the online format, a system that was still relatively underdeveloped when the pandemic strikes.[3] Despite this, the sudden shift from offline events to online events proved to be successful despite the short adjustment period for artists and organizers. Music industry analysts MIDiA found that the amount of live-streamed concert listings on Bandsintown (concert discovery site) increased from 1.9% to 40.7%. There were estimated to be 60,905 live streams from more than 20,000 artists in Bandsintown, with the majority (77%) coming from “buzzing acts” of artists with less than 10,000 followers. This showed that the online format is popular, especially amongst lesser-known artists hoping to add their exposure from these live streams.[4] Well-known artists, such as Dua Lipa, also capitalized on this format and brought huge (online) crowds as well, drawing 5 million viewers for her Studio 2054 concert in 2020.[5]

Even though the online format, these events are also profitable. The prime example can be seen in the K-pop industry, which arguably set a precedent for innovative and profitable online concerts during the pandemic. The biggest K-pop act at the moment, BTS, has created some of the biggest online concerts in the past year. The first paid online concert BTS held in June 2020, “Bang Bang Con: The Live”, attracted a peak of 756,000 concurrent viewers from 107 countries and amassed around $20 million in revenue.[6] Only a year later, BTS’ newest concert, “2021 Muster Sowoozoo”, eclipsed that number with 1.33 million viewers from 195 regions and revenue around KRW 80 billion (approximately $71.6 million).[7][8] This number is not only limited to BTS’ concerts but also other online K-pop concerts such as Beyond LIVE concerts and Blackpink’s “The Show”, which raked in hundreds of thousands of viewers and millions of revenue. The number shows the profitability of online concerts and how it can be sustainable in the future as well..

A performance from BTS’ “2021 Muster Sowoozoo”

Technological advancements in online entertainment events have become another reason why online festivals will still be a sensible option in the near future. The pandemic has pushed creative workers to conduct their events out of their boundaries. This includes the major technological advancements that entertainment and tech companies have created to keep the show going. As mentioned before, the entertainment industry was forced to adapt to the contactless world in a short period of time. However, this also pushed the innovation of new online formats and technologies to hold these events. For example, in order to complement the K-pop online concerts that were previously mentioned, K-pop companies, along with streaming companies, created innovations (digital light sticks, real-time Q&A segments, real-time comments) that enable viewers to enjoy the whole concert experience in the comfort of their own homes.[9]

One of the largest music festivals in the world, Glastonbury Festival, canceled their offline events and opted to hold a paid online festival named “Glastonbury: Live at Worthy Farm”, which showcased pre-recorded performances from Coldplay, The Smile and other notable artists. Despite technical mishap due to inaccessible link to the stream,[10] the festival was hailed by many critics of its production, settings and line-up.[11] The pre-recorded online format allows for more innovation and planning in the festival production and settings, as the artists are not restricted by having a live audience.

The Smile performing in “Live at Worthy Farm”

The creation of online festivals and concerts is one way for creative workers, whose line of work is significantly impacted by the pandemic, to alleviate social restrictions. This can be done through a variety of online formats that cater to each artists’ needs. As a result, this article argues that this format is here to stay despite the gradual elimination of those restrictions. Thus, as this article suggests, the marketability and technological advancements of online festivals and concerts have made it a viable option for artists and event organizers to conduct their events in the future.

Author: Jasmine Noor Andretha Putri
Editor: Sri Handayani Nasution


References

Allen, B., 2020. 2020 Business Analysis: What Might Have Been Vs. What Was. [online] Pollstar. Available at: <https://www.pollstar.com/article/2020-business-analysis-what-might-have-been-vs-what-was-146994> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

 Eliezer, C., 2021. New research suggests livestreamed concerts are here to stay. [online] The Music Network. Available at: <https://themusicnetwork.com/livestreaming-concerts-revenue-tickets-midia/> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

 Millman, E., 2020a. Dua Lipa’s Very Expensive Concert Is the Future of Livestreaming. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: <https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/dua-lipa-livestream-cost-viewership-1096950/> [Accessed 15 June 2021].

 Millman, E., 2020b. BTS Just Proved That Paid Livestreaming Is Here to Stay. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: <https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/bts-paid-livestream-bang-bang-con-1015696/> [Accessed 15 June 2021].

 Ting, J., 2020. BTS Had Close to a Million Viewers for ‘Map of the Soul ON: E’. [online] PAPER. Available at: <https://www.papermag.com/bts-map-of-the-soul-one-concert-2648159831.html?rebelltitem=3#rebelltitem3> [Accessed 15 June 2021].

 Nam, S., 2021. BTS Attracts Over 1.3 Million Paid Viewers With Online Fan Meeting “2021 Muster Sowoozoo”. [online] Soompi. Available at: <https://www.soompi.com/article/1474703wpp/bts-attracts-over-1-3-million-paid-viewers-with-online-fan-meeting-2021-muster-sowoozoo> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

 The Times of India. 2021. BTS earned over 80 billion in revenue from two-day MUSTER Sowoozoo. [online] Available at: <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/k-pop/music/news/bts-earned-over-80-billion-in-revenue-from-two-day-muster-sowoozoo/articleshow/83544485.cms> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

 Soompi. 2020. SM Entertainment And Naver Collaboratively Launch New Digital Concert Platform + SuperM To Perform Inaugural Concert. [online] Available at: <https://www.soompi.com/article/1394136wpp/sm-entertainment-and-naver-collaboratively-launch-new-digital-concert-platform-superm-to-perform-inaugural-concert> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

 McSweeney, E., 2021. Glastonbury fans locked out of Livestream of UK’s biggest music festival. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/glastonbury-live-stream-gbr-intln-scli/index.html> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

 Petridis, A., 2021. Live at Worthy Farm review – beautiful music marred by technical meltdown. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/may/23/live-at-worthy-farm-review-glastonburys-dodgy-pyramid-scheme-has-stunning-music> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

BTS picture credit: Bighit Music

The Smile picture credit: Franchesca Judine Basbas/Bandwagon.Asia


[1] Allen, B., 2020. 2020 Business Analysis: What Might Have Been Vs. What Was. [online] Pollstar. Available at: <https://www.pollstar.com/article/2020-business-analysis-what-might-have-been-vs-what-was-146994> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

[2] Ibid.

[3] Eliezer, C., 2021. New research suggests live-streamed concerts are here to stay. [online] The Music Network. Available at: <https://themusicnetwork.com/livestreaming-concerts-revenue-tickets-midia/> [Accessed 14 June 2021].

[4] Ibid.

[5] Millman, E., 2020a. Dua Lipa’s Very Expensive Concert Is the Future of Livestreaming. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: <https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/dua-lipa-livestream-cost-viewership-1096950/> [Accessed 15 June 2021].

[6] Millman, E., 2020b. BTS Just Proved That Paid Livestreaming Is Here to Stay. [online] Rolling Stone. Available at: <https://www.rollingstone.com/pro/news/bts-paid-livestream-bang-bang-con-1015696/> [Accessed 15 June 2021].

[7] Nam, S., 2021. BTS Attracts Over 1.3 Million Paid Viewers With Online Fan Meeting “2021 Muster Sowoozoo”. [online] Soompi. Available at: <https://www.soompi.com/article/1474703wpp/bts-attracts-over-1-3-million-paid-viewers-with-online-fan-meeting-2021-muster-sowoozoo> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

[8] The Times of India. 2021. BTS earned over 80 billion in revenue from two-day MUSTER Sowoozoo. [online] Available at: <https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/k-pop/music/news/bts-earned-over-80-billion-in-revenue-from-two-day-muster-sowoozoo/articleshow/83544485.cms> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

[9] Soompi. 2020. SM Entertainment And Naver Collaboratively Launch New Digital Concert Platform + SuperM To Perform Inaugural Concert. [online] Available at: <https://www.soompi.com/article/1394136wpp/sm-entertainment-and-naver-collaboratively-launch-new-digital-concert-platform-superm-to-perform-inaugural-concert> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

[10] McSweeney, E., 2021. Glastonbury fans locked out of Livestream of UK’s biggest music festival. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://edition.cnn.com/style/article/glastonbury-live-stream-gbr-intln-scli/index.html> [Accessed 16 June 2021].

[11] Petridis, A., 2021. Live at Worthy Farm review – beautiful music marred by technical meltdown. [online] The Guardian. Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/music/2021/may/23/live-at-worthy-farm-review-glastonburys-dodgy-pyramid-scheme-has-stunning-music> [Accessed 16 June 2021].