NYE 2021: The Biggest Night Yet for Virtual Concerts?

Photo by Sebastian Ervi on Unsplash

New Year’s Eve, as with just about everything else in 2020, is going to look a bit different this year. With COVID forcing most people to stay in and ring in the New Year from home, the live events industry will face yet another devastating setback to what has been a relentlessly crushing year.

Historically, New Year’s Eve has been a lucrative evening for artists and venues. According to a survey conducted last year by Eventbrite, people were more willing to invest in a memorable night out for New Year’s Eve, with Americans spending $185.60 on average. Managers and agents were able to capitalize on this interest by demanding higher performance fees for their clients.

Since COVID halted the live events industry in March, artists have experimented with new ways to connect with fans and make up some of the lost revenue from a year not on the road. From casual home performances streamed on Instagram or Twitch to more professional ticketed streams, the verdict is still out on whether virtual concerts offer a new long-term revenue stream or merely a bridge until it’s safe to tour again.

New Year’s Eve appears to be a prime opportunity for virtual concerts. With people stuck at home, but potentially looking for something to do beyond revisiting their Netflix queue, this Thursday has the potential to be the biggest single night yet for virtual concert experiences. Sitting at home in Los Angeles, the new epicenter of the pandemic, I decided to do an audit of live concert offerings for NYE.

While this is not a comprehensive list of virtual offerings, it includes some of the events that stood out the most to me.

In terms of free options, you can find a few virtual variety shows. Think Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, but for Gen Z. YouTube Originals will be hosting Hello 2021, a virtual NYE event that will stream across five regional broadcasts. The “Americas” stream will include performances from Dua Lipa, J Balvin, and YG, as well as appearances from noteworthy online influencers such as Marques Brownlee and the D’Amelio family. Bud Light will also be hosting a live show featuring performances from Post Malone, Steve Aoki, Jack Harlow and Saweetie.

Whether it be SnowGlobe in Lake Tahoe or parties at the biggest clubs in Las Vegas, EDM has dominated NYE in recent years. The industry will try to keep it going Thursday.

Beatport is partnering with Absolut to bring over 20 hours of DJ sets across 15 time zones. The free celebration, which will include live sets from Carl Cox and TOKiMONSTA, will be accessible across YouTube, Twitch and Facebook. The legendary European EDM festival Tomorrowland will attempt to recreate their large-scale production virtually through Tomorrowland 31.12.2020. More than 25 of the world’s most popular electronic music artists including Major Lazer, David Guetta, and Martin Garrix will perform across four immersive stages in a brand-new digital entertainment venue, called NAOZ. Based on the trailer below, Tomorrowland may be setting a new creative standard for virtual concerts. Tickets start at €20.

Surprisingly, I only found a handful of artists headlining their own concerts. On one end of the spectrum you have the KISS 2020 Goodbye extravaganza from the aforementioned band. Filmed live at The Royal Beach at Atlantis Dubai, the concert will be one of the largest livestream concert productions of the COVID era. With a crew of 400–500 people, the concert will feature 50 cameras, 360 degree views and the Guinness World Record attempt for the largest pyrotechnic display. The $39.99 standard ticket package will get you a 1080p stream and one replay over a 24-hour period. The ridiculously priced $999.99 VIP package will get you additional replays and limited edition collectible items. Justin Bieber and Big Hit Labels are also hosting ticketed virtual events.

At a more modest level, electronic artist Tycho will be streaming Solo Ascent, a new live sunrise set from a wooded location in the hills of Northern California. Over the past few years, Tycho has shared his annual sunrise DJ sets from Burning Man on SoundCloud. To celebrate the new year, Tycho will perform a new sunrise set on NoCap, the livestream platform created by Cisco Adler and Donavon Frankenreiter. Solo Ascent can be streamed at the clever cost of $20.21.

When it’s finally safe for live music to return — hopefully in 2021 — there will no doubt be pent up demand to attend concerts. According to former WME music exec Marc Geiger, we could see a “Roaring Twenties” when shows return. However, after the initial excitement of returning to a concert venue, will the demand remain or will we see a shift in how people want to experience “live” music?

The euphoric feeling of singing along to your favorite songs among thousands of other people likely will not be replicated virtually anytime soon. However, that doesn’t mean virtual shows won’t provide any value in a post-COVID world. 2020 has provided a glimpse at the innovative new ways artists can creatively reach fans. Just look at Travis Scott’s now infamous Fortnite concert, The Weeknd’s exclusive TikTok performance, and Billie Eilish’s virtual concert.

As we enter 2021 and questions continue to linger around when it will be safe to have concerts, I expect to see the virtual concert experience evolve and that starts Thursday night.

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PR professional. Curious mind and acute observations.

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Andrew Schwartz

Andrew Schwartz

PR professional. Curious mind and acute observations.

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