A computer keyboard lights up in the dark as the screen displays a concert at The Bottleneck

Opinion columnist John Harris discusses the evolving medium of online concert experiences during quarantine.

Opinion

The feeling of your first concert is unmistakable. As you pass security and enter the venue, you see hundreds of fans electrified at the reality that they will see their favorite artists perform for them. Whether you are a fan or not, the intense energy of the event draws you in and envelopes you. 

Fast-forward to the year 2020, and this is no longer the case. Concert halls and arenas are shuttered, leaving artists and fans alike stuck in an unfortunate situation. Instead of the traditional ritual, your first concert may be from the brightly lit screen of your smartphone. Musicians are using several inventive methods to bring the concert venue straight to your home. 

One of the premier examples of these live streams is the “One World: Together at Home” festival. Sponsored by the World Health Organization and poverty nonprofit Global Citizen, One World is a YouTube stream with many of the world's most prolific artists. You can tune in and catch musicians like Paul McCartney and Celine Dion performing in their own bedrooms. While they are no substitute for a live concert, live streams give a way for fans to see their favorite artists while both remain in the comfort of their own homes.

Social media streams, such as Instagram Live, tend to focus on entertainment in general rather than strictly performance. The most popular is the high energy Quarantine Radio hosted by rapper Tory Lanez. In addition to his live performance, Tory invites well known guests like Justin Bieber and Drake. He has also been known to bring in fans who wish to showcase their talents. This level of interaction makes social media useful in terms of artist to fan interaction.

Other inventive ways have been used to give a fan experience. Electronic duo 100 gecs hosted the Square Garden festival in the video game Minecraft. Charli XCX and Kero Kero Bonito joined them to create a virtual venue where players could share in an in-game mosh pit. Travis Scott had a similar idea in Fortnite, where he created an impressive visual experience in which every player’s avatar was involved.

This method of online concert is exceptionally captivating as fans not only interact with the artist, but also participate. 

A common factor with these online events is they often benefit charity. Artists don’t directly make money off their streams, but they encourage fans to donate to coronavirus relief funds. This is a generous act I hope becomes more typical in the future. Artists may opt to perform one leg of their tours on a virtual stage. This gives the opportunity for fans unable to reach a venue to attend a show. While it is not a money maker, artists can suggest a donation be made to whatever charitable organization they wish.

While there are many who enjoy and seek out live music, others may question the hype behind it. After all, you can listen to any song you want on the internet. Going to concerts is mainly about the experience. It’s the togetherness you feel when you and your friends are in close proximity to others who share the same passion. You also get to actually see the people behind the music you listen to on a daily basis. While stay-at-home orders may prevent this exact experience, we are clearly making the best of our situation.

John Harris is a sophomore from Shawnee studying political science. 

Edited by Connor Heaton