The future of concerts during a pandemic

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic halted the ability for concerts to be held in most parts of the world. However, as the threat of the pandemic lessens in some locations, artists are finding new ways to conduct live performances in a safe way.

When the number of COVID cases rapidly rose around the world, many artists, such as Harry Styles, Louis Tomlinson, and Niall Horan, were forced to postpone their world tours. However, many artists are attempting new formats of concerts in order to resume live shows much sooner.

Drive-in concerts

Drive-in movies have been around for years, and they have recently gained more attraction among the younger generation. However, drive-in concerts may become extremely popular within the next few months due to their convenience during the pandemic.

In May, country legend Keith Urban hosted a secret drive-in concert outside of Nashville, Tenn. for healthcare workers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The capacity of the concert was capped at 120 cars and 200 people. Urban used this concert as a way to thank healthcare workers for the wonderful job they have done in controlling the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

Keith Urban hosted a secret drive-in concert outside of Nashville, Tenn. in order to thank Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s healthcare workers. [Source: RollingStone.com]

More cars! The drive-in holds more, but because of social distancing and guidelines we had to limit the amount of cars. But at the end of the day, the simple formula for me was like, how do we play to people in cars was number one and drive-ins, they’re already built for cars to be assembled, orderly and all facing the right direction, and lo and behold, there’s a massive video wall pre-built. All you can do is pop a stage in front of it and you’ve got a show. And so it was like such a no brainer, particularly with some of these drive-ins where you can tap into the FM system as well and just be fed straight into their car stereos.

Keith Urban on what he would differently if more drive-in concerts could be held [Source: Billboard.com]

While this utilization of a drive-in concert was secret and provided no monetary profit, Urban hopes that more concerts can be hosted in this format. Drive-in concerts could easily be a possible way for artists to host concerts until it is safe again for fans to congregate without social distancing.

Virtual & livestream concerts

Livestream concerts seem to be the easiest method for artists to share their music with fans while still adhering to COVID-19 precautions and guidelines. Social distancing and masks are not required, since fans can watch this style of concerts from almost anywhere.

The popularity of these concerts quickly grew after the 2020 ESPYs and the 2020 BET Awards became the first award shows to go virtual. Since then, most award shows have been virtual, with some venturing into live performances and hosts.

On November 7, former One Direction member Niall Horan hosted a live performance from the famous Royal Albert Hall in London, England. The Irishman sold over 125,000 tickets from more than 150 countries.

Niall Horan played a livestream concert from the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. [Source: The Irish Times]

The tickets for the livestream concert cost $20, with a portion of the proceeds going to Horan’s touring crew and the rest going to the We Need Crew fund. We Need Crew is an organization that was created with the goal to raise money for the UK’s live touring crew. You can learn more about their goals here.

Oh it’s absolutely mad. When I put the idea together I didn’t think that we were going to get that many people, but it turns out that it’s 125,000 tickets but they reckon its between two and three people per ticket, which is a joke, right? There’ll be 400,000 people there before you know it. It was just amazing. It was good to know that obviously the bigger the number the more money it means we’ve raised, and we can pay our crew and pay the We Need Crew fund. There was a glint in everyone’s eye the other night and it was it was nice to see.

Niall Horan on how it felt to help out a cause important to him [Source: Music Week]

Artists such as Billie Eilish, All Time Low, and Machine Gun Kelley have also hosted live stream concerts, and festivals such as Rolling Loud and the 2020 iHeartCountry festival were also hosted as a livestreams. While most of these concerts are free, some come at a small price in order to benefit certain charities.

Here is an up to date list of upcoming virtual and livestream concerts.

“Bubble” concerts

Another new form of COVID safe live performances seem to be the most outrageous. Some artists are taking to performing in literal plastic bubbles.

The Flaming Lips, a rock band native to Oklahoma City, recently played a live show in their hometown in which the band and its fans were placed in individual plastic bubbles. According to CNN, the idea for the concert was born out of a sketch doodled by the band’s frontman, Wayne Coyne, at the beginning of the pandemic.

The Flaming Lips recently performed a live show with the band and fans encapsulated in plastic bubbles. [Source: Variety.com]

At the time, the idea was more of a social commentary on the state of the virus, and Coyne never thought that nearly eight months later his sketch would become a reality. This concert, and part video shoot, was merely a test-drive for this new format, but the live show was performed without any problems among the band or with fans.

I’m willing to do everything I can, you know, to say, I think we could do this, and this would be absolutely safe. We, as The Flaming Lips, we like the idea that we are doing something different…. I think it could be cool. It could be fun. And we could all have a, you know, a crazy unique experience.

The Flaming Lips frontman, Wayne Coyne, on the idea of “bubble” concerts

Overall, artists are providing many new and creative solutions to the lack of concerts that the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has provided. Hopefully these abstract concert formats will allow fans to be attending live shows from their favorite artists in no time.

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