The COVID-19 outbreak has had a huge impact on the live music scene. With several countries banning large crowds, and new advice coming in daily telling us to avoid public places, artists are cancelling their shows left right and centre. Of course, a global pandemic is an extreme circumstance, but it has undoubtedly heightened our awareness of how disease can spread through large social gatherings. Thus, it begs the question, will this change the future of gigs?
Many artists have chosen to tackle social distancing measures by allowing fans to experience live music over Instagram Live. First we had Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who took song requests from the comments of his livestream. Then, we had John Legend, whose wife Chrissy Teigan adorned his piano in a bathrobe with a glass of wine. Pink posted a cover of ‘Make You Feel My Love’, Hozier covered Britney Spears, Gary Lightbody sang the top ten most-requested Snow Patrol songs, Easy Life invited fans for a karaoke session – and that is just a few examples from the first week of isolation alone.
The level of intimacy involved in inviting fans into their homes brings everyone that bit closer together, and allows artists to reach a much wider audience than they would otherwise. Lightbody commented that his stream had reached over 30,000 people, thus making it Snow Patrol’s biggest show in months. By taking away travel constraints, allowing fans to have control over things like volume, letting them take breaks as they please and giving them the ability to rewatch at a later date, the format arguably makes concerts accessible to many more fans than an ordinary concert would. Artists have been doing the occasional livestream show for a long time, but this outbreak does beg the question whether they will become a more regular thing, or even whether they will evolve into a money-making avenue when artists aren’t touring.
However, livestreams are not the only way technology is changing how close we can get to artists. The rising trend of holograms is another way in which artists can perform for fans without having to be in their physical presence. Back in 2012, a ‘hologram’ of Tupac performed with Snoop Dogg and Dr Dre at Coachella festival. It caused great controversy, as although it was a technology that had been used before by artists such as The Black Eyed Peas and Gorillaz, the fact that Tupac had died fifteen years previously added a new dimension. He did not give any kind of consent to perform at the festival – would he have wanted to? Would he have wanted to be brought back as a hologram? It is a market that has since increased, as Whitney Houston is the latest artist to ‘go on tour’, despite having passed away in 2012. The hologram tours allow fans to see artists ‘live’ in a way that would not have otherwise been possible, and yet it is something we haven’t quite gotten comfortable with yet.
There’s no doubt that the way we consume music has changed considerably over the years – perhaps it was only a matter of time until our live music scene transformed too. Will these be permanent changes? We will have to wait and see.