Virtual Performances Force Artists to Get Creative for the Future

Dom Maiorca

When you think of the most creative live performances in music history, there’s no shortage of hits. 


From David Bowie’s iconic Ziggy Stardust tour to Gorillaz pioneering the virtual performance with cartoon holograms at the 2006 Grammys, live shows have long been an opportunity for artists to showcase another level of creativity and fan engagement.  Without live concerts and festivals, the Coronavirus Pandemic has forced artists to find new ways to reach their fans.  While Zoom concerts and live streams have been the popular choice for many artists, some are digging even deeper into their creative bag.  But what does that mean for the future of performing?


Recently, rapper Aminé performed songs from his latest album Limbo while riding in a hot air balloon for Jimmy Kimmel Live on September 24th.  During the VMA’s in August, The Weeknd opted to sing his hit “Blinding Lights” from atop Edge at Hudson Yards – the highest Skydeck in the Western Hemisphere.  Both performances allowed social distancing protocols to be well enforced.

Back in April, Travis Scott debuted his popular Kid Cudi collab, “THE SCOTTS,” during a virtual concert held inside the popular video game, Fortnite.  Scott appeared as a giant, characterized version of himself, traversing the game map like it was his own Coachella stage.  The event drew roughly 12.3 million viewers, similar to the average Monday Night Football game.  Scott isn’t the only artist to hop into Fortnite for a concert; Marshmello, Dominic Fike, and Anderson .Paak have also held events in the game. 


But will we see this level of performance innovation and creativity continue in a post-Pandemic world?  With award shows, late night television, and live streams being the only opportunities for artists to perform, they’ve got to make the most of that opportunity.  A nationwide tour has been replaced with a single livestream event or a couple songs on television.  


A Business Insider poll recently found that the average artist makes roughly 95% of their income from touring, meaning many artists have taken massive financial hits this year. Once fans are able to attend concerts and festivals again, there’s no doubt that artists like Travis Scott will jump at the opportunity to perform and feed off the unmistakable energy of a live crowd.

But what if socially-distanced concerts or drive-in events become the new norm?  Many professionals in the live events business have noted that arenas may no longer be open to full capacity in order to enforce some degree of distancing.  If the energy that comes with being packed like sardines at the front of a festival stage becomes a distant memory for us, it’s inevitable that artists will have to alter their performance styles to keep the fans interested.  


Moreover, if artists can only sell 50-60% of the tickets they usually sell, will concerts become more expensive to make up for the lost income?  And if arenas only operate at half capacity (roughly 9,000 people for the average arena), wouldn’t it financially benefit the artist to host a virtual event for half the ticket price if ten-times as many people can attend? 


After all, virtual concerts are easier for everyone involved.  You’re sitting on the couch instead of standing for hours between sweaty people, you always have an amazing view of the performance, and there’s never a struggle to find the bathroom.  That’s better, right?

Wrong. Despite the long lines, elbows in the crowd, and inevitable lost wallet, concerts are a shared experience.  You meet new friends, scream (and, possibly, cry) for your favorite artist, and temporarily sing your problems away.  If one thing is for certain, there’s absolutely nothing like live performances – and they likely will never be the same again. 


Virtual performances are not a temporary solution, it’s likely they’re a preview of what’s to come.  It will be up to the individual artist to decide whether to adapt to distanced concerts, or secure a bigger bag virtually.


Check out the performances here –

The Weeknd:


Travis Scott x Fortnite: