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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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