InCrowd Keeps It Live With Virtual Audience, Innovative Formats Like ‘Paint ‘N Puff’

Matt Misisco (@mattmisiscostudios)
– InCrowd
InCrowd’s innovative studio near Burbank, Calif., as demonstrated by comedian Zainab Johnson during a performance.

As the virtual and drive-in concert appear here to stay for at least the immediate future, major problems have been solved in putting on concerts during the COVID-19 – social distancing being chief among them. While the virtual concert seems easy enough – just do the concert without people there – it isn’t quite that simple.

“We come from the world of making 70,000 people say ‘This is amazing’ in person, and we knew transcending that type of energy and appreciation through the virtual space was going to be difficult,” says InCrowd Entertainment’s Ryan “Bubba” Ginnetty, creator of the Los Angeles-based InCrowd Stage, featuring a nearly 360-degree wall of virtual fans that can interact with a performer, along with up to tens of thousands taking part in the live discussion. “We’re happy people are seeing the vision and appreciating the interaction the way we do.”
After kicking off with Gersh client Drew Lynch in June, InCrowd has gone on to host specials and appearances by comedians including Sarah Silverman, Taylor Tomlinson, Iliza Shlesinger, Tone Bell, Reggie Watts and others, with InCrowd’s studio providing socially distanced catering areas, outdoor green room, heightened sanitization measures leading artists to the “visual amphitheatre-like” studio. 
“As a standup comedian myself, I‘ve felt the void of audiences and stage time,” Ginnetty says. “InCrowd was spawned from us knowing the traditional ways of stream-ing weren’t going to be cool enough and deep enough. We dug for a deeper, more connected way to showcase these types of performances in a way that felt connected and real.” 
The up-close-and-personal fan wall gives opportunities for virtual meet and greets as well as a heightened give-and-take between artist and fan during performances. This also provides for unique performances, such as the upcoming “Virtual Paint n’ Puff” with Omarion, the musician known as lead singer of B2K. The platinum package has already sold out, with supplies and swag sent to attendees ahead of time with all the necessary goodies needed for the smoke-and-paint experience.
“The artist’s take has been amazing,” Ginnetty says, with about 20 InCrowd shows under his belt so far. “Every single artist who has performed here literally has their own idea for a new format of show that they want to try, and they all have asked to collaborate and co-produce their own special. We haven’t had one artist that didn’t want to come back.”
InCrowd has found itself handling ticketing along with platform TIXR and promotion, making it one of the more active virtual concert promoters these days, surprising even Ginnetty himself as more and more talent have inquired about the platform.
“We never thought we were going to operate a venue selling ticketing,” Ginnetty says. “The fact it’s turned into a thing people and artists have appreciated, we’re over the moon about, but at the end of the day this was created as a survivor tool.” 
Ginetty adds that InCrowd has applications beyond COVID, including being incorporated into televised or ticketed specials, used for doing efficient press junkets and for working out new show formats, but stresses the idea came as a way to keep his business alive.
“Getting attention from the agencies and artists is like a dream come true,” he says, adding that he has a staff of around 20 people to support, “but I think the biggest thing is we’ve all had something awesome to focus on and be passionate about to drive us through this time, while our genre and profession is [otherwise] dead. The mental stability and energy behind this is as important as any dollars.”