by Lanie Hymowitz ‘22
Published Oct. 5th, 2020
The VMAs ceremony is one of the biggest nights in music—or at least, they’re supposed to be. The 2020 MTV Video Music Awards fell flat, but frankly, failure was inevitable. With last minute location changes, big names like Roddy Rich and J Balvin backing out, and no live crowd to keep the energy up, the general public was not satisfied. According to The Hollywood Reporter, there was a 5% decrease in television viewership, which backs this all up.
Perhaps the combination of over-the-top performances with no live reactions made the night awkward and uninteresting to some. But overall, the prospect of virtual concerts—when done “correctly”—could be the performing arts’ saving grace during quarantine.
Earlier in the year, society proved that virtual concerts could be enjoyable for musicians and audience members alike. The Together At Home event in April garnered millions of viewers internationally, exponentially boosting sales of the featured songs. Overall, it was a highly successful event, even though the musicians were performing in their own homes. By these standards, it seems jarring that the VMAs ceremony, notorious for its eye-catching moments, was so underwhelming.
It can be understandably hard to make a virtual concert appealing—atmosphere has always been key to a great musical experience. But with more and more concerts resembling Together At Home, a new and beloved atmosphere has emerged, one that’s more cozy and real.
Artists’ individual virtual concerts have been able to attract audiences, as fans get to see a more authentic side of their favorite musicians while the musicians showcase their true talents. The increasing value of down-to-earth music came to the spotlight with Taylor Swift’s album folklore, which was the fastest-selling album of 2020 despite being entirely recorded in quarantine.
Even if one does not find the acoustic folk genre captivating, the digital age has enabled all kinds of music to be much more accessible. Small artists have been able to team up with music event companies, allowing rising stars to make money off of live streams. Furthermore, with the expenses of traveling eliminated, fans have unprecedented access to concerts. The K-Pop group BTS held a paid virtual concert during a weekend in April, attracting a total of around 50 million global viewers.
Major festivals such as Glastonbury and Bonnaroo have canceled their summer plans, but the idea of huge concerts online doesn’t necessarily have to be ruled out. The “Tomorrowland: All Around the World” festival in July consisted mainly of DJs and made a profit, albeit small. The event was admittedly “thrown together,” but the new accessibility of large festivals to global fans has a lot of potential.
Once concerts are able to fully adapt to a virtual set up, it is only logical for all of us—bored inside our homes—to embrace the future of the arts.