This is how livestream concert came to life – thanks to COVID-19

When everything changed amid coronavirus, Music was no exception

By Eesha Zaidi

The pandemic has totally changed the concept of how we used to live our lives, isn’t it true? Now everyone wears masks, carries sanitizers, and takes care of not only themselves but their environment as well. Everything has shifted to a ‘new normal’ which doesn’t seem really normal at least at the moment. 

PHEW! But we know that things didn’t just change, they suffered badly as well. Many businesses shut down and jobs were lost. The music industry is no exception. All the big artists and names who released albums before 2019 and wanted to tour and planned concerts in 2020 went downhill. All the concerts were canceled due to safety issues during the pandemic. And still, there is a ban on public gatherings. 

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But there is a breath of fresh air because the music industry is also trying to find a new normal. Many celebrities held concerts online through zoom and have been releasing music to help their fans going through this pandemic. Also, this pandemic has changed the concept of live concerts.

For instance, British DJ, Hot Since 82 planned to tour the world in 82 but that didn’t go as planned so he became very creative and did a live concert from a hot air balloon and also at Hartlepool beach. James Drummond, who is the manager of Hot Since 82 said that pandemic has forced people to think differently. They wanted people to experience live music again but that was not possible so a natural environment was their solution. And we can say it was a hit solution. The setting, environment, and smooth drone shots offered a completely new kind of experience.

Another influential musician and celebrity, The Weekend also transformed his live performances into a ‘cinematic experience.’ He performed his hit song ‘Heartless’ on Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where The Weekend gave a single-shot performance backstage leading up to the live studio stage. This is different from traditional live stage performances.

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Alex Lill who is the creative force behind The Weekend’s performances and videos said that they wanted to create a cinematic experience not only for the live audience but for people watching at home too. And according to him, they had planned a performance like this even before the COVID hit but couldn’t pursue it. However, when the pandemic emerged, many TV networks and platforms invited them to share this new concept. 

Alex Lill took another step forward when The Weekend performed at American Music Awards in November, where Alex again showed his single-shot concept followed by fireworks and timed pyrotechnics. And the best part was that the performance was shot outdoors so the audience could see the background hit by COVID in the bare streets of Los Angeles. 

Dua Lipa raised the bar for live performances when she arranged a summer Livestream concert that had dancers, exceptionally choreographed steps, and guest singers performing in the Warehouse. 

Oscar Sansom, the creative director of Forest of Black production studio sees COVID as an opportunity to revolutionize the music industry and the nature of live performances. He says that the new ‘filmed live performances’ concept is a very exciting, interesting, and completely new genre that should be explored and pursued. 

Oscar filmed the live performance of Liam Gallagher who performed on a Barge that was floating down the River Thames. Sansom insists that this new way of filming live performances takes the musical experience to a completely different level with deep emotions and excitement.

Due to the pandemic, many different ideas are being explored by the artists. Many artists are using social distancing, and COVID-related themes as metaphors to describe their situation and feelings throughout this pandemic. This has been artistically achieved by Sansom as he filmed the Scottish rock band, Biffy Clyro’s live performance which took place in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. The band performed in a cube. It was a metaphor for being caged in their homes due to the pandemic and this COVID being the barrier between them and their fans. The energy and intimacy increased twice because of this conceptual performance. 

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Sansom explained that in the cube the band could only see their reflection and the camera was outside the glass. The band was completely separated from everything and everyone else on the set and because of this setup, the tone of the performance also changed as it released the tensions and frustrations. It was a surreal experience as the lead singer screamed the final lyrics of the song. 

It was pure magic. 

The young and mega pop star of this era Billie Eilish performed her hit single ‘Therefore I Am’ on American Music Awards. Her performance was an illusion of increased space during this pandemic signifying social distancing. There was an endless maze of corridors where Billie was seen performing just like the music video. 

Hollie Wright who is the lecturer at Birmingham University, in design for performance and stage management, said that the performance of Billie Eilish plays with the idea of space and provides an intimate setting for the fans and audience.

As we have seen, the world has gone online because of the pandemic and so did the audience. So, the experience for live audiences has also changed. London Barbican, the performing arts center changed its setup too. The music head, Huw Humphreys, brought the live schedule online. Many new cameras in large numbers were installed all around the concert hall to provide a familiar yet new experience to the audience. 

Humphrey said that it was a huge challenge for them but this has sparked their interest and brought a change in their way of thinking. Now there are many new shots and different angles that the audience will enjoy and that they have never seen before at Barbican.

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For the future, Humphrey says that they want a whole concert hall filled with an audience and a remote audience at the same time. He is positive that this can be achieved in the future as it will allow them to reach people internationally. 

Although the change is uncertain, the production houses and we as the audience are very excited because art flourishes best in dark times as the creative minds try to tackle the barriers to explore and project their art. This new situation and setup will have a profound and lasting impact on the music and creative industries. 

Like Sansom, we also believe that we are at the start of something very exciting and fresh with virtual shows and intimate experiences. Fingers are crossed for the uncertain and exciting future. 

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