THE ABC's: Activation, Brands, & Consumers | VOL. 1

The Virtual "REALITY" of Concerts in the Future

Do you ever wonder what it would be like to attend a concert with 33 million people? That fantasy became a (virtual) reality last week, as hip-hop superstar Lil Nas X performed a virtual concert on the online gaming platform Roblox.

The performance is a spectacle to see, and it is hard to comprehend how a concert can take place in the cyber world without actually watching the concert. LiL Nas X’s performance included a set list of his biggest hits, a venture through multiple universes, larger than life avatars of the artist performing his songs, a snowball fight (yes, you read that correctly), and an exclusive debut of his new single Holiday.

You might be asking yourself, what Roblox is and how did they manage to pull this off? Roblox is a force in the online game simulation space, with over 150 million active users as of July 2020 and 2 out of 3 children in the US between nine and twelve playing on its platform. Roblox provides its users a free-to-play space where they can build their own avatars and interact with other players throughout the virtual world. On top of that, third-party developers and gamers can create paid experiences for other users to generate personal income. The company has seen staggering growth, accelerated by the pandemic, with revenues growing to $1.2 billion so far through 2020, and a planned IPO in the near future.

This begs to ask the question, is this a seismic shift in the concert & event world or rather a fad given the current pandemic climate?

Lets first look at the numbers… According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest rock concert attendance was Rod Stewart’s 1994 New Years Eve concert in Rio de Janeiro with about 4.2 million attendees. It would take roughly eight of those concerts to equate to the 33 million at the Lil Nas X concert! While being able to attract an audience of 33 million might be an anomaly, generating that much traffic is something that has long term staying power. This might suggest a lean towards more of a consumer shift than a pandemic related trend.

How will this shake out for the main stakeholders of the events industry- artists, show promoters, advertisers, and consumers?

For an artist, going on tour is time consuming, exhausting and a financial risk. Moving to a virtual platform allows the artist to save time, money, reach a broader audience, and “perform” in ways that are only possible in the virtual world. One may argue though that the entire reason artists create music in the first place is to provide moving experiences for their fans. While there is an element of experience in the virtual world, nothing can replace the feeling of playing in front of your loyal fans who are willing to pay to see their favorite artist in person; however, there is something to be said about not having to spend grueling hours crammed on a tour bus throughout the year.

Show promoters have traditionally had to advertise and coordinate tours across the country or the world, again a huge time and resource drain and financial risk. Promoters might benefit from the shift to the virtual world, but it also begs to ask the question if virtual concerts will put them out of business completely. With scale of reach through digital/social media channels, lack of logistics, and not having to negotiate or coordinate with multiple venues, the promoter can be cut out of the equation. This would lead to higher returns for the artist and you can assume a lower cost for the concert goer.

Consumers might benefit the most from this transition, as once expensive concerts now either become free or more affordable. People are no longer constricted to waiting for artists to travel to their city or having to pay top dollar for popular shows. As the trend of a virtual lifestyle becomes more popular with younger generations, kids can look to plan dates to “meet-up” for concerts in the virtual world, much like people do now around an artist coming into town. The argument to this is that it once again removes the essence of live performances, but are habits shifting so much that kids would rather stay home anyway?

That leaves us with where brands and advertisers fall into the conversation. This may be a blue ocean of opportunity because of the coveted under eighteen demographic that these concerts attract and the scale at which these events garner eyeballs. Brands can bring some of the typical in-arena experience to the digital world, such as concert entitlement, and brand positioning within the concert production. A brand like Coca-Cola may pay big bucks to have a dancing soda bottle or their trademark polar bear pop-up in the background of the performance.

On-site engagement can turn digital as well. If a brand aligns with a concert, they can provide special offers or experiences. Imagine if Cheez-It put a QR code on its retail boxes for a special branded Cheez-It hat (al-la Green Bay Packers Cheese Heads) that consumers could download to wear leading into the concert? This provides a way to boost retail sales and creates organic attention within the concert experience.

Lastly, there could be a blend of virtual to in-person world. Would Southwest or Delta entertain launching a Fly-a-Way sweepstakes where select lucky fans are able to meet the artists and attend one of their LIVE shows at a later date.

The future of the concert and event world will most likely fall somewhere in the middle. Artists have an enthralling opportunity to reach the masses through virtual performances that continue to skew younger. This can be looked at as a supplemental way to grow the artist’s brand while also trying out new concepts. Much like younger generations live today, artists can provide a virtual experience that bleeds out into the real world to build further fan affinity.