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Shangri-La’s Lost Horizon records 4m+ viewers

More than four million people worldwide tuned in to Lost Horizon, the new virtual festival by the team behind Glastonbury Festival’s Shangri-La, which took place on Friday 3 and Saturday 4 July.

According to organisers, a total of 4.36m viewers, from over 1,100 cities in 100 countries, attended the event, which took place over six stages built in VR events platform Sansar, some of which recreated real places in Glastonbury’s after-hours Shangri-La area. That figure includes viewers on Sansar/VR, PC, iOS and Android, as well as streams on Beatport, Twitch and social media services.

More than 70 DJs and artists, including Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox and Frank Turner, performed at Lost Horizon, which transformed performers into in-world avatars or green-screen holograms. Those who attended the festival in Sansar could visit six virtual worlds, with nine camera angles apiece, purpose-built for the occasion.

Tickets were free, though fans could buy merchandise for their avatars, as well as ‘premium’ tickets, which raised money for the festival’s charity partners, the Big Issue and Amnesty International UK. Streams of the content remain available online, and catch-up viewers can still donate to the charities.

In addition to the music, those who visited the in-world freedom stage could see a virtual-reality exhibition, Yours Truthfully, while 50 films were available to view.

“It was spooky how similar it was to the real thing”

Kaye Dunnings, creative director of Shangri-La and Lost Horizon, says: “I don’t think you can ever recreate the feeling of being in a crowd of people, and how powerful that is, but it was spooky how similar it was to the real thing.

“I met up with friends, made new ones, was able to make an avatar that could dance – with moves I could never pull off in real life – and the classic festival experience of bimbling between areas, overhearing conversations and marvelling at the wonderful looks people had created for themselves was just like people watching at a festival.”

“Lost Horizon broke so many firsts we’re still counting,” says Chris ‘Tofu’ Macmeikan MBE, Lost Horizon and Shangri-La director. “It is the closest you can get to being at a festival without leaving your lounge. We all worked really hard to create this next-level thing to see our friends and raise money for the Big Issue and Amnesty. I’m old and remember seeing colour TV for the first time, but this is 100 times better.”

Ed Jenkins and Jolyon Klean, from Orca Sound Project, jointly add: Programming the Gas Tower in Lost Horizon felt like putting together a dream festival line-up. The goodwill and excitement surrounding such an innovative and experimental project just goes to show how the rule book has been rewritten by the challenges we all face in the entertainment industry.

“Hopefully we’ve proven that there are new frontiers to explore and ways to communicate with fans that continue to push boundaries.”


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Montreux Media head on futureproofing the festival

Music festivals must diversify their business model beyond simply staging events if they are to thrive during periods of crisis, Montreux Media Ventures CEO Nicolas Bonard has told IQ.

Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) – the media and content division of Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival, launched last year – has enabled Montreux to earn some revenue throughout the pandemic, and sustain its partnerships with clients and brands, even as nearly every festival worldwide fell by the wayside, says Bonard.

“I think this is a time when Montreux Media Ventures has really come into its own,” explains Bonard (pictured), who joined Montreux from Vice Media France at the start of 2019.

Bonard says the “genesis of the idea goes back a few years”, when festival bosses started to consider how they could futureproof what was, up until then, solely an “event business”.

“Because the festival is a foundation, we had to create a new entity to drive that event and hospitality business into something closer to a media company,” he explains. “That meant embracing digital and diversifying all our lines of revenue.”

Of course, the official launch of Montreux Media Ventures (MMV) at the tail end of last year – just as Covid-19 took root in China – couldn’t have come at a better time for the festival, which was forced to pull its 2020 edition as the pandemic hit Europe.

“The whole point of MMV is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival”

“It was all planned,” jokes Bonard, who describes how the festival has been able to use MMV revenues to soften the financial blow of cancelling Montreux 2020.

“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated through these [MMV] actions, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid,” he explains (albeit not entirely, as it’s “a big hit”).

With MMV, the festival team is able to “leverage the huge audiovisual archive we have and bring those performances back to life”, continues Bonard – a mission exemplified by this month’s Summer of Music, a 16-day virtual festival that draws on performances from Montreux Jazz Festivals across the past five decades.

This takes the form of digital, streamed content (the festival already sold DVDs and vinyl LPs of historic Montreux performances), as well as custom live programming for selected brand partners, such as the Fairmont Hotel Group, for which MMV organised the recent ‘Fairmont World Tour’.

Both of these strands build on the three traditional sources of revenue for Montreux, as well as music festivals more generally: tickets, sponsorship and food and beverage, says Bonard.

He explains: “The whole point [of Montreux Media Ventures] is to diversify our sources of revenue so we can mitigate the revenue risk of a festival, where everything is just focused on those two weeks.”

“Through some of the incremental revenue we generated, we’ve been able to cushion the impact of Covid”

At present, MMV’s digital events, such as Summer of Music, are primarily “about giving back” to the music community rather than trying to turn a profit, says Bonard. (All MMV’s YouTube advertising profits for that event are being donated to the new National Museum of African-American Music in Nashville.)

However, in a few years’ time Bonard expects Media Ventures revenues to represent 25–30% of the group’s overall income, “if not more”, he says, such is the strength of the Montreux brand and archive.

“I don’t think one will replace the other,” he comments. “Because music is so emotional and personal, you’ll always need that physical contact with the artist or band. So, in my view, physical events will continue to reign supreme.”

“The future,” he adds, is in “hybrid” events, with “technology coming in and amplifying the live experience. Digital will come on top of it and augment the show, but nothing can replace that common experience with other fans.”

Future MMV projects include films, documentaries and podcasts, as well as another Fairmont tour when the Covid threat has passed.

“The festival has an incredible asset with these archives,” concludes Bonard, “and this is about amplifying them around the world.”


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Is the future of live real or virtual?

Twelve weeks ago we were gearing up to launch World Tour, the first in a series of multi-artist, live music events, with a calendar of iconic world cities and the likes of Miley Cyrus ready to headline. Today we are reimagining what the live experience looks like in a very different world.

The reality today is that no one really knows what the future holds. Renowned DJs won’t be playing to thousands in Ibiza’s clubs this summer and bands aren’t playing the main stage at a sold-out Glastonbury. Artist teams are wary about when they can start confirming talent appearances at events and promoters are in no-man’s land with uncertainty on how things can possibly play out. The path is untrodden.

The appetite for live music will never diminish. But what will events look like? From a production point of view, it’s going to be interesting to see how things adapt – not simply adjusting to new health and safety measures but adapting to the changes in what fans expect, what they value and what they actually want. As we’ve all been forced to remain in our homes for weeks on end,  livestreaming has become an integral part of our lives. It’s no longer strange to watch and enjoy a DJ set from someone’s living room. We’re even seeing games companies hosting live virtual concerts for fans.

For my generation, this is all a little bit new and unusual. However, for younger generations this is what they’ve grown up with and they don’t see anything unnatural in it at all.

The appetite for live music will never diminish. But what will events look like?

Is it a case of real life vs virtual? I don’t think they are mutually exclusive anymore. But what’s become glaringly obvious is that consumers want and need the brands they support to stand for something and be willing to stand above the parapet for the cause. Whether assembling virtually or physically, it needs to be purpose-driven and a platform for change. That’s why purpose lies at the heart of our World Tour proposition and why our first sponsor, a carbon-negative, renewable energy and fuels company, had to reflect that.

Whether sustainability, health or social and political causes, we know that brands need to be bridging that gap more between what they are saying and what they are actually doing – in the long term. It’s been fantastic to see the solidarity across the board for the Black Lives Matter movement, especially with the difficult backdrop of coronavirus. But I think what will become clear is that brands can’t simply put a black square on Instagram with inspirational messaging alone; they must be willing to stand by these issues and fight where necessary with the power and influence that they hold.

It’s obvious that younger generations particularly are getting much more involved in discussions around causes that are important to them, so it would be crazy for event organisers, brands and artists to not be more involved in those discussions and create platforms that positively engage.

We can’t deny that the developments and innovation with virtual experiences has answered a lot of questions

There will always be an appetite for being part of a crowd, enjoying and celebrating an artist and feeling part of a beautiful shared experience. But we can’t deny that the developments and innovation with virtual experiences has answered a lot of questions. It’s opened doors to new waves of creativity, which, from a fan’s perspective, is excellent.

It makes me wonder: are traditional live concerts as we know them a thing of the past? I think it’s fair to say we will see more virtual events become more sophisticated with interaction. No one seems to be interested in watching full live sets anymore – most people want to dip in and out and choose the content they want to watch, when they want to watch it.

The boundaries are also being pushed further still. At the end of April, Epic Games saw 12.3m players log on to Fortnite to watch Travis Scott’s Astronomical event, with an additional 27.7m viewing after. Despite the technological advancements, it had the hallmarks of a traditional gig – people ‘attended’ with their mates and could chat and dance as though actually next to them. That excitement level with an avatar is completely different to a simple live stream.

The opportunity to do something different has never presented itself more clearly. There’s no excuse for going back to old formats or attitudes – change is needed, and I know we’re excited at Apollo to be part of that.


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Laura Marling and the rise of the paid live stream

“When the first song was over and, of course, no applause followed… I found the awkwardness of it somewhat thrilling,” says Laura Marling of her groundbreaking 6 June livestreamed gigs – the first for fans in UK and Europe, followed hours later by a second show tailored for fans in North America.

“It felt similar to a sound check in that people around you are getting on with their jobs and, in my case as a solo performer, you’re left there to get on with it, to do my job – there’s something I really enjoy about that. To sing in an empty church is a pleasure at any time. Also, my shows certainly aren’t famous for my mid-set one liners… so a lack of audience interaction didn’t factor too much.”

While the thousands of fans who bought a ticket for the Union Chapel concerts were probably unaware of the historic significance of the shows, the reaction to the format was almost unanimously positive, with Marling’s haunting lyrics, song choices and mesmeric performance complemented by the setting of the empty and silent venue. Indeed, the artist herself was one of the biggest fans of the format and she is already working with her management team – ATC Management’s Brian Message and Ric Salmon – on another bigger livestreaming concept. To that end, Message and Salmon have established a new company called Driift to capitalise on the potential of the new ticketed livestreaming model.

Held down
In terms of performance, thousands of acts around the world have found themselves redundant since politicians started banning mass gatherings and confined live music to all but a memory of better times. Using a variety of platforms, however, numerous acts have been video livestreaming from their own homes, albeit with little quality control on either audio or visual aspects. And using the technology at hand, only those with huge followings have been able to generate revenues through the likes of advertising that, again, they rarely have any say about.

“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space”

Where Marling’s activity differed was in charging fans for a ticket to access the live broadcast of her show, which transported her out of the ubiquitous corona confines of the living room/bedroom/bathroom/home studio setting, to a proper, recognisable venue. There she could call upon state-of-the-art sound, lighting and camera equipment, and even an award-winning director, Giorgio Testi, and Pulse Films, to deliver something meaningful and give ‘attendees’ something lasting.

“Without an audience, there’s tremendous possibility with what could be done in a space,” enthuses Marling. “An unforeseen bonus to an audience-free show, which of course means no front-of-house sound, is that you can get incredible sound – close to studio quality… With this set-up, we could use mics on everything without fear of feedback.”

Manager Ric Salmon tells IQ, “The genesis of the idea was born out of frustration. Laura had sold out her solo, acoustic tour around Australia, North America, the UK and Europe. But then Covid hit.”

When it became clear that not just the North American leg was doomed, but the remainder of the entire tour, the Marling team, like so many others, announced the cancellation: 41 dates in total. Ever proactive, ATC management convinced Marling to fast track the release of new album, Song for Our Daughter, and started revising plans for promo. “Laura is social media averse, but she was comfortable doing guitar tutorials for fans, so we sent her HD cameras to use in her house and she quite enjoyed performing remotely – culminating in a home performance for Later with Jools on the BBC.

“For the tour, we’d refunded about 25,000 people who missed out on seeing her, so we came up with the idea of broadcasting a show from a proper venue, to tap into that demand. But then the discussion was about who would pay for it, as nobody had sold tickets for any livestreamed shows at that point.”

“Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early”

Taking that situation as a challenge, the ATC partners set about pulling the necessary team together. “Laura suggested the Union Chapel because that venue means so much to her and, because we’re not technologists, we reckoned the best idea would be to aggregate the best companies in their class,” explains Salmon.

Pulse Films and director Testi topped ATC’s wish list and having worked extensively with DICE in the past, the company’s new DICE TV platform also made them a clear choice. Finally, YouTube was added, given its global footprint, but that plan, Salmon admits, had one major flaw: “Being ad-funded, they don’t do paywalls, but Dan Chalmers at YouTube really championed the idea and before we knew it there was terrific forward momentum.

“The primary function was not to make money, hence the ticket price of just £12 (€13). But Laura was mortified about cancelling the tour, so this was more about offering her the chance to perform to fans. And it worked brilliantly, as she is in her element when it’s just her and her guitar. So it was some sort of replacement for the tour.”

Wild fire
As often happens with any new concept, when word started to spread about the Laura Marling pay-per-views, sceptics rattled out cautionary ‘you can’t replicate live’ adages. But with locked-down fans desperate for any kind of shared experience, demand for tickets uncannily replicated ‘normal’ sales patterns.

“The level of interest around the announcement was incredible,” reports DICE chief revenue officer, Russ Tannen. “Just like a normal ticketed gig, people were nervous about missing out so they decided to buy early.” Another familiar aspect was a sales spike on the day of the event – a whopping 16% of total sales for the UK show.


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Hackers target livestreamed IPO fundraiser

The disruption of an Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) virtual concert and fundraising gala last weekend was caused by a cyberattack, the orchestra has confirmed.

The attack – the first outage of a major livestreamed show since the format took off amid the coronavirus pandemic – crashed the websites of the IPO and its broadcast partner, Medici.tv, during the stream on Sunday 28 June.

More than 13,000 people had registered to view the hour-long event, hosted by Dame Helen Mirren, which aimed to help the orchestra overcome financial losses as a result of Covid-19.

No group has claimed responsibility for hacking the stream.

“Hackers were determined to silence our message and stamp out our voice, but they will not succeed”

“We were thrilled that so many had registered to join us for this event, giving us the opportunity to bring the healing power of music to people who need it at this difficult time,” comments Tali Gottlieb, executive director of the IPO Foundation.

“Our organisation had high hopes that this event would help us raise emergency funds to support the members of the Israel Philharmonic in the face of an unprecedented financial crisis.”

Danielle Ames Spivak, executive director of American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which helped organise the event, adds: “Hackers were determined to silence our message and stamp out our voice, but they will not succeed. More than ever, we are determined to spread the Israel Philharmonic’s message of hope, peace, and beauty around the world.”


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Montreux launches virtual Summer of Music festival

Montreux Jazz Festival has announced Summer of Music, a 16-day virtual music festival, to mark what would have been its 54th edition on 3–18 July.

Showcasing iconic Montreux performances from festivals past, including Nina Simone (1976), Etta James (1993) and Carlos Santana (2004), Summer of Music will air exclusively on YouTube on the same dates, with one broadcast a day across the 16-day period.

Other streams scheduled for Summer of Music – an initiative of Montreux Jazz Festival, its subsidiary Montreux Media Ventures, and music film distributor/producer Eagle Rock Entertainment – include several world premieres, including John Lee Hooker (1983) and Charles Bradley (2006).

Mathieu Jaton, CEO of the Swiss festival, comments: “Since its beginnings in 1967, the Montreux Jazz Festival has been immensely fortunate to have built up, thanks to the visionary spirit of [founder] Claude Nobs, a rich and unique audiovisual archive.

“This heritage has made the festival famous and continues to make it shine through initiatives such as the 54th Summer of Music, made possible through our collaboration with the Claude Nobs Foundation, Eagle Rock and the NMAAM. This summer, this heritage is more essential than ever.”

“This summer, Montreux’s heritage is more essential than ever”

All YouTube ad revenue from the festival will be donated to NMAAM, the National Museum of African American Music, in recognition of how Montreux has been shaped by the contribution of black artists, the festival says. Viewers will also be able to make donations to NMAAM, which is due to open in autumn 2020 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tuwisha Rogers-Simpson, vice-president of brand and partnerships for NMAAM, says: “Montreux is a titan in the popularisation of black music, not just in jazz but across genres, showcasing the wide-ranging impact of black music and black sounds. We look forward to what the Summer of Music event brings to fans and we hope for a continued friendship and partnership”

“Marvin Gaye’s 1980 performance marked the inaugural collaboration between Montreux and Eagle Rock Entertainment; it paved the way for not only an exciting stable of ongoing releases, but also a fantastic line-up of artists at this summer’s virtual Montreux Festival,” adds Geoff Kempin, executive director of Eagle Rock. “We are delighted to be partnering with the Montreux Jazz Festival and YouTube in this summer festival celebrating the diversity of artists that have performed at Montreux.”

Gaye’s 1980 Montreux set will close Summer of Music on Saturday 18 July. Other performers include Rory Gallagher (1979) on 7 July, Deep Purple (2011) on 11 July and the premiere of Tom Misch (2019) on 17 July.


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Crosstown launches virtual concert platform

Crosstown Concerts, the independent UK promoter, has launched Crosstown Live, a new ticketed online concert platform the company hopes will serve as a one-stop shop for artists who want to make money from virtual shows.

Utilising Stabal’s studio complex on the edge of Epping Forest, in east London, Crosstown Live aims to offer artists and agents a high-quality, no-fuss virtual concert solution, with Crosstown Concerts covering the costs of recording, editing, marketing, hospitality, ticketing and broadcasting, according to Crosstown co-founder and promoter Conal Dodds.

In an email to booking agents, Dodds explains that Crosstown Live will film and record concerts live, allowing up to ten days for approvals and editing before broadcasting the show “as live” to fans. The shows will sit on Stabal’s platform as Vimeo videos, albeit as separate, Crosstown-branded broadcasts.

In addition to the above costs, Crosstown will “sell tickets worldwide, in every country that allows unrestricted video-on-demand platforms to play,” says Dodds. “We will market the shows appropriately in the relevant territories to your artist. We are talking to major ticket agencies with regard to them being affiliate sellers via Stabal also, so we benefit from their databases.”

Crosstown Live will also allow for album bundles (which would be eligible for chart positions); artists could then treat their performances as “an in-store/out-store performance while social distancing restrictions render record store plays impossible,” continues Dodds. “We will do all the liaising with record labels, fulfilment partners, etc.”

“Our intention is to channel this offer through agents, and through the industry as a whole”

In addition to Stabal’s Epping Forest location, Crosstown has partnered with Dark Horse Studios in Nashville, Tennessee, to create a similar set-up for US Crosstown Live shows.

Other benefits to Crosstown Live for artists include additional earnings from bonus content, rentals and, potentially, Stabal subscriptions, while Crosstown can sell tickets in a variety of currencies, including Mexican pesos, Japanese yen, Polish zloty and various Scandinavian kroner (in addition to the usual dollars, euros and pounds).

“Our intention is to channel this offer through the artist’s booking agents, and through the music industry as a whole,” continues Dodds.

“From the outset, our UK target for artists are those worth at least 3,000–5,000 indoor ticket sales in London – our costs and investment in this project are significant, so we need artists capable of significant sales. Once we are up and running, we will investigate the opportunity to have multiple artists recording on a single day, so that we can drive down costs and make appropriately priced broadcasts viable for new and upcoming artists.”

The UK facility will be ready from 1 July, says Dodds, who adds that company is already investigating further studio partnerships internationally.


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Mojo partners with Vodafone for virtual concert platform

Dutch promoter Mojo has teamed up with telecommunications giant Vodafone to launch Larger Than Live, a virtual concert platform allowing for direct artist-to-fan interaction.

Larger Than Live makes its debut on 9 July, with a concert from Nielson at Amsterdam’s Ziggo Dome, which recently reopened for audiences of just 30 at a time.

Other acts to perform via the platform include De Staat, De Jeugd van Tegenwoordig, Maan, Frenna Deluxe and Rolf Sanchez. Acts will perform on a custom-built stage in the 20,000-capacity arena, which is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure high-quality images, sound and lighting.

Larger Than Live allows fans to switch between camera angles while watching a show, as well as providing the opportunity for interaction with the artists.

Larger Than Live allows fans to switch between camera angles while watching a show, as well as providing the opportunity for interaction with the artists

Tickets are available now, priced at €11, along with a full listing of upcoming shows. Anyone with a ticket can access the relevant show via their smartphone, tablet or laptop. The stream can also be cast onto televisions or beamers.

Additionally, fans can sign up to join a virtual Golden Circle via a live video connection, enabling artists to see audience reactions in real time and feature fans in their live show.

Vodafone customers receive access to a virtual backstage tour prior to the show and are entered into a competition to win an online meet and greet and the chance to attend the show in real life at the Ziggo Dome as a VIP.

The initial concert series will be followed by others at a range of different venues and festivals. Mojo plans to make streaming tickets available for shows even after live events are able to start up again, to give fans more choice and to avoid capacity limitations.

It is believed that the Dutch government will announce the scrapping of current capacity limits tonight (24 June), provided that venues can undertake health checks and maintain a 1.5 metre distance between guests instead.

Photo: Shirley de Jong/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)


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Rock Werchter announces Live2020 event

Rock Werchter has announced plans for ‘Rock Werchter for Live2020’, an intimate concert event set to take place on the Werchter festival site on 2–5 July, the original dates of the 2020 festival.

Featuring three days of concerts at a new ‘summer bar’ (Zomerbar) at the festival park’s North West Walls, Rock Werchter for Live2020 will raise funds for Live2020, a solidarity fund to support the Belgian live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Zomerbar concerts feature Selah Sue on Thursday 2 July, Tourist LeMC on Friday 3 July and Bazart on Saturday 4 July, with just 200 tickets available for each all patrons seated at tables of four. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (20 June) via ticketmaster.be.

On Sunday, a larger virtual event, with Emma Bale, Glints, Sons, Eefje de Visser and Arno, will be broadcast live on CanvasProximus Pickx and rockwerchter.be.

All proceeds from the event go towards the Live2020 fund

The event will also include a quiz on Saturday night, while a Live2020 merchandise range is available from Rock Werchter’s web shop, with all proceeds going towards the Live2020 fund.

The physical edition of Rock Werchter 2020 was called off, along with Belgium’s other major festivals, on 15 April.

For more information about Rock Werchter for Live2020, visit rockwerchter.be/en/live2020.


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BTS gross $18m+ with biggest-ever paid live stream

Bang Bang Con: The Live, a 100-minute live stream featuring K-pop superstars BTS, was the most-attended paid virtual concert to date, with more than 750,000 people in 107 countries tuning in at 6pm Korean time yesterday (14 June).

The interactive show – co-produced by the band’s agency/management company, Big Hit Entertainment, and US livestreaming firm Kiswe – saw band members performing in various spaces (two concert stages and five rooms), with fans able to switch between six viewing angles, from “video call-like close-ups to full shots that encapsulated the tight choreography”, according to Big Hit.

The event peaked at 756,600 peak concurrent viewers – equivalent to 15 shows at a 50,000-capacity stadium, and more than ten times that of fellow Korean band SuperM’s Beyond Live show – all of whom had paid to be there.

Tickets were priced at ₩29,000 (US$24) for members of BTS’s ARMY fan club, and ₩39,000 ($32) for members of the general public, meaning the concert grossed at least ₩21.9 billion, or $18 million, according to the Korea JoongAng Daily.

The event peaked at 756,600 peak concurrent viewers

After performing hits including ‘Dope’, ‘Boy With Luv’, ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Like’, and ‘Jamais Vu’, ‘Respect’ and ‘Friends’ from their fourth studio album, Map of the Soul: 7, BTS closed the show by telling fans they’re looking forward to getting on the road again soon.

“We need to meet each other again,” said Suga, with V and Jin adding: “I hope we can perform again soon, because I want to see ARMY with my very own eyes.”

Bang Bang Con: The Live is the first time Big Hit has charged for an online-only show, although BTS raised an additional €3.5m from livestreaming their historic Wembley Stadium concerts last summer.


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